Research opportunities

Science can't be done without people! Undergraduates are involved in my research program at many different levels. Below are some ongoing projects that are ideal for keen students interested in research experience. Research opportunities with me involve learning and applying sought-after skills in digital morphology that are applicable to careers in geosciences, biomedical sciences, engineering, and robotics. You will also be better prepared for graduate school, should that be of interest. If you already work well with hardware, software, coding, visualization, art, design, geometric morphometrics, and/or phylogenetics, even better!

Partial skull of  Sarcoramphus papa  (King vulture) rendered semitransparent with digital cranial endocast rendered at full opacity.

Partial skull of Sarcoramphus papa (King vulture) rendered semitransparent with digital cranial endocast rendered at full opacity.

Vulture neuroanatomy

New World vultures (Cathartidae) were present across the New and Old World during the Neogene, but are now limited to the New World. They currently comprise seven species in five genera, including the iconic California Condor. They are scavengers with good senses of smell which they use to find food in the form of carrion, unlike their Old World relatives which find food using strictly eyesight (more typical of birds). Their fossil record is fairly well represented for birds, and thus a keen student would do well adding some fossil skulls into the mix of 5 representatives currently in my database.

Dorsal view of a digitally sliced in half skull of  Phocoena sinus , an endangered porpoise endemic to the Gulf of California, known colloquially as the Vaquita 

Dorsal view of a digitally sliced in half skull of Phocoena sinus, an endangered porpoise endemic to the Gulf of California, known colloquially as the Vaquita 

Digital Atlases of cetacean skulls

The enigma of the whale skull can finally be unraveled with your help! Help the public and research community gain a better understanding of whale anatomy and homologies by digitally isolating elements of toothed whale skulls.

Ear bones of  Phocoena sinus,  rotating and rendered semitransparent to fully transparent to show extracted inner ear labyrinth digital endocast.

Ear bones of Phocoena sinus, rotating and rendered semitransparent to fully transparent to show extracted inner ear labyrinth digital endocast.

Whale inner ear variation

In the process of understanding the evolution of hearing in whales, we need baseline information on the amount of individual variation present in modern and extinct populations. This project will help us understand whether the vestibular system is truly "vestigial" in whales. We may also produce predictive models of morphological speciation by documenting patterns in variability.