June 13, 2017
Jacob Bean, an associate professor in astronomy, and associate professor Dorian Abbot have published a paper arguing that the best scientific returns will come from statistical tests of Earth-like extrasolar planets. Many people have focused on how we may be able to tell whether a specific extrasolar planet is inhabited by life, but it is likely that we won't be able to prove this in a way that will convince everyone for a very long time. Instead we may make more progress by using new telescopes to determine statistically whether scientific theories related to planetary habitability work by on studying large numbers of Earth-like planets.
June 09, 2017
Susan Kidwell have published a paper in which they study the local extinction of brachiopods and scallops off the coast of San Diego and Santa Barbara. They used paleontological methods to date fossil shells and determined that this local extinction happened during the 1800's and was likely due to the introduction of cattle, horses, and sheep by the Spanish in the late 1700's. These animals would have made the seawater dirty due to increased runoff and manure, so that the brachiopods and scallops couldn't survive. The work demonstrates both the significant impact pre-industrial societies can have on their environment and the usefulness of paleontological approaches to recent ecological transitions. Congratulations Adam and Susan!William Rainey Harper Professor
May 31, 2017
Assistant professor Graham Slater has published a new paper in which he, along with coauthors from Stanford and the Smithsonian, used macroevolutionary modeling to determine that there was an abrupt shift in baleen whale body size evolution that lead to the giants we have today and that it only occurred within the past 4Myr. Our modeling rules out most previous hypotheses for gigantism and instead implies a role for climate driven changes in ocean circulation and productivity that began in the late Pliocene. This work was covered in the NYTimes, the BBC, the LATimes, The Guardian, PBS Newshour, and Science. He also was interviewed on Canadian and German radio. Congratulations Graham!