Research Overview

PrintI use a variety of approaches to study evolution and adaptation in extinct mammals, particularly those of South America. I frequently draw on information from living mammals from throughout the world to determine how these extinct species lived and interacted with one another. Much of this is research is collaborative and involves colleagues and/or students.

Main themes in my research include:

  • Fieldwork: Many of my field investigations aim to improve our understanding of the South American fossil record by finding fossils in poorly known parts of the continent or from poorly sampled time intervals. A related goal is to uncover remains of undocumented species or more complete remains (skulls, skeletons) of previously known species. I work closely with geologists in order to understand when and in what context these remains were preserved.
  • Systematics: Systematics is the study of evolutionary relationships among organisms. It is intricately linked with taxonomy, the identification and naming of species, which is the most fundamental aspect of paleontology. Most of my systematics projects focus on specimens collected through my field investigations and involve describing new species.
  • Paleobiology: The goal of paleobiological studies is to understand the adaptations and habits of extinct animals. In other words, they seek to answer to questions such as: What did this animal eat? How big was it? How did it move? In what type of habitat did it live? Many paleobiological studies of mine have focused on notoungulates, the most diverse and abundant group of native South American hoofed mammals (ungulates).
  • Macroecology: Macroecological studies bring together many types of data in order to answer large-scale questions about ecology and evolution. For example, they might seek to understand how and why the habitat in a particular area has changed over 50 million years, or how the number of meat-eating marsupial species in South America compares to the number of placental meat-eating mammals in North American over a particular time interval.

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