GEOL110: Physical Geology
My research interests include the integration of paleontology with stratigraphy, the taphonomy of exceptionally preserved fossils, and how naturally occurring radiation has affected evolution through deep time. Most of my focus with paleontology and stratigraphy involves Ordovician conodont microfossils from North America and Europe . Conodonts are an extinct group of micro-vertebrates that are excellent index fossils. Only the small (< 1mm) tooth-like elements, composed of calcium phosphate, of conodont animals are usually preserved, which makes understanding the paleobiology and paleoeclogy of these extinct eel-like creatures quite challenging. My students and I examine the distribution of conodont species relative to the rock-type in which they occur. We interpret the ancient environment by studying rock types. Therefore, we can relate species of conodonts to the environment in which they lived and interpret the conodont animals "mode of life."
Taphonomy is a branch of paleoecology that deals with all process occurring after the death of an organism until its discovery as a fossil. I am particularly interested in the processes that are responsible for the exceptional preservation of non-mineralized tissues of animals. To that end, I have studied exceptionally-preserved fossils from the Early Cambrian Chengjiang deposits of China , Neoproterozoic fossils from central South America, Early Cambrian fossils from west-central Nevada , and have recently begun a collaborative study of non-mineralized freshwater organisms from Jurassic lake deposits of Antarctica.