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Paleontologist Myria Perez Shares Her Passion for Uncovering the Past


When most kids draw pictures of dinosaurs, they can expect a temporary place of honor on the family refrigerator, but Myria Perez’s early paleontology artwork helped her get a volunteer position at the Houston Museum of Natural Science at the age of twelve.

“My mom took me to their special event called Dino Days. I brought my drawings, showed the curators, and I asked about volunteering,” she recounts.

Perez’s initiative made quite an impression. It earned her the title of “Junior Volunteer” and support from the Curator of Paleontology Robert Bakker, Ph.D. In her role, Perez spent every minute she could at the museum until she went to college.

“I think asking and getting the opportunity to volunteer really, really helped me. It also solidified my passion,” Perez says.

Myria Perez power pose
Myria Perez. Photo credit: IF/THEN® Collection

A few years later, while she was exploring potential colleges to attend, she gave a museum tour to her would-be mentor: vertebrate paleontologist and Southern Methodist University Professor Louis Jacobs, Ph.D. Starting as a first-year student, Perez worked in Jacobs’ lab while pursuing degrees in geology and anthropology. Some of her lab work was on fossils Jacobs had uncovered in Angola. Those specimens would later become part of a Smithsonian Institution exhibition on Cretaceous marine reptiles titled, “Sea Monsters Unearthed: Life in Angola’s Ancient Seas.”

Reflecting on her academic career, Perez says there’s almost a metaphysical aspect to her chosen field of science.

“I have a theory why paleontology is super popular, especially among kids. You have this kind of mystery, you have this unknown, you have this mystical aspect to it. We don’t know everything about [dinosaurs]. They were actually real, and you have this combination of past and unknown, with tangible and real. It’s kind of mind blowing.” READ MORE