Mailing address: PO Box 208109, New Haven CT 06520-8109
Street address: 210 Whitney Ave., New Haven CT 06511
The emergence and diversification of complex life is the most fundamental biological transition in the history of the Earth. I use fossils to chart the evolution of eukaryotes (those organisms with a membrane-bound cell nucleus), multicellularity, cellular differentiation, and animals, through the Proterozoic Eon (2.5-0.5 billion years ago). Understanding how changing fossil diversity correlates to environmental changes—and the Proterozoic sees some of the largest in Earth history—is vital to determining evolutionary drivers.
Not only do I seek new fossils that provide important paleobiological information, I critically interrogate the nature of the fossil record. Before the terminal Proterozoic advent of biomineralization, fossilization is confined to poorly understood and unusual circumstances that preserve organic remains. I use novel analytical techniques on fossiliferous strata to understand the conditions conducive to preservation. Such research is crucial to our ability to robustly interpret the temporal and ecological range of fossil organisms. It can also provide new insights into their original chemistry and biology.
Recently I have worked on new Proterozoic fossil assemblages in Mongolia and Scotland, and investigated the role of clay minerals in the preservation of both Proterozoic eukaryotic microfossils and Cambrian soft-bodied animals.
Other areas of research include the ecological role of Silurian eurypterids (sea scorpions), the nature of enigmatic soft bodied Paleozoic animals, biological and physical controls on modern ooid formation, and late Ediacaran tectonics of the Avalonia Terrane in Newfoundland, Canada.
NASA Astrobiology Institute - Foundations of Complex Life Team (MIT)