Curator Bruce S. Lieberman's entire career has been dedicated to the study of the patterns and processes of macroevolution using the fossil record. He was taught by the three leading figures of macroevolution: his undergraduate advisor was Stephen Jay Gould at Harvard College, his graduate advisor was Niles Eldredge at Columbia University and the American Museum of Natural History, and his first post-doctoral advisor was Elisabeth Vrba at Yale University.

Bruce's research focuses on the role climate change and abiotic factors play in driving evolution and extinction, the nature of evolutionary radiations, how and why rates of evolution vary through time, the dynamics of mass extinctions, mechanisms of evolutionary stasis and punctuated equilibria (, phylogenetics, and biogeography. 

Work in his lab has also pioneered the application of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Ecological Niche Modeling (ENM) to the study of the fossil record, emphasizing biogeographic and evolutionary patterns in deep time.  Various projects in this area include work with former students and post-docs Luke StrotzErin SaupeCorinne MyersAlycia Stigall, and Jonathan Hendricks documenting:

In addition, this work has demonstrated:


Large-scale Patterns in the History of Life

As part of Lieberman's research interests in macroevolution and biogeography, one of the topics he has considered is the evidence that at the large scale physical factors play a fundamental role in influencing macroevolution. This has included investigating the evidence that there is a significant coupling between carbon dioxide levels and rates of macroevolution. In addition, Bruce along with former student and emeritus University Professor of Mathematics at Iowa State University James Cornette investigated the extent to which the history of Phanerozoic diversity can be modeled as a random walk and found strong evidence that except for the last 75 million years marine animal diversity and origination largely follows a trajectory indistinguishable from a random walk. This does not mean that the history of diversity over the last 520 million years is random, and instead it may be that diversity is largely tracking environmental variables that themselves are following a random walk pattern. More recently, and associated with his work in the area of astrobiology described above, he has been collaborating with Adrian Melott to help demonstrate that there are large scale cycles in the fossil record of biodiversity, origination, and extinction operating on the order of tens of millions of years. Lieberman and Melott have also identified how volatility is a key trait uniting things as diverse as fossil species, stock prices, and the birth and death of stars in our universe. Each of these findings indicates that although the history of life is governed by contingency, this contingent system also shows predictable patterns.