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About the Society Awards Past Award Winners 2016 Awardees 2016 (Taylor & Francis Award)

1st Place - Eric wilberg

I grew up in rural northern Michigan. As a child I was (and still am) fascinated by the diversity of living things. This interest led me to pursue my bachelor’s degree in Zoology at Michigan State University. While earning my zoology degree, I took several geology and paleontology courses. These opened my eyes to the astounding number of organisms that have lived on the Earth in ages past that are no longer around today. In a particular bit of poor timing, in my last undergrad semester I took a great class on vertebrate paleontology taught by Mike Gottfried. This prompted me to pursue post-graduate work in paleontology at the University of Iowa. My doctoral advisor (Chris Brochu) is obsessed with crocodylians and this obsession turned out to be infectious. Having grown up in a region with no alligators or crocodiles, I hadn’t appreciated how awesome they really are. This newfound interest formed the basis of my dissertation research on how crocodiles and their relatives have evolved over the last 200+ million years.
Part of my dissertation involved the description of a new species of metriorhynchoid crocodylomorph from the Jurassic of Oregon that was the basis of my paper in JVP. This specimen turned out to be rather important for our understanding of this bizarre group, as it was a basal member that preserved postcranial remains. Previously known basal members of the group are only known from cranial material, so this new fossil material, when placed within a phylogenetic context, allows reconstruction of the evolution of the highly specialized metriorhynchid body plan from the ancestral, more typical, crocodile-like bauplan.