Paleontology Research Master's Degree and NSF EAPSI Fellowship
Master's Thesis: Salamanders of the Gray Fossil Site
Amphibians like the Spotted Salamander (Ambystoma maculatum) still live in southern Appalachia today.
The Gray Fossil Site has North America's richest diversity of pre-Pleistocene fossil salamanders. The whole Southern Appalachian region is a salamander biodiversity hotspot and home to many species not found anywhere else in the world.
We already knew about many of the salamanders that lived there, but researchers had only looked at their vertebrae. For my Master's thesis I described an articulated specimen of a mole salamander as well as a single tooth-bearing skull bone, the vomer, from a lungless salamander. Abstract now available
NSF EAPSI Project in Beijing, China
In the Summer of 2015 I was sponsored by the NSF East Asia and Pacific Summer Institutes Fellowship program (EAPSI) to visit the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP) (中国科学院古脊椎动物与古人类研究所) in Beijing, China. I spent the summer looking through screen-washed sediment from southern Chinese caves (in Guangxi, 广西). I'm interested in the fossil reptiles and amphibians from these caves because the deposits are from the Pleistocene, also known as the Ice Ages, and can tell us a lot about previous climate changes.
This project is a continuation of the growing ties between East Tennessee State University (ETSU) and IVPP. I was the third ETSU student to visit IVPP through this NSF program, and the paleontology professors at ETSU have ongoing projects with their Chinese counterparts.
In addition to fostering international collaboration, this partnership is invaluable in the study of the fossils from the Gray Fossil Site, as many of the fossil plants and animals found there are only found in Asia today.
Findings: Numerous herpetological remains from Pleistocene caves of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, China, were recovered and are under investigation.
Collaborators: ETSU: Dr. Jim Mead; IVPP: Dr. Yuan Wang, Dr. Changzhu Jin, Yaling Yan
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1515243.
A heap of bones recovered from one of the caves. There are 'herps' in there somewhere!
On our days off, the other Beijing "EAPSI-ers" and I took in the sights. One of our last trips was to the Summer Palace.