I am a graduate student at the University of Southern California in the Earth Sciences Department. My research interests are primarily in avian evolution and the use of phylogenetics to study Cretaceous bird diversity. In particular, I am interested in resolving the systematics of a group of Late Cretaceous marine birds called hesperornithiforms. As an undergraduate I did research on the molecular systematics of modern birds at William Jewell College and Brigham Young University. As a master's student at the University of Tennessee I worked on developing molecular techniques to use anaerobic enteric bacteria as indicators of surface water contamination.
I have always had an affinity for animals, especially dinosaurs. As a little girl, my dream was to become a paleontologist, and now I am working at the Dinosaur Institute to fulfill that dream. I am a graduate student working toward my M.S. in geology from CSU Long Beach, with an emphasis in paleontology. I am focusing my thesis research on a primitive bird called Confuciusornis sanctus, which lived in China during the Early Cretaceous period. Through my research of the morphology and taxonomy of Confuciusornis, I will be able to show how modern birds evolved from an ancestral line like Confuciusornis, emphasizing which features changed through time and the unique characteristics of this early bird. I received my B.S. in biology from CSU Long Beach in 2007. As an undergrad I did research involving the biogeography of the western fence lizard Sceloparus occidentalis and wrote several papers on the development of feathers in maniraptoran dinosaurs.
I am a graduate student in the Integrative and Evolutionary Biology PhD program at the University of Southern California. I am interested in morphological variation, both within and between species, as well as functional morphology and adaptations for feeding and locomotion in theropod dinosaurs and squamate reptiles. Recent advances in computing and software technology are opening new lines in inquiry in functional morphology. My research combines relatively new techniques such as three-dimensional CT reconstructions, Finite Element Analysis (FEA) and Geometric Morphometrics with more traditional morphometric and kinematic techniques.
In addition to my graduate studies, I teach gross anatomy to first and second year medical students at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine and have a tremendous passion for teaching. I feel teaching is one of the most rewarding and fulfilling careers available. It gives me a chance not only to make a difference on an individual level by helping students understand areas that they are struggling in, but also to make a difference for society as a whole by helping to train the next generation of medical professionals.
I did my undergraduate work at the University of Texas-Austin in Geological Sciences and Anthropology. I have received a master's degree in Environmental Science from Washington University in St. Louis and a master's degree in Anatomical Sciences from Stony Brook University.
I have conducted field work in the Morrison, Cloverly and Sundance formations in Wyoming as well as the Cloverly, Two Medicine, Judith River and Hell Creek formations of Montana.