I grew up in Ponte Vedra Beach, just outside of Jacksonville, Florida, USA. From the age of six, I would collect fossils of Pleistocene-Holocene age on the beach. While always knowing I would go into paleontology, I had a particular fascination with biology in general (among other sciences). As a result, I wanted to approach paleontology from a more interdisciplinary mindset, and this mindset continues to guide my research today.
I attended The Bolles School in Jacksonville. Starting in high school, I volunteered on paleontological digs in western North America. I now have eight summers of field experience prospecting for and excavating Late Jurassic dinosaurs in Montana, USA, as well as Late Cretaceous dinosaurs with the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Dinosaur Provincial Park, Alberta, Canada. Many of these summers also included lab experience preparing fossils.
I attended Princeton University from 2010-2014, earning a bachelors degree in ecology and evolutionary biology. Princeton, once a powerhouse of vertebrate paleontology, closed down their natural history museum almost two decades ago. However, I took this as an opportunity to gain a background in sciences outside of paleontology. In addition to ecology and evolutionary biology, I took many classes in geosciences as well as a few in molecular biology. One of the best aspects of my time in Princeton was the opportunity to engage in biological and geological field work in Bermuda, Spain, Yellowstone National Park, Utah, New Mexico, Kentucky, the Catskills, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. My undergraduate thesis was entitled “Paleobiology of North American stegosaurs: Evidence for sexual dimorphism”. The supervisor was Dr. James Gould, an ethologist who has carried out much research in sexual selection, among other aspects of animal behavior.
Upon graduating from Princeton, I traveled to the UK and received a masters in paleobiology at the University of Bristol. My masters thesis was entitled “The taphonomy of keratin in archosaurs”. The supervisor was Dr. Jakob Vinther. This project became the foundation of much of my current research.
I have just successfully defended my PhD at the University of Bristol. The title of my thesis is “The taphonomy of soft tissues and the evolution of feathers”. Dr. Vinther was again the supervisor.
Being at Bristol allowed me to focus on paleobiology while utilizing a wide variety of analytical techniques under a multidiscipline framework involving paleontology, biology, geology, organic geochemistry, and biomechanics. Although most of my research is based in the lab, I still find time to engage in traditional paleontological field work, including trips to collect fossil samples that I then use in my experiments.
I am now beginning a post-doc position at The Field Museum in Chicago, Illinois, USA, working in the lab of Dr. Peter Makovicky. The project will investigate the evolution of feathers in relation to the loss of flight with applications to interpreting fossil feathers. Also included is elemental analysis of trace metals in fossil feathers.
The purpose of this site is to convey my research as it progresses. My interests are wide-ranging, but I am particularly interested in such topics as the biology of non-avian dinosaurs, ornamental structures and sexual selection, and how soft tissues preserve in fossils. Much of my work is highly collaborative, allowing me to work with labs and researchers in many different institutions and with research groups whose backgrounds and interests vary widely.
Recently, I discussed some of my work in a long-form interview with a local Princeton, New Jersey, USA, radio show called These Vibes Are Too Cosmic. A link to the recording can be found on their website.