About the Society Awards Past Award Winners 2009 (Predoctoral Fellowship Grant) Kerin M. Claeson
Kerin M. Claeson

I grew up on Long Island in New York where fossil preservation is, to say the least, dismal. But what is absent in the rock is abundant on the shores. I was lucky as a child to spend many weekends at the beach where I came across loads of fishes and invertebrates; this explains in part why my research today combines a fragmentary fossil record with an abundance of recent skeletons.

Between then and now I was an undergraduate in the Geology Department at Stony Brook University, but also worked in the Anatomy Department to satisfy my interest in evolution and morphology. I spent many summers in both the Vertebrate Paleontology and Ichthyology collections at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia working with scaly, smelly, slippery specimens of fish species that swim oceans, rivers and lakes today, as well as with broken boulders that preserved traces of some of the earliest fishes. I completed my Masters degree in Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Massachusetts and became heavily invested in skeletal variation and anomalies such as vertebral fusions. Today I combine all of this as a PhD candidate in the Jackson School of Geosciences at the University of Texas at Austin. My research is centered on investigating the ontogeny and systematics of sharks, skates and rays with an ultimate goal of improving our understanding of the origin, evolution and diversity of the batoids.

It is a great privilege to receive the 2009 SVP Predoctoral Award. Batoids are morphologically so derived among extant taxa, that it is critical to examine the extinct members of the clade in order to understand the origin, diversity and functional significance of modern batoid skeletons. I will use this award to support my ongoing effort to collect data about fossil batoids held in museum collections throughout the world.

Photo courtesy of Kerin M. Claeson.