I am a US-based vertebrate paleontologist and evolutionary morphologist, with extensive research and teaching experience, a record of highly successful outreach work and public speaking, long-term experience in exhibit design and collections care, and partnerships with global leaders in science communication. My background is in the bio- and geosciences (Joint BSc. Degree in Geology and Biology at the University of Bristol; PhD in paleontology at University College Dublin; postdoctoral experience in anatomy and bioinformatics at the University of Chicago).
My current paleobiological research sheds light on the anatomy, ecology, and evolutionary history of vertebrates from Late Mesozoic times – a window on a period of extreme climate fluctuations, major evolutionary change, and the breakup of a super continent. I have led several expeditions to the border region between Morocco and Algeria to collect fossil vertebrates from the Cretaceous Kem Kem beds. Over the last ten years, this work has revealed unique ecosystems and new remains of hitherto poorly known taxa, including snakes, turtles, and flying reptiles (pterosaurs). Key discoveries include significant new dinosaur remains (including associated remains of the semiaquatic predator Spinosaurus), fossil footprints, and remains of a new giant pterosaur, Alanqa saharica.
I am also working in the field of bioinformatics; my interest in vertebrate evolution, in particular the fin-limb transition, led to a postdoctoral position on the Phenoscape project (PI: Paula Mabee, University of South Dakota/NSF), one of the largest NSF-funded projects of its kind (http://phenoscape.org/). I served as one of the key Phenoscape curators, making anatomical character descriptions amenable to large-scale computational processing by creating computable biomedical expressions, establishing new anatomy ontologies, and curating anatomical character descriptions from published papers.
My research has been covered by such news outlets as the BBC, National Geographic, the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Fox News, CNN, Sky News, ABC News and many others. My work has also been featured in several major documentary films (National Geographic, NOVA, BBC, ZDF, Smithsonian) and international traveling exhibits.
1) Comparative vertebrate anatomy, form and function
2) Osteology, evolutionary history, and paleoecology of Mesozoic vertebrates
3) Chronostratigraphy, sedimentology, and long-term changes in paleoenvironments
2018 Rising Stars in Engineering & Science, Dean's selection (University of Detroit Mercy)
2016 Finalist in the 2016 Rolex Awards for Enterprise
2015 Chicago’s 40 under 40 (Crain’s Chicago Business)
2015 Speaker, National Geographic Speakers Bureau
2015 TED Fellowship (TED)
2014 Top 10 Science Stories of 2014 (Discover Magazine)
2014 National Geographic Emerging Explorer Award
2007 Ad Astra Research Scholarship (UCD)