My primary research focus is the evolution and paleoecology of marine tetrapods, animals descended from land-dwelling ancestors that repeatedly readapted to marine life over the past 250 million years. Familiar living examples include whales, seals, penguins and sea turtles. The ecological roles of these modern animals were preceded by several extinct groups of marine reptiles during the Mesozoic such as ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs.
These repeated invasions of the sea by land vertebrates provide a series of evolutionary ‘experiments’ helping to reveal the mechanisms that allow different organisms to achieve dramatic shifts in anatomy and ecology. Because these animals occupied a variety of ecological roles–from herbivores to apex predators–they provide an important index of changes in global marine ecosystems over many millions of years.
I investigate bones and fossils in museum collections to compare the anatomy and ecology of living and extinct species. I also pursue fieldwork, primarily in Triassic aged rocks in western North America, to collect additional fossil material and better understand the geological and paleoenvironmental context of these fossils.