Associate Professor of Biology
B.A. - Colgate University
M.S. - Indiana University
Ph.D. - University of Kansas
E-mail - email@example.com
Phone - 540-568-3643
Fax - 540-568-3333
Office - Bioscience 1016E
Courses: Human Anatomy (BIO 290), Mammalogy (BIO 412), Organisms Lab (BIO 114), Ecology and Evolution Lab (BIO 124), Trelawny Learning Community Seminar (BIO 201)
Research Interests: Functional morphology of burrowing vertebrates, especially mammals. Diet of extinct herbivores.
An on-going aspect of my research is the study of mammals that have adapted to life underground. Subterranean animals, and the burrows they “engineer,” help test the controversial hypothesis that some organisms can modify their environment significantly enough to influence the evolution of successive generations, as well as other organisms in the ecosystem. Observation of digging animals is one way to study the relationship between behavior and morphology, which in turn enables us to better understand evolutionary processes. The burrows of these animals often have distinctive architecture and digging marks, which helps identify burrows in the fossil record. Those fossilized burrows then become useful tools for interpreting habitat conditions and changes.
I am also interested in the use of phytoliths (the silicified remains of plant cells) to help answer paleoecological questions. Phytoliths have a variety of uses: they accumulate in the plaque on molar teeth, providing a way to identify plants in an organism’s diet. Similarly, concentrations of phytoliths inside a fossilized burrow can pinpoint nests or food stores that would otherwise be invisible. A major goal in my lab is to build a database of phytoliths from modern and fossil plants, and from dental plaque. I am currently emphasizing 1) plaque from living browsers (such as moose, tapir), and 2) plaque from modern and prehistoric human teeth. These data are applicable to broad-scale studies, such as dietary trends through time (for instance, any detectable seasonal trends could indicate migration or other behavior).
Current student projects include:
Field study of small mammals at Smith Creek restoration site - specific student projects include experiments to re-establish and maintain populations of endangered shrews (small, echo-locating insectivores) and preliminary survey of bat species.
Collection and analysis of dental plaque from fossilized teeth of duckbill dinosaurs to reconstruct diet.
(With geology undergraduate students)
Observation of burrowing behavior among small mammals in the laboratory, including filming of digging strategies and morphometric data collection.
Gobetz, K.E., S.G. Lucas and A.J. Lerner, 2006. Lungfish burrows of varying morphology from the Upper Triassic Redonda Formation, Chinle Group, eastern New Mexico. In: J.D. Harris, S.G. Lucas, J.A. Spielmann, M.G. Lockley, A.R.C. Milner and J.I. Kirkland, Editors, The Triassic–Jurassic Terrestrial Transition. New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science Bulletin. 37, 140–147.
Gobetz, K.E., 2007. New considerations for interpreting fossilized mammal burrows from observations of living species. In Lucas, S.G., Spielman, J.A., and Lockley, M. (eds.) Cenozoic Tracks and Traces, New Mexico Museum of Natural History Bulletin. 42, 7-9.
Gobetz, K. E. 2006. Possible burrows of mylagaulids (Rodentia: Aplodontoidea: Mylagaulidae) from the late Miocene (Barstovian) Pawnee Creek Formation, northeastern Colorado. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology. 237, 119-136.
Gobetz, K. E., and Martin, L. D. 2006. Burrows of a gopher-like rodent, possibly Gregorymys (Geomyoidea: Geomyidae: Entoptychinae) from the early Miocene Harrison Formation, Nebraska. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology. 237, 305-314.
Gobetz, K. E. 2005. Claw impressions on modern mole (Scalopus aquaticus) tunnels as a means to identify fossil burrows and interpret digging movements. Ichnos. 12, 227-231.