Principal Investigator:

Seth Finnegan: I am particularly interested in (1) Patterns of extinction selectivity, and what they can tell us about the changing drivers of the extinction process and how differential extinction has shaped evolution through time, (2) Using environmental proxy data (stable isotopes, biomarkers, sedimentology) to understand the physical context of major evolutionary and ecological events recorded by the fossil record, and (3) Developing taxon-free methods to reconstruct the structure and function of marine ecosystems (e.g. as energy- and nutrient-exchange networks) through time. Much of my recent and continuing work focuses on the Ordovician Period (488 to 444 million years ago) because it is widely agreed (by me) to be the most interesting interval in Earth history, including as it does a broad-based and very rapid global biodiversification and a major mass extinction.


Adiël Klompmaker (MS: Utrecht University, 2006; PhD: Kent State University, 2012): My research focuses on understanding the processes that drive ecosystems on evolutionary time scales. To answer this question I study: (1) changes in decapod crustaceans within and across sedimentary settings, and (2) the evolution of predator-prey interactions through time.


Carina Lee (BSc: Australian National University, 2009; PhD: University of California, Riverside, 2016): I am interested in (1) marine microbial ecology and carbon cycling using lipid biomarkers and stable isotopes, and (2) understanding organic matter preservation and diagenesis in hypersaline ecosystems. Previous projects include i) lipid biomarkers from the 1.64 Ga Barney Creek Formation, northern Australia; ii) lipid biomarkers, bulk isotopes, and compound-specific carbon isotopes from the late Ediacaran Shuram excursion from South Oman; and iii) lipid biomarker preservation and diagenesis in modern hypersaline microbial mats from Guerrero Negro, Baja California, Mexico.


Peter D Smits (BS: University of Washington 2010; MSc: Monash University 2012; PhD: University of Chicago 2017): I study macroevolutionary and macroecological patterns in the fossil record across multiple taxonomic groups, focusing on Cenozoic mammals and Paleozoic brachiopods. My research interests include trait-dependent extinction and species selection, factors driving changes to functional diversity of species pools, and Bayesian approaches to modeling evolutionary and ecological data.




Graduate Students:

Emily Orzechowski: I am working on the Late Pleistocene record of eastern Pacific coastal mollusks, trying to determine whether species niches have been conserved over the past 125,000 years.



Larry Taylor: I am using isotopic analysis of coronulid barnacles to reconstruct the migration routes of their cetacean hosts. While working with multiple barnacle species, my research focuses on Coronula diadema and its common host, the humpback whale. Making use of a rich fossil record, I am attempting to use this method to study whale migration in the Pliocene and Pleistocene.


Sara Kahanamoku: I am interested in investigating the effects of environmental stress on marine ecosystems from a number of different perspectives. I currently hope to understand how rapid climate shifts and changes in primary productivity drive ecosystem function and community composition through time.


Josh Zimmt: I am interested in the application of sequence stratigraphy and geochemistry to understanding and contextualizing patterns of evolution and extinction in the fossil record, with an emphasis on how sequence stratigraphic architecture influences our interpretations of mass extinctions and other “abrupt” events in the fossil record.



Current and former undergraduate students:



Leyla Namazie





Alyssa Barbosa




Matthew Yee


Matthew Yee



Alyssa Camargo


Alyssa Camargo



Kayla Kettmann


Kayla Kettmann



Nadia Maarfi

Nadia Maarfi





Adrian Overly



Lab Technician:
Sarah Granke (BA: Pomona College 2017)






Abigail Kelly (BS: Williams College, 2016, STRI intern): I am working on a project that explores how molluscs respond to the differing energy regimes of the Pacific and Caribbean sides of the Isthmus of Panama. The Pacific experiences coastal upwelling and high nutrient availability, corresponding to high productivity, while the Caribbean experiences no upwelling and low productivity. How do marine communities, which share many of the same species, differ between the Caribbean and Pacific sides?


Lab Alumni:

Maggie George (undergraduate)

Nannaphat Sirison (undergraduate)

Giselle Lopez (undergraduate)

Tran Nguyen (undergraduate)

Brett Archuleta (graduate)

Caitlin Boas (graduate)

Zev Brook (undergraduate)

Jonathan Graham (undergraduate)

Sydney Minges (undergraduate)

James Saulsbury (undergraduate; PhD student, University of Michigan)

Lena Tran (undergraduate)

Vishruth Venkataraman (undergraduate; MSc student, Bristol)

Camp.SectionImpromptu clinic on troubleshooting field vehicle issues, Ibex area of UT.  Middle Ordovician Kanosh and Lehman Formations and Watson Ranch Quartzite in the background.

p1380818 Lab workshop on professional goal-setting, i.e. ‘that time we went bowling and realized that we should stick to paleontology.’ Albany, CA. Late Holocene athletic glory in the background.