Based at North Carolina State University, I study the influence of ancient ecological selection on evolutionary trajectories of dinosaurs and sharks. I also study the ways that different geologic conditions contributed to the fossil record we use to inform our understanding of evolution.
Teaching is also an important part of my career. I focus my teaching efforts on helping undergraduate students gain a scientific mindset and understand the extravagant ways that the world is interconnected across all scales.
This is the third post in a series called “Cretaceous Cold Cases” in which the science of taphonomy, or prehistoric forensics, is explained by fascinating cases from the files of Terry “Bucky” Gates, a research scientist with a joint appointment at NC State and theNorth Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.
Tonight I started driving back to NC. 2000 miles alone in my truck.
Luckily, the world is full of any number of wonderful things to keep me occupied.
For instance, tonight as I passed through Vail, Colorado I saw what might be the most beautiful moon rise of my life. Without pictures I will try to use words.
The Rocky Mountains are amazing at anytime of the year, but especially while the leaves are changing. Indeed, as I came up over the small summit at Vail, the mountain sides were draped in a soft fleece of aspens so golden that Jason would have traveled the world to steal this peak. Rising above all other rocks was a sheer wall of rock reflecting the pink glow of the setting sun. And just above the grand sentinel were puffy cumulous clouds flirting me with rain, each colored the bright pink of the sun on top and dark purple below. As with every sunset the lower light dimmed the sharpness of the world, leaving a drowsy impressionist hue to this majestic landscape. Yet behind the clouds, an astronomical razor blade had cut a perfect circle in the dreamscape. With edges as sharp as laser cut glass the moon cast its ghostly light. All of the grey freckles were perfectly seen on the pure white lunar plains. As I drove the Earth became jealous of the moon and wafted the mounting cotton candy clouds across the celestial ghost.
We split the team today, me, Ryan, and his wife Tara going to prospect north of Green River. Here the two are showing their excitement for finding fossils beneath Nephrtiti Rock.
The rocks we were in were deposited in ocean environments except for a small section. Luckily in this small section we found a coal that contained a volcanic ash we will attempt to date the Neslen Formation. Dating of these rocks has never been done so this date is really important.
Eventhough we did not really find fossils, we did find lots of cool homes and trails made by sea creatures such as shrimp. Here is one example of the ancient homes.
Finally we finished the day with a beautiful sunset.
Well it was our last day in the field on the Beckwith plateau and our atv’s. Here is the last shot just before descending, after we had finished collecting the crocodile track and protecting the bones left in the ground.