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After two years as curator of dinosaurs at the Smithsonian Institution Museum of Natural History, Matthew Carrano is still pinching himself. Its exciting being someplace that has such visibility and reputation, he says. Being a paleontologist can be like working in a cubbyhole, so its nice to be where youre connected to people.

Carrano, who earned his ScB in geology and biology at Brown and a PhD from the University of Chicago in 1998, oversees the Smithsonians collection of dinosaur, reptile, and amphibian fossils. He describes his job as the museum equivalent of a professor. Instead of teaching in the classroom, we work with exhibits, give talks and tours, and, as in a university, do a lot of research, he explains.

Through summer expeditions to research sites around the globe, Carrano aims to fill the holes in the museums fossil collection and to further understanding of the evolution of dinosaurs over the long termthat is, how they evolved to be such enormous animals and how they came to be distributed throughout the continents. International fieldwork, he says, gives you the best chance of finding something new. While paleontologists in England, France, and the United States have searched for fossils for some 150 years now, Argentina and China are now yielding the most productive digs, he says. Fieldwork is relatively new in Madagascar and other remote areas.

One of his most interesting finds to date was a very bizarre little dinosaur from Madagascar called the Masiakasaurus, a predatory dinosaur about five feet long, with a strange set of teeth that stick straight out like pincersprobably for grabbing food.

Its hard to pick a favorite find. Theres a component of excitement every time, and every one is different, he adds. The first time I brushed off a bone and saw pointed teeth sticking out, it was thrilling.

Paleontology jobs are few and far between, says Carrano, who believes landing a position like his is a matter of being in the right place at right time, the right time of your career and when someone is looking.

Its a real luxury doing what I do, he confesses. I dont have to convince people that dinosaurs are interesting; theyre already interested, so talking to the public is always a pleasure.

Were the shepherds of the national collection. This is the peoples museum, and we do this for them. Thats a nice privilege.

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