I am most interested in studying the evolution of subterranean lifestyles in different groups of rodents. I am primarily studying a group beavers from the Miocene that burrowed in soil instead of constructing dams. As part of my dissertation, I am comparing the skulls and teeth of these fossil beavers to those of modern burrowing rodents from around the globe to determine the similarity in anatomy in different burrowing rodents and to attempt to interpret the burrowing behavior based on the anatomy. I am trying to answer a several questions, including: How did different types of fossil beavers construct burrows? Does incisor morphology correspond with burrowing behavior? What were the muscles and soft tissues like in these ancient beavers?
I am also working with David Burnham in Vertebrate Paleontology and Robert Timm in the Department of Ecology of Evolutionary Biology to interpret some unique bite marks that were discovered on the skeleton of one of the mammoths exhibited in the Natural History Museum. A summary of this research project can be found here. The work on this project will help to answer questions about the paleoenvironment and paleoclimate of Kansas during the Late Pleistocene, as well as help us to unravel ancient niche partitioning between ancient predators.
I have some other varied research interests. I studied the role of climate change in the evolution of mammalian body mass during the Eocene–Oligocene Transition for my Master’s Thesis. I studied the trackways of the giant vinegaroon (Mastigoproctus giganteus) as a means of interpreting the trackways and locomotion patterns of ancient arthropods, and I hope to continue this research in the future. I also am working on a research project studying the mandibular foramina of theropod dinosaurs, with the intent of assessing the validity of Nanotyrannus, interpreting the relationships of theropod dinosaurs, and interpreting the behavior of theropods.