2009 Estes Memorial Grant Recipient
I decided to pursue a career in vertebrate paleontology after leaving my hometown of Hilo, Hawai'i in 2001. From 2002-2005, I lived in Boulder, Colorado, where I received my bachelor's degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Colorado. My experience in Boulder provided opportunities to work in the collections of the University of Colorado Museum and to engage in various projects on late Paleozoic and Mesozoic vertebrates with the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. I also visited a number of museum collections relatively early in my academic career where I gained interest in the phylogenetic relationships and paleobiology of Permo-Triassic therapsids (especially therocephalians and cynodonts, or 'eutheriodonts'). In 2005, I moved to southern California where I eventually received a master's degree in Biology from California State University, San Bernardino. My education in California provided invaluable discipline, as I was able to teach anatomy labs and work part-time in the field of paleontological resource management (with Cogstone RMI and PaleoEnvironmental Associates, Inc.). In my busy schedule, I was still able to continue research on therapsids and other Paleozoic tetrapods, and learn histological techniques in the labs of Drs. Elizabeth Rega and Stuart Sumida. My resulting master's thesis was titled "Comparative Osteohistology of Hyperelongate Neural Spines in Sphenacodontidae and Edaphosauridae (Amniota: Synapsida)" (chaired by S. Sumida).
I am currently pursuing a PhD in Zoology at University of Washington, Seattle, under supervision of Dr. Christian Sidor. We've recently acquired a histological facility where I continue work on the histology and paleobiology of fossil synapsids and other Paleozoic tetrapods. My dissertation will address the evolution of body size and growth strategies in the ancestors of mammals (i.e., nonmammalian eutheriodont therapsids) and will shed light on the lability of life history traits and their possible adaptive significance during times of mass ecological perturbation. Support provided by the Estes Memorial Grant will allow travel and research in South African collections during 2010, and will support specimen acquisition and histological processing in the lab of Dr. Jennifer Botha-Brink at the National Museum, Bloemfontein.
Photo courtesy of Adam Huttenlocker.