Dissertation Research

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Mammalian FauNAL dynamics

I am working with collaborators to understand fine details of the mammalian biotic recovery following the Cretaceous-Paleogene mass extinction event in northeastern Montana.

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species discrimination in the fossil record

Using geometric morphometrics and linear measurements, I worked with my advisor to elucidate the morphological differences among members of a Cretaceous-Paleogene multituberculate species complex (Mesodma), and make the best of a fossil record made mostly of isolated teeth.

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Mammalian dental ecomorphology

I am using µCT scans of mammalian teeth to relate dental surface morphology in earliest Paleocene mammals to dietary preference, via quantitative comparison with the teeth of modern mammals with known diet.

Undergraduate research

Inferring diel activity pattern from bony orbit dimensions

In summer 2011, I received an NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) fellowship to work with Ken Angielczyk (Field Museum of Natural History) to study the relationship between bony orbit dimensions and diel activity pattern (DAP) in sciurid rodents, with the eventual goal of using orbit dimensions to infer activity pattern in non-mammalian synapsids. We collaborated with Lars Schmitz (Claremont-McKenna) and Steve Wang (Swarthmore) to investigate the possibility of predicting DAP in sciurids using orbit measurements and other cranial dimensions, using a variety of quantitative methods, including phylogenetic flexible discriminant analysis, classification trees, and logistic regression. We found that although there are some interfering phylogenetic factors, nocturnal and non-nocturnal sciurids can be differentiated from one another with over 80% accuracy using all the methods we investigated. Our results indicate that these analyses offer several viable options for predicting DAP in the fossil record, but such analyses should be conducted in a phylogenetic context whenever possible.

Smith, S. M., Angielczyk, K.D., Schmitz, L., Wang, S.C. In press. “Do bony orbit dimensions predict diel activity pattern in sciurid rodents?” The Anatomical Record.

Other mammalogy activities and fieldwork

 
 A few of the linear measurements I took on 429 skulls from 51 species of sciurids.

A few of the linear measurements I took on 429 skulls from 51 species of sciurids.

 A female  Carollia sowelli  with leucistic spots along her belly and wings that we captured two years in a row at the same locality in La Selva!

A female Carollia sowelli with leucistic spots along her belly and wings that we captured two years in a row at the same locality in La Selva!

 Baird's beaked whale salvage, Washington, 2015; I'm in the middle in the yellow jacket.

Baird's beaked whale salvage, Washington, 2015; I'm in the middle in the yellow jacket.

Burke Museum Extant Mammal Prep work

I have been a volunteer in the Burke Museum's mammalogy collections for nearly four years. My work as a volunteer has consisted of extant specimen prep, including construction of museum taxidermy skins, tissue and fecal pellet collection, skinning and cleaning small to large zoo specimens (tree shrew through gorilla), and joining the mammalogy team for specimen salvage in the field. I have also learned techniques for skeletal mounts and live mount taxidermy of small- to medium-sized taxa..

Phyllostomid Bats in La Selva, Costa Rica

During two field seasons, I assisted with collection of tissue and fecal samples, ectoparasites, echolocation call data, and behavioral data on a variety of phyllostomid bats in La Selva, Costa Rica. Leith Leiser-Miller and Dr. Sharlene Santana were kind enough to allow me to assist with their work on the coevolution of the phyllostomid genus Carollia and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the plant genus Piper. Learn more about that project here.

 A study skin of  Glaucomys sabrinus  that I prepared in 2015.

A study skin of Glaucomys sabrinus that I prepared in 2015.

 Live mounts of the water shrew  Sorex palustris  I prepared in 2018 for an upcoming exhibit about food webs in the new Burke Museum.

Live mounts of the water shrew Sorex palustris I prepared in 2018 for an upcoming exhibit about food webs in the new Burke Museum.