People

Dr. Philip S. L. Anderson
I am an evolutionary biologist and paleontologist who studies comparative evolutionary biomechanics in both vertebrates and invertebrates. I received my PhD from the University of Chicago and a BA from Carleton College. My research involves experimental and theoretical biomechanical analyses in conjunction with evolutionary comparative methods on both living and extinct taxa to address how fundamental laws of physics influence evolutionary processes. This work is question-based and has involved a range of organismal groups from fossil fishes and early tetrapods to modern mammals and crustaceans. Current focuses include: combining kinematics and fracture mechanics to examine the evolution of biological cutting/puncture systems; biomechanical and morphological diversification in deep-time; and evolution of multi-part biomechanical systems.

POST-DOCS

Dr. Stephanie Crofts
My research focuses on the evolution and function of specialized morphologies and how these specializations allow organisms to invade and exploit new niches. As a functional morphologist and biomechanist, I use physics and engineering principals applied to biological systems to answer questions about the evolution and function of organisms. My past work has explored crushing tooth morphologies and the functional morphology of reptile swimming. Currently my research is focusing on how puncturing tools work, in various animal taxa and branching out into plants. I am exploring various aspects of puncturing tool form and function, including tool tip morphology and the impacts of tool ornamentation, like barbs, serrations, carinae.

 

GRADUATE STUDENTS

Hannah Darcy
I am a first-year Ph.D. student in Dr. Anderson’s lab studying Animal Biology. I received my Bachelor’s from the University of Florida in Biology and Geology. For my Master’s thesis at East Tennessee State University I described two salamander fossils from the early Pliocene Gray Fossil Site in northeastern Tennessee. At UIUC I am pursuing a question that arose from my Master’s work – what impact does the skull morphology of salamanders have on their functional performance? I’m particularly interested in how this affects feeding in New World taxa as well as functional differences between aquatic and terrestrial forms.

 

Brad Scott
I am a PhD student in the Department of Animal Biology focused on the early evolution of vertebrates, especially the transition from jawless vertebrates to jawed vertebrates during the Silurian and Devonian periods (440–360 million years ago). I am interested in using biomechanical analysis to test hypotheses of functional morphology as it pertains to the morphological differences between extinct jawless vertebrates and early jawed vertebrates. By studying functional morphology of early vertebrates I hope to determine the extent to which ecological niche expansion, competition, and/or environmental changes contributed to the success of jawed vertebrates during the jawless/jawed vertebrate transition. My current research is focused on changes in locomotion between jawless vertebrates and jawed vertebrates. My previous research has included three-dimensional kinematic analysis of feeding in modern suction-feeding sharks, and the taxonomy and description of new species of jawless vertebrates from the Lower Devonian (419–410 mya).

UNDERGRADUATES

Alexandra Baumgart
I am a junior majoring in mechanical engineering with a minor in physics. My interests include biomechanics, fluid/thermal sciences, and both computational and experimental methods, as well as applying my engineering background to interdisciplinary research. In my current project, I am analyzing the cranial linkage system in fish to see how geometry may affect mechanical outputs relevant to suction feeding.

 

ALUMNI

Juliana Vidal
Juliana was an undergraduate in the lab researching physical/acoustic signalling in Killifishes.