My area of interest is paleontology, which is the study of ancient organisms, how they lived, and their evolutionary histories. I use the fossil record to explore the biological and environmental factors and connections responsible for macroevolutionary changes and extinction.
My research program has three major components. First, systematics, or the study of biodiversity. In this area, I have focused on circumscribing and describing diversity in Cenozoic molllusks and Paleozoic arthropods. Second, phylogenetics, or the study of the relationships of organisms. In this area, my research has involved not just reconstructing hypotheses of relationships, but also exploring new ways in which to integrate biological information (e.g., DNA) with paleontological data. Third, I am interested in using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to quantitatively research ancient distributional patterns of organisms in order to relate those biogeographical patterns to macroevolutionary changes.
National Science Foundation (NSF) supported project to digitize museum fossil collections
In July, 2012, I--along with Bruce Lieberman (University of Kansas) and Alycia Stigall (Ohio University)-began a NSF-funded collaborative project titled "Digitizing fossils to enable new syntheses in biogeography - creating a PALEONICHES-TCN".
The purpose of this project is to digitize information associated with fossil specimens in museum collections in order to better understand how the geographic distributions of ancient organisms were impacted by factors such as climate change.
One very exciting component of this project is the Digital Atlas of Ancient Life, which is currently being developed at SJSU. To access this website, please click <here>.
Paleobiology of Conus
With over 1,500 living and fossil species, Conus (cone snails) is the most diverse genus of marine animals. My research seeks to increase our understanding of the intrinsic and extrinsic historical factors that were responsible for producing this remarkable diversity. Thus far, my research has focused on fossil Conus from the southeastern United States and Caribbean region. Central to this work has been the systematic revision of members of this diverse clade. Additionally, I am interested in evaluating factors such as the relationships between larval developmental mode, geographic range, and temporal persistance, as well as incorporating extinct Conus species into phylogenetic hypotheses.
A fossil of Conus oniscus shown under regular (left) and ultraviolet (UV) light (right; inverse image). The UV light causes residual pigments in the shell to fluoresce, revealing the original coloration pattern the shell had when the snail was alive.