Global Research Group Leader, Paleobiologist
Catalina was born in Bogota, Colombia. She grew up with her parents and 2 younger brothers. As a child, Catalina loved to study and wanted to become a researcher. When she was 16, her dad give her a National Geographic magazine with a picture of a great white shark on the cover and an article about its extinction risk. When Catalina read it, she decided she wanted to become a shark researcher. But she lived in Bogota and needed to cross the Andes to get to sea. Further, at the time, the internal conflict in Colombia was at its worst and it was very dangerous to travel. Although Catalina’s dream seemed very far away when she started studying Biology, her family endured many financial difficulties and supported her education. Catalina later became passionate about extinct sharks while working as an intern at the Smithsonian in Panama. While there she got a scholarship to pursue a masters and Ph.D. at the University of Florida, where she became an expert on the largest shark of all time, the Megalodon. Since then, she has investigated sharks as a postdoctoral researcher in Switzerland, Germany and the UK, and now leads a global research group that aims to better understand shark extinctions using fossil records to aid their conservation.