Focus: Fossils & Meteorites - Research

Fossil Vertebrates

Most research within the Department is focused on Vertebrate Paleontology.

Curator of Dinosaurs Peter Makovicky
studies the evolutionary history of dinosaurs with a particular emphasis on the clades Ceratopsia (the horned dinosaurs) and Theropoda (carnivorous dinosaurs, including birds). He also conducts research in the related fields of systematic theory, biochronology, biogeography, and the role of growth and development in evolution. Rowe Family Curator of Evolutionary Biology Olivier Rieppel studies the phylogeny and paleobiogeography of Triassic (251-201 million years before present) marine reptiles at a global scale. He is also involved with research into the origin of turtles and snakes, as well as with studies in the history and philosophy of comparative biology.
Curator of Fossil Fishes Lance Grande
studies the comparative osteology and ontogeny of both fossil and living fishes, particularly ray-finned fishes (Actinopterygii), to discover evolutionary relationships and historical biogeography. Some of the groups he has studied include the Siluriformes (catfishes), Clupemorpha (herring and herring-like fishes), Osteoglossomorpha (bony-tongues) and other more primitive actinopterygian groups such as sturgeons, paddlefishes, amiiforms, gars and polypterids.
Assistant Curator of Paleomammalogy Kennneth Angielczyk
focuses his research on reconstructing the paleobiology and paleoecology of extinct ancestors of mammals that lived between about 300 million and 200 million years ago. He's also interested in the causes and effects of the end-Permian mass extinction (the largest mass extinction in Earth history, approximately 250 million years ago) in terrestrial ecosystems, as well as how factors such as function, growth, and patterns of descent from common ancestors influence the shapes of parts of the skeleton in animals such as crocodiles and turtles.

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Asilisaurus kongwe (foreground), Tanzania, Middle Triassic - image: Marlene Hill Donnelly

Meteoritics

Robert A. Pritzker Assistant Curator of Meteoritics and Polar Studies Philipp Heck
currently focuses his research on presolar grains and extraterrestrial matter preserved in Earth's sediments and impact craters. Presolar grains are real stardust extracted from primitive meteorites and carry information about our parent stars and the evolution of our Galaxy. Extraterrestrial matter in sediments and craters help us reveal past events in the history of our Solar System that affected our home planet Earth.

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Stony-iron meteorite (pallasite) Imilac, Found 1822, Antofagasta, Chile.  
Fossil Invertebrates

Curator of Fossil Invertebrates Scott Lidgard
works on the evolution and ecology of cheilostome bryozoans, with a particular emphasis on species recognition and the relationships of colonial growth and form, for example, how different modes of growth relate to large-scale patterns of evolution, environmental distribution and ecology. Related research attempts to re-evaluate the role of competition in large-scale evolutionary replacements (e.g., dinosaurs vs. mammals, brachiopods vs. clams).

Fossil Plants

Collections Manager Ian Glasspool
studies the diversification of fire systems in deep time and especially their impact on peat-forming ecosystems as well as their role and feedback into broader Earth system processes such as the past atmospheric oxygen composition.