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PI - Postdoctoral Researchers - Graduate Students - Undergraduate Researchers - Lab Administrator - Alumni

Professor Pierce Headshot

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Stephanie E Pierce

Thomas D. Cabot Associate Professor
Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology

Stephanie E. Pierce is a trained paleontologist, anatomist, functional morphologist and evolutionary biomechanist. She completed a BSc degree in paleontology at the University of Alberta, Canada, which included an honors thesis on the anatomy and evolution of hadrosaurian dinosaurs. Directly following this, Stephanie pursued a MSc degree by research in Systematics and Evolution at the University of Alberta studying the anatomy and evolutionary relationships of extinct marine lizards. Her love of vertebrate evolution brought her to the University of Bristol, UK where she embarked on a PhD degree which focused on assessing the interplay between skull shape variation and biomechanical performance in extant and extinct crocodiles. Since finishing her studies, Stephanie has focused her main efforts on examining and reconstructing the 3D anatomy and locomotion potential of early tetrapods (Devonian and Carboniferous) to test hypotheses of limbed movement across the water-land transition.

Email: spierce@oeb.harvard.edu

 

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PI - Postdoctoral Researchers - Graduate Students - Undergraduate Researchers - Lab Administrator - Alumni

Postdoctoral Researchers

Rob Brocklehurst Headshot

Robert Brocklehurst

Postdoctoral Fellow

Rob is a biomechanist, morphologist and evolutionary biologist, whose broad research interests revolve around the evolution of form and function in vertebrates. Rob was an undergraduate at the University of Cambridge, before gaining a master’s degree in palaeobiology at the University of Bristol. From there, he moved “up north” to the University of Manchester, where he received his PhD. His PhD thesis focused on the mechanics of ventilation in archosaurs (birds, crocodilians and dinosaurs), and combined a range of experimental and computational approaches. Rob joined the Pierce lab to examine the evolution of the mammalian forelimb, and the morphological and functional transitions which occurred during the evolution of Synapsids. Rob’s focus will be on creating musculoskeletal models of the forelimb of extinct and extant taxa, to test changes in muscle function and joint range of motion. However, this project, in collaboration with Ken Angielczyk (Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago), will ultimately combine the digital models with geometric morphometrics and both in vivo & ex vivo experimental data to test the functional and evolutionary implications of anatomical transformations in the mammalian forelimb.

Email: rbrocklehurst@fas.harvard.edu

Select Publications:

  • Brocklehurst RJ, Schachner ER, Codd JR, Sellers WI. Respiratory evolution in archosaurs, (in press, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B).
  • Brocklehurst RJ, Moritz S, Codd J, Sellers WI, Brainerd EL. 2019 XROMM kinematics of ventilation in wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo). J. Exp. Biol. 222. (doi:10.1242/jeb.209783).
  • Codd JR, Rose KAR, Tickle PG, Sellers WI, Brocklehurst RJ, Elsey RM, Crossley DA. 2019 A novel accessory respiratory muscle in the American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis). Biol. Lett. 15, 20190354. (doi:10.1098/rsbl.2019.0354).
  • Brocklehurst R, Porro L, Herrel A, Adriaens D, Rayfield E. 2019 A digital dissection of two teleost fishes: comparative functional anatomy of the cranial musculoskeletal system in pike (Esox lucius) and eel (Anguilla anguilla). J. Anat. 235, 189–204. (doi:10.1111/joa.13007).
  • Püschel TA, Marcé-Nogué J, Kaiser TM, Brocklehurst RJ, Sellers WI. 2018 Analyzing the sclerocarpy adaptations of the Pitheciidae mandible. Am. J. Primatol. 80, e22759. (doi:10.1002/ajp.22759).

 

Katrina Jones Headshot

Katrina Jones

Research Associate

Katrina Jones is an evolutionary biologist specializing in functional anatomy and paleontology. Her research strives to understand the functional, phylogenetic and developmental factors which drive morphological evolution. She gained her undergraduate and master’s degrees in Earth Sciences, at Cambridge University (UK), before transitioning to the USA in 2009. In 2014, she received her Ph.D. from the Center for Functional Anatomy and Evolution in Johns Hopkins University. Her dissertation, under the supervision of Prof. Ken Rose, examined allometry in the thoracolumbar region of running mammals. Katrina has joined the Pierce lab as part of a collaborative project with Ken Angielczyk (Field Museum of Natural History), examining the evolution of the thoracolumbar region in Synapsids. The project will combine geometric morphometrics, ex vivo experiments and digital modeling to understand the evolution of the distinctive mammalian locomotory patterns. To find out more go to her personal webpage: https://www.katrinaejones.com/.

Learn more about our research in these YouTube videos made in collaboration with The Brainscoop: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLL8_5VpX9TxrP35cKyS8M6GVykLkb9BrW

Email: katrinajones@fas.harvard.edu

Select Publications:

  • Jones, K. E., Angielczyk, K. D., Polly, P. D., Head, J. J., Fernandez, V., Lungmus, J., Tulga, S. and Pierce, S. E. 2018.Fossils reveal the complex evolutionary history of the mammalian regionalized spine. Science. 1249-1252.
  • Jones, K. E., Benitez, L., Angielczyk, K. D., and Pierce, S. E. 2018Adaptation and constraint in the evolution of the mammalian backbone. BMC Evolutionary Biology. 18(1), 172.
  • Jones, K. E. 2016. New insights on equid locomotor evolution from the lumbar region of fossil horses. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 283(1829).
  • Jones, K. E. and Pierce, S. E. 2015. Axial allometry in a neutrally buoyant environment: effects of the terrestrial-aquatic transition on vertebral scaling. Journal of Evolutionary Biology. 29(3):594-601.
  • Jones, K. E. 2015. Evolutionary allometry of lumbar shape in Felidae and Bovidae. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. 116(3):721-740.

 

Tiago Simões Headshot

Tiago Simões

Alexander Agassiz Postdoctoral Fellow

Tiago started his career in his home city (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), where he obtained his BSc and MSc in Biological Sciences-Zoology at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, and began developing research on fossil reptiles at the National Museum of Brazil. He subsequently moved to Canada to pursue his PhD with Dr. Michael Caldwell at the University of Alberta, where he expanded his expertise on the evolution of lizards and snakes. Tiago's research interests include combining data from living and extinct species, as well as morphological and molecular data, to investigate deep time problems in reptile evolution. In recent years, he has revised previous phylogenetic and biogeographic hypotheses into the early evolution of lizards in South America and used high resolution µCT scans of modern lizards to assess the adaptive role of the temporal region of the lizard skull. Recently, he published the largest dataset ever assembled to assess broad-scale reptile relationships, finding the first ever agreement between morphological and molecular hypotheses on the early evolution of lizards. Further, he demonstrated that the major reptile lineages first evolved prior to the greatest mass extinction in the history of complex life— the Permian-Triassic Mass extinction. Currently, Tiago is investigating the impact of the Permian-Triassic Mass extinction on long-term evolutionary patterns in reptiles with Dr. Stephanie Pierce in the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University.

Email: tsimoes@fas.harvard.edu

Select Publications:

  • Garberoglio, F. F., Apesteguía, S., Simões, T. R., Palci, A., Gómez, R. O., Nydam, R. L., Larsson, H. C. E., Lee, M. S. Y. & Caldwell, M. W. (2019). New skulls and skeletons of the Cretaceous legged snake Najash, and the evolution of the modern snake body plan. Science Advances, 5(11), eaax5833. DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aax5833
  • Xing, L., Caldwell, M.W., Chen, R., Nydam, R.L., Palci, A., Simões, T. R., McKellar, R. C., Lee, M. S. Y., Liu, Y., Shi, H., Wang, K., Bai, M. (2018). A mid-Cretaceous embryonic-to-neonate snake in amber from Myanmar. Science Advances 4(7), eaat5042. DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aat5042.
  • Simões, T.R., Caldwell, M.W. , Tałanda, M., Bernardi, M., Palci, A., Vernygora, O., Bernardini, F., Mancini, L. & Nydam, R.L. (2018). The Origin of Squamates Revealed by a Middle Triassic Lizard from the Italian Alps. Nature 557(7707), 706-709. DOI: 10.1038/s41586-018-0093-3.
  • Simões, T. R., Caldwell, M. W., Palci, A. & Nydam, R. L. (2017). Giant taxon-character matrices: quality of character constructions remains critical regardless of size. Cladistics, 33(2), 198-219. DOI: 10.1111/cla.12163.
  • Simões T.R., Wilner E, Caldwell M.W., Weinschütz L.C., Kellner A.W.A. (2015). A stem acrodontan lizard in the Cretaceous of Brazil revises early lizard evolution in Gondwana. Nature Communications, 6 (8149), DOI: 10.1038/ncomms9149.

 

Megan Whitney Headshot

Megan Whitney

Postdoctoral Fellow

Meg is a vertebrate paleontologist specializing in paleohistology. Using microanatomical structures in the bones and teeth of fossil vertebrates, she works to uncover aspects of extinct animals’ biology that are otherwise lost in time. Meg gained her B.A. in Biology at Macalester College in St. Paul, MN (2013) under the supervision of Kristina Curry Rogers where her research in the bone histology of a baby sauropod inspired her to pursue a career as a paleontologist. Meg then served as a paleohistology lab technician before heading to the University of Washington to obtain her PhD in Biology (2014-2019). There, she worked with Dr. Christian Sidor, using paleohistology to investigate evolutionary trends in synapsid (mammal-line) fossils. Meg has joined the Pierce lab to continue pursuing questions in paleohistology that focus on terrestriality and the biology of early tetrapods. These projects will involve both modern and fossil osteohistological studies to gain a broader insight into how vertebrate life first occupied land. See Meg’s website to learn more about specific projects, fieldwork, and outreach! https://meganrwhitney.weebly.com/

Email: megwhit@uw.edu

Select Publications:

  • Whitney, M. R. and C. A. Sidor. 2019. Histological and developmental insights into the herbivorous dentition of tapinocephalid therapsids. PLoS ONE 14(10):e0223860.
  • Whitney, M. R., Y. T. Tse, and C. A. Sidor. 2019. Histological evidence of trauma in tusks of southern African dicynodonts. Palaeontologia africana 53:75—80.
  • LeBlanc, A. R. H., K. S. Brink, M. R. Whitney, F. Abdala and R. R. Reisz. 2018. Dental ontogeny in extinct synapsids reveals a complex evolutionary history of the mammalian tooth attachment system. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 285:20181792.
  • Wynd, B. M., B. R. Peecook, M. R. Whitney, and C. A. Sidor. 2017. The first occurrence of Cynognathus (Synapsida: Cynodontia) in Tanzania and Zambia, with implications for the age and biostratigraphic correlation of Traissic Strata in southern Pangea. pp. 228-239 in C. A. Sidor and S. J. Nesbitt (eds.), Vertebrate Climatic Evolution in the Triassic Rift Basins of Tanzania and Zambia. Society of Vertebrate Paleontology Memoir 17. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 37(6).
  • Whitney, M. R., L. Mose, C. A. Sidor. 2016. Odontoma in a 255-Million-Year-Old Mammalian Forerunner. JAMA Oncology 3(7):998—1000..

 

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PI - Postdoctoral Researchers - Graduate Students - Undergraduate Researchers - Lab Administrator - Alumni

Graduate Students

Philip Lai Headshot

Philip Lai

Phil is interested in structure and function in the pectoral girdle and forelimb along the line to mammals. He plans to combine in vivo kinematics, ex vivo manipulations, geometric morphometrics, and musculoskeletal modelling to investigate the determinants of posture and locomotion ability. By probing the interplay between the soft and hard tissues of the forelimb locomotor module, Phil hopes to inform reconstructions of non-mammalian synapsids and shed light on the trends that led to parasagittal stance in the mammalian lineage.

Email: philiplai@g.harvard.edu

 

 

Mark Wright Headshot

Mark Wright

Mark was a Master's student in the Erasmus Mundus Master Program in Evolutionary Biology (MEME), then a Research Assistant in the Pierce lab, and now a PhD candidate. He is interested in the evolution of morphological traits and connecting morphology to function. He is currently investigating the functional consequences of transitional forms during early mammalian evolution, focusing on the locomotory shift from sprawling to parasagittal gaits.

Email: markwright@g.harvard.edu

 

 

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PI - Postdoctoral Researchers - Graduate Students - Undergraduate Researchers - Lab Administrator - Alumni

Undergraduate Researchers


Luann Zerefa Headshot

Luann Zerefa

Luann is an undergraduate at Harvard College concentrating in Integrative Biology with a secondary in Earth and Planetary Sciences ('21). Her thesis project involves using modern salamander and newt proxies to develop a framework to interpret limb bone histological variables across development and habitat changes. Luann is being mentored by Megan Whitney and her research has been supported by the Harvard College Research Program (HCRP), Harvard Program for Research in Science and Engineering (PRISE), and the EPS Department.

Email: lzerefa@college.harvard.edu

 

 


Kim Boerrigter Headshot

Kim Boerrigter

Kim is an undergraduate at Harvard College, concentrating in Integrative Biology ('21), and broadly interested in why fish fins turn into limbs. Her thesis is a comparative kinematic study of four anglerfish pectoral fins: two species capable of 'fin-assisted walking' behaviors (benthic substrate locomotors) and two species of 'non-walking' anglerfish (pelagic deep sea swimmers). Kim is being mentored by Robert Brocklehurst and her research is supported by funding from the Museum of Comparative Zoology (MCZ).

Email: kimboerrigter@college.harvard.edu

 

 

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PI - Postdoctoral Researchers - Graduate Students - Undergraduate Researchers - Lab Administrator - Alumni

Lab Administrator

Jared Hughes Portrait

Jared Hughes

In addition to working with the Pierce Lab, Jared works with the Hanken (Herpetology), Ortega-Hernandez (Invertebrate Paleontology), and Davis (Vascular Plants) labs.

Email: jehughes@fas.harvard.edu