Research

Overview

My diverse research interests in paleontology are united by the common theme of using both the fossil record and biological information to explore the history and evolution of animal life. Within this framework, my research has focused on a wide variety of subjects, ranging from Cenozoic snails to Cambrian arthropods from Utah similar to those found in the famous Burgess Shale. This work is grounded in the study of the morphology of fossil invertebrates and their living relatives for the purposes of species delimitation, phylogenetic reconstruction, and the study of macroevolution in response to paleoenvironmental change. I am also interested in varied theoretical problems in paleobiology. A list of my publications may be accessed here and my Google Scholar profile may be accessed here.

Current Research

Tropical American Cone Snail Evolution

A fossil cone snail from the Gatun Fm. of Panama.
A fossil cone snail from the Gatun Fm. of Panama.

A large part of my current research focuses on the evolution, paleobiogeography, and paleoecology of fossil cone snails (Conidae) from the southeastern United States and Caribbean.

Modern cone snails are famous for their remarkable diversity in the marine realm (the group includes the genus Conus, which—with over 600 living species—is one of the most diverse genera of marine animals alive today), as well as the fact that they are venomous predators—some species are even known to have caused human fatalities.

The purpose of my research on fossil cone snails is to increase our understanding of species-level patterns of evolution, extinction, and biogeography, with the broader goal of understanding the intrinsic and extrinsic factors responsible for those patterns, and, more generally, observed biodiversity.

I am particularly interested in using the fossil record to study how geologically recent paleoenvironmental changes (e.g., the closure of the Central American Seaway during the Pliocene) have impacted the evolutionary and biogeographic history of cone snails in tropical America and the Atlantic Coastal Plain.

Much of my current focus is on the Neogene fossil record of cone snails from the Dominican Republic and Panama.