newsworthyWinter 2007

By Leslie Vincen

History Maker

Matt Lamanna is on his way to becoming a giant in his field, which is no small feat considering the creatures that inhabit that field—dinosaurs. Recently named one of Pittsburgh magazine's "40 under 40," Lamanna is assistant curator of vertebrate paleontology at Carnegie Museum of Natural History and lead scientific advisor for Dinosaurs in Their Time. Chosen from more than 175 candidates in a joint effort by the magazine and Pittsburgh Urban Magnet Project, Lamanna is recognized as one of 40 talented individuals under the age of 40 who are making major impacts on the region’s development.

His reputation first took wing in 2004 when he and a team of paleontologists discovered the first nearly complete specimens of a prehistoric amphibious bird in the mountains of northwestern China. The discovery of this fossil bird specimen, Gansus yumenensis, provided compelling evidence to support the hypothesis that modern-day birds evolved from aquatic ancestors that lived during the Age of Dinosaurs. The expedition also yielded beautifully preserved fossils of plants, fishes, turtles, and even insects that helped to accurately re-create the world Gansus lived in—a skill that Lamanna put to excellent use in helping to create Dinosaurs in Their Time, which showcases 19 free-standing dinosaur skeletons and more than 200 plants and animals in their re-created natural habitats. Visitors feel as if they’re walking through the living environments of the dinosaurs, and much of that is due to Lamanna’s fervent attention to scientific detail—right down to the very big shoes he continues to fill! 

Daughters of invention

What do Madame Curie, Rachel Carson, and Jane Goodall have in common? Each was once a little girl whose natural curiosity was allowed to flourish. And each could be an inspiration to young girls today. That’s exactly what the Girls, Math & Science Partnership (GMSP), a program of Carnegie Science Center, wants to make happen. And to help, the group was recently awarded a $100,000 Innovation Generation grant from the Motorola Foundation to continue its work to fill in the gender gap in science education. “Our mission to engage, educate, and embrace girls as architects of change appealed to Motorola’s desire to support breakthrough programs that use innovative approaches to technology, leadership, and problem solving,” says GMSP Executive Director Jennifer Stancil.

The Partnership is all about eliminating the barriers that discourage girls from realizing success in the science and technology workforce, notes Stancil. Currently, only 9 percent of women—compared to 26 percent of men—are pursuing degrees in these fields. And Stancil and her team want to change that. She plans to use the Motorola grant money to seed two to three satellite GMSP programs in other museums in states where Motorola does business. By focusing on girls ages 11-17, the most at-risk for rejecting science as a career, she hopes the Partnership can inspire a whole new generation of great, female minds.


Revealing a Pittsburgh architectural gem

A new book and upcoming exhibition at Carnegie Museum of Art are expected to help propel a seldom-seen accomplishment of modern architecture—tucked away right here in Pittsburgh—into the international limelight.

In October, the Museum of Art received a $60,000 grant from The Heinz Endowments to produce a fully illustrated book on the Alan I W Frank House, the largest private residence ever designed by partners Walter Gropius, founder of the revolutionary German school called the Bauhaus, and Marcel Breuer, the architect and furniture designer. Their clients were arts patrons Robert and Cecelia Frank.

Built between 1939 and 1940, the Frank House is hailed as one of the first and most important examples of European Modernism in the United States. The three-story home, which sits on a quiet, wooded hill in Shadyside, incorporates fieldstone, concrete, glass block, and stainless steel, and has 12,000 square feet of living space.

“The Frank House is an architectural work that is significant not only to Pittsburgh but to the world,” says Richard Armstrong, the Henry J. Heinz II director of Carnegie Museum of Art. “We are grateful to The Heinz Endowments for supporting the book that will bring this peerless artistic ensemble to the public.”

An exhibition on the Frank House will open at the museum's Heinz Architectural Center in 2009 and later travel to museums in New York, Boston, and possibly a venue in Europe.


On the fast track
to ancient discoveries    

Using clues unearthed nearly 300 million years ago, paleontologists from Carnegie Museum of Natural History are finding answers—one fossilized step at a time—that had previously eluded them. Dave Berman, curator of vertebrate paleontology, and Amy Henrici, collection manager, are co-authors of a groundbreaking article in a recent issue of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology that links fossil trackways with the extinct species of tetrapods (vertebrate animals) that made them. Their innovative study examined fossilized skeletons and footprint trackways found in the Tambach Formation of central Germany, dating back 295 million years ago. Because the reptile-like skeletons they’ve been studying were so well-preserved, it was possible to match them to footprints found nearby in the same sediment layer. The two species—Diadectes absitus and Orobates pabsti—were among the first four-legged plant eaters on land and grew to four feet long.

Berman and Henrici have been excavating the site for more than a decade, and this discovery gives them the tools for understanding how these extinct animals stood and walked. The well-preserved footprints also make it possible to document the existence of these ancient herbivores throughout the world.


A fresh face at The Warhol

Recognized as a strong liaison between The Warhol and the corporate world, Randall Dearth is the museum’s new board chair. He succeeds co-chairs Christine Olson and Jim Wilkinson.

Dearth is the president and chief executive officer of LANXESS Corp., the U.S. headquarters for the LANXESS Group, a global chemicals supplier.

“It thrills me to be a part of this vital Pittsburgh institution,” says Dearth. “The importance of securing the genius that was Andy Warhol is paramount to Pittsburgh and to art enthusiasts like me.”

Before taking the reigns at LANXESS in July 2004, Dearth worked for Bayer Chemicals Corporation for more than 15 years, most recently as president and CEO.

An active member of the community, Dearth also serves on the boards of the American Chemistry Council, the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, and the United Way of Allegheny County.

“As a business leader of a multi-national corporation, Randy will enable the museum to take its rightful role among the most progressive art institutions around the world,” says Tom Sokolowski, director of The Warhol. “Already, The Warhol has exported projects to more than 35 countries where Warhol exhibitions have been seen by more than nine million people. I am sure that Randy will direct our enegries in ways that will make the Warhol a truly global enterprise for the 21st century.”

Green and the envy of nature lovers

The multi-million-dollar, 10,000-square-foot expansion that has revolutionized Powdermill Nature Reserve all started pretty modestly. The 2,200-acre nature preserve, which serves as Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s field station in Westmoreland County, welcomes about 12,000 nature lovers annually; and what it really needed was a new restroom. What it really wanted was a restroom that might practice some of what it preaches. And what Powdermill finally got was a new restroom, a nifty wastewater treatment system (which runs wastewater through a marsh machine), and so much more—which it unveiled to the world on December 2 at a special celebration of its new expansion.

It’s all part of a complete structural transformation at Powdermill’s Florence Lockhart Nimick Nature Center, completed this fall and made possible by a first-ever $7.5 million capital campaign and a generous $3 million grant from the R.K. Mellon Foundation. Visitors to the center will find a new welcome center, increased exhibit space, expanded classrooms, a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) lab, and new office space—all heated through a geothermal system and insulated with straw bales. Other recycled materials, like homosote roof decking made from newspaper, complement the interior with plenty of natural light.

The Reserve’s emphasis on “green” design will be great fodder for future onsite classes. Also piquing environmental interest is the 2007 Solar Decathlon house, built by students from Carnegie Mellon University for a national competition in Washington, D.C.  It’s now at Powdermill serving as an exhibit of the latest in sustainable technologies.

The only question is—does it have a restroom?

Also in this issue:

Walking with the Dinosaurs  ·  Tales from the Supporting Cast  ·  From Trophies to Treasures  ·  The Popular Salon of the People: Then and Now  ·  Director's Note  ·  Now Showing  ·  Face Time: Diplodocus carnegii  ·  About Town: International Appeal  ·  First Person: It takes a village to raise a dinosaur  ·  Artistic License: Size Matters  ·  Science & Nature: Bodies of Knowledge  ·  Another Look: Neapolitan Presepio Celebrates