Research

Ichthyoliths and Pelagic Ecosystem Evolution:

How has the open ocean ecosystem changed through time?

I am broadly interested in how a functional (open ocean) marine ecosystem can exist, has existed, and has changed over geologic time, in conjunction with major changes in climate, biotic turnover, and earth system shifts. The fossil record provides a rich historical record that can be examined, in conjunction with climatic proxies and other tools (eg. phylogenies), to look at how these changes interact with evolution and ecosystem function. I am also interested in the evolution of fish, and the evolution of ecological roles played by fish and other marine megafauna within the pelagic ecosystem. My main research focus is on ichthyoliths, isolated fossil fish teeth and shark dermal scales, preserved in deep-sea sediment cores, to study how pelagic vertebrate consumers, and marine ecosystem function, has responded to these changes.

I use ichthyoliths to investigate three main aspects of pelagic ecosystem evolution throughout Earth’s history, to assess changes in fish with respect to their abundance, community structure, and evolutionary dynamics. Interpreted within their paleoenvironmental and paleoclimatic context, ichthyoliths can reveal patterns in the coevolution of life and climate in the ocean, during periods of global change and relative stasis alike.

My work combines tools from both biological and geological disciplines, including (micro)paleontology, (paleo)ceanography, evolutionary biology, ecology, ecological modeling, earth history, and even plankton biology, to get at the bottom of how marine ecosystems work. I’m always excited to add new tools and ways of thinking inot my work, and believe that the most interesting questions reach beyond traditional disciplinary boundaries.

I am currently involved in a number of multi-national, interdisciplinary collaborative projects. One of them even has a website! COD-REMAP aims to reconstruct the physical, biological, archaeological, and historical processes dominating the Scotia Shelf ecosystem over the past 4000 years, to understand the interactions between cod, humans, and the environment.

You can read my dissertation here if you’re really interested, or reach out if you’d like copies of the papers!

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