Perot Museum Experts
Ronald S. Tykoski, Ph.D.
Director, Paleontology Lab
Ronald S. Tykoski, Ph.D., started on his paleontological career as a child, collecting fossils of brachiopods and corals from nearby farm fields in his home state of Michigan. During college at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, he met his wife while they both worked as docents at the University of Michigan Museum of Natural History. He also worked in the University of Michigan Museum of Paleontology, where he first learned fossil preparation skills and methods. Tykoski began graduate studies in geological sciences at the University of Texas at Austin, where he focused on determining details of the anatomy, growth patterns, and evolutionary relationships of early meat-eating dinosaurs (theropods) and their kin. He earned a master of science degree in 1998 and a Ph.D. in 2005, before joining the Perot Museum of Nature and Science (at that time the Dallas Museum of Natural History) as the Museum’s fossil preparator that same year.
Tykoski’s recent work has mostly focused upon supporting the research of chief curator Tony Fiorillo and his studies of high-latitude, Late Cretaceous dinosaur communities in Alaska. “Some of the more spectacular projects I’ve overseen here have been the preparation of the skull of the ceratopsian dinosaur Pachyrhinosaurus perotorum from Alaska, the description and naming of North America’s oldest fossil bird Flexomornis howei from Grapevine, Texas, and the preparation of the Museum’s series of huge neck vertebrae of the giant sauropod dinosaur Alamosaurus sanjuanensis from Big Bend National Park.”
While doing all of this, Tykoski continues his work on early theropod dinosaur relationships and evolution, and is a Research Associate at the Vertebrate Paleontology Laboratory of the University of Texas at Austin. “More importantly,” he adds, “my wife and I managed to find time to have two wonderful children who still find it cool that Dad gets to work on dinosaurs every day.”
Dori Contreras, Ph.D.
Curator of Paleobotany
Dori grew up in Texas (College Station, Franklin) and spent her childhood climbing trees and wandering through the woods building hideouts with her siblings. Consequently, she developed early on her love for plants and being outdoors, immersed in forests and untamed environments.
She completed her Bachelor of Science in Biology from Texas State University, where she became involved in paleontological work and tropical forest ecology. She went on to complete her PhD at the University of California Berkeley, where she was able to combine her interests in ecology and paleontology to study ancient plant communities. Her paleontological field work has taken her from New Mexico, California, Argentina, and now back to Texas.
Dori’s work focuses on the evolutionary and ecological history of plants and their ecosystems, and how those histories have shaped the modern world. She is most passionate about the unusual plant communities of the Jurassic-Cretaceous, the time period that captures the dawn of modern-type forests and the eventual takeover of flowering plants. Dori is excited to join the Perot Museum, to work on reconstructing the unique plant communities of ancient Texas and the Arctic, linking these with their dinosaur inhabitants and consumers, and overall drawing a better understanding of how ecosystems varied across environments and climates through the Cretaceous.
Dori is excited to be back in Texas with her family – husband Adam, 3-year-old son Andreas, dog Luna and cat Tigger! I She loves to garden in her spare time and is passionate about native plants.
Director, Gems and Minerals Center of Excellence
Kimberly Vagner is currently the Director of the Gems and Minerals Center of Excellence at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science. She is responsible for curating the Lyda Hill Gems and Minerals Hall, creating programming specific to gems and minerals, and building partnerships with the mineral and gem community. With over 19 years’ experience in the gem and mineral world, she has worked at the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), David Webb Fine Jewelry, Donna Distefano Ltd., and The Tsavorite Factory.
Kim credits her start in the field with volunteering in the Mineral Sciences Department of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. She has a Master of Arts from Parsons School of Design, a Graduate Gemologist certificate from the Gemological Institute of America, and a Bachelor of Arts in International Affairs with minors in Earth Sciences and Art History from The George Washington University.