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Scannella named John R. Horner Curator of Paleontology for Museum of the Rockies

Monday Jun. 5th, 2017

The Museum of the Rockies at Montana State University announced today that John Scannella has been named the John R. Horner Curator of Paleontology.  Scannella has been on staff at MOR since 2013 when he was named paleontology collections manager and following Horner's retirement in 2016 he was named interim curator of paleontology.

Scannella's research focuses on vertebrate evolution and ontogeny, ceratopsian dinosaurs, and Mesozoic ecosystems of North America. He earned his doctorate in earth sciences from Montana State University and bachelor's in geology from Rutgers University

"I am very excited to be the John R. Horner Curator of Paleontology at Museum of the Rockies," Scannella said. "Building on the incredible foundation that was created by Jack Horner and the museum's paleontology department the future of paleontology at MOR is going to be very exciting."

In his new role at the Museum of the Rockies, Scannella will have responsibility for setting the paleontology department's research agenda that includes conducting field research, curating the paleontology collection, developing exhibits and participating in education and outreach activities. His first original exhibition, Dinosaur Dynasties: The Evolution of Montana's Dinosaurs, will open at the Mifune Dinosaur Museum in Kumamoto, Japan, in July, and he will be returning to his Triceratops research site in Makoshika State Park later this summer. 

Sheldon McKamey, MOR's executive director, explained that Scannella was selected following an international search that started in March.

"We were searching for a paleontologist who would continue the caliber of research for which we've become known, who has the ability to inspire people of all ages to learn both formally and informally and generate support for the program," McKamey said.

A native of Queens, New York, Scannella, 38, met former curator of paleontology Jack Horner at a lecture in Trenton, New Jersey, in 2005 and came to MSU as a graduate student in 2006. His graduate research focused on the horned dinosaur Triceratops and its relatives. He has spent several field seasons as a MOR paleontology field crew chief working in the Hell Creek Formation of eastern Montana, where he collected specimens of some of the last non-avian dinosaurs that roamed western North America.

In 2010, Scannella and Horner proposed that the horned dinosaur Torosaurus is actually a fully mature Triceratops rather than a different genus of dinosaur. In 2014, he and his colleagues published the results of an extensive study "Evolutionary Trends in Triceratops from the Hell Creek Formation, Montana" in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. By examining Triceratops from different stratigraphic rock layers, the team discovered that Triceratops changed in appearance over time. This discovery was highlighted in Scannella's presentation at TEDxBozeman in the spring of 2015. 

"I remember being a child and hoping to one day visit the Museum of the Rockies to see its amazing dinosaurs and other fossils," Scannella said. "I can't wait to get started."

About Museum of the Rockies 
The Museum of the Rockies is a college-level division of Montana State University, a Smithsonian Affiliate, a repository for federal fossils, and an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit institution. It is recognized as one of the world's finest research and history museums and is renowned for displaying an extensive collection of dinosaur fossils, including a full-scale T. rex skeleton.

MOR offers changing exhibits from around the world, permanent indoor and outdoor regional history exhibits, planetarium shows, educational programs, insightful lectures, benefit events and a museum store.

Accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, MOR is one of just 1,081 museums to hold this distinction from the more than 30,000 museums nationwide. The museum is a member of the Association of Science-Technology Centers Travel Passport Program and a participant in the Montana Dinosaur Trail Passport Program.