Catalina Pimiento

Researcher, Paleontological Institute and Museum, University of Zurich, Switzerland / Department of Biosciences, Swansea University, UK.

I was born in Bogota, Colombia. Since I was very young I was passionate about sharks and marine life. For my undergraduate thesis, I moved to Mexico to study the population ecology of the whale sharks from the Isla Contoy National Park. Then I moved to Panama where I worked in the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.

In 2008 I started my graduate studies at the University of Florida where I worked as a researcher-curator in the Florida Museum of Natural History. In the spring of 2010, I obtained a Master of Science in Zoology from the Department of Biology with a minor in science education.

In 2010 I started a non-traditional PhD in the Biology Department of the University of Florida. My research component was field- and collections-based, and used macroecological studies and meta-analyses to investigate the fossil record of sharks. I was particularly interested in understanding the extinction mechanisms of Megalodon, and combined my scientific research with science education, educational technology and public outreach. Accordingly, I designed and implemented a blended course on Paleontology for undergraduate students from the University of Panama. In the summer of 2015, I obtained a PhD in Biology from the Department of Biology with a minor in educational technology and curriculum development.

After completing my PhD, I was awarded with a Forschungskredit postdoctoral fellowship from the University of Zurich in Switzerland to work at the Paleontology Institute and Museum. There, my colleagues and I discovered a marine megafauna extinction event. I then received a second postdoctoral fellowship from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation to work in the Naturkunde Museum in Berlin. There, I studied the evolution of gigantism in sharks and their relatives. In 2018, I received a Marie Curie – COFUND fellowship from the European Union and the Welsh Government to work at Swansea University, where I worked on forecasting the potential extinction of modern megafaunal species in the next 100 years and proposed a new conservation index that prioritizes species particularly important for the functioning of marine ecosystems. 

Currently, I am funded by a PRIMA grant from the Swiss National Science Foundation and lead a research team with members at the University of Zurich and Swansea University. Our teams investigate the causes of shark extinctions using their abundant fossil record and intend to use this information to inform conservation efforts.

Recorded Talk