Senior Researchers

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Dr. Blaine W. Schubert               
Center & Museum Director                                       ETSU, Geosciences, Associate Professor

Research Interests
:  Late Cenozoic  vertebrate paleontology and paleoecology; the impact of climatic change on vertebrates; the paleobiology and evolution of bears; cave paleontology.

Current Projects: Paleobiology and systematics of tremarctine bears; excavation and analysis of vertebrate fossils from the Gray site, Saltville, and caves in the Appalachians and Ozarks.

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Dr. Yusheng (Christopher) Liu
Museum Curator (Fossil Plants)                               ETSU, Biological Sciences, Associate Professor

Research Interests
:  Paleobotany; paleoecology and paleogeography of Cretaceous - Cenozoic plants of the Northern Hemisphere; quantitative paleoclimatic reconstructions based on plants.

Current Projects: Analysis of fossil fruits/seeds from the Gray Fossil Site in Tennessee and quantitative paleoclimate reconstructions on Neogene floras from East Asia.

Dr. Jim I. Mead
Museum Curator (Fossil Vertebrates)                       ETSU, Geosciences, Professor and Chair
ETVP Curator

Research Interests:  Evolution and dispersal of bovids; cranial morphology of lizards; evolution of Australian lizards; vertebrate faunal changes in response to Neogene climatic changes.

Current Projects :  Pleistocene biodiversity of Sonora, Mexico; cranial osteology of Australian lizards; Pleistocene lizards from caves of Western Australia; lizards from the Gray Fossil Site.

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Dr. Steven C. Wallace
Museum Curator (Fossil Vertebrates)                         GFS Site Manager                                                 ETSU, Geosciences, Associate Professor
                                                                          Research Interests
:  Vertebrate paleontology; morphometrics; small carnivore evolution, and the interchange between Eurasia and North America over the last 10 million years.

Current Projects: Descriptions of the Gray site panda and badger; systematic excavations at Gray; evolution of mustelids, ailurids, felids, and tapirids; technological advances in molding and casting.  

Dr. Michael J. Whitelaw
ETSU, Geosciences, Associate Professor

Research Interests: Paleomagnetism; geology and stratigraphy of east Tennessee; vertebrate paleontology; geology and paleontology outreach and education.

Current Projects: Origin, geology and stratigraphy of the GFS; possible GFS contemporaries in east Tennessee; geology of petroglyph sites in Western Mongolia; geoscience outreach programs.



Research Associates

Aaron Abernethy
ETSU, Paleontology Program, M.S. Gradauate          
Research Interests: Vertebrate paleontology; functional morphology and variation in Perissodactyla; osteoderm histology, convergence, and development; Permian synapsid paleobiology.

Current Projects :  The functional morphology of the sagittal crest of Tapirus polkensis at the Gray Fossil Site, Tennessee.

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Dr. Brian J. Axsmith
U. of Southern Alabama, Biology, Professor

Research Interests
:  Neogene floras of the Southeast; the fossil record of conifers; Mesozoic gymnosperms and ferns.

Current Projects: Triassic plant fossils from northern China; ferns from the Triassic Chinle Formation; Cheirolepidiaceous conifers from the Jurassic and Cretaceous of North America.

Grant S. Boardman
University of Nebraska, Ph.D. Student                   ETSU, Paleontology Program, M.S. Graduate

Research Interests
:  Vertebrate Paleontology, Paleoecology.

Current Projects: Description of the GFS salamanders; determining regional paleoenvironmental successions in the White River of Nebraska based on mammals.

Keila Bredehoeft
Hagerman Fossil Beds, Preparator                          ETSU, Paleontology Program, M.S. Graduate

Research Interests: Cenozoic vertebrate paleontology, morphometrics, cryptobranchid salamanders, cave paleontology, field and preparatory work.

Current Projects :  A Re-evaluation of the Pleistocene hellbender, Cryptobranchus guildayi, and an overview of Cryptobranchus remains from Appalachian caves.


Sarah Compton
ETSU Natural History Museum Collections Intern
ETSU, Paleontology Program, M.S. Graduate

Research Interests: herpetology; archives; conservation
Current Projects: Gray Fossil Site anurans; Gray Fossil Site archives


Dr. Larisa R. G. DeSantis
Vanderbilt U., Earth and Environmental Sciences,
Assistant Professor

Research Interests
:  Paleoecology and paleobiology of Cenozoic mammals; assessing effects of climate change on mammals and their environments; paleoecology of forests.

Current Projects:  Paleoecology and paleoclimatology of Miocene - Pleistocene sites in southeastern North America (e.g., GFS) and Australia; integration of multiple tools for paleoecological studies.

Dr. Yongli Gao
ETSU, Geosciences, Associate Professor

Research Interests
karst hydrology, human impact on environment, paleoclimate and paleohydrology investigations, GIS applications in Geosciences.

Current Projects
Investigating climatic and environmental changes using speleothems and paleokarst deposits.  Modeling surface water and groundwater interactions in karst settings.

Matthew L. Gibson
ETSU, Paleontology Program, M.S. Graduate 

Research Interests:  Paleobiology of tapirs, paleobiology of whales and dolphins, and Mesozoic reptiles.

Current Projects : Population structure based on age-class distribution of Tapirus polkensis from the Gray Fossil Site, Tennessee.



Laura Gilmore
ETSU, Paleontology Program, M.S. Graduate

Research Interests: Cenozoic caniform carnivorans; paleopathology; non-equine perissodactyls

Current Projects: Paleopathology of tapirs from Florida and Tennessee; Two new raccoons from the Blancan of Florida; New coati from the Blancan of Florida; Extant raccoon subspecies; Pleistocene carnivores from Sonora, Mexico

Fade Gong
ETSU, Biological Sciences, M.S. Graduate

Research Interests :  Paleobotany; paleoclimate; phytogeography; evolution and diversity of plants; morphometrics on fossil plants.

Current Projects: Systematics of fossil grape seeds (Vitaceae) from the Gray Fossil Site; Quantitative paleoclimatic reconstructions on eastern Asian Neogene floras.

Patrick Hawkins
ETSU, Paleontology Program, M.S. Graduate

Research Interests: Vertebrate paleontology; functional morphology, mostly in mammals; skeletal variation due to environmental factors.

Current Projects:  Variation in the modified first metatarsal of a large sample of Tapirus polkensis and the functional implications for ceratomorphs.

Sharon E. Holte
University of Florida, Ph.D. Student                      

ETSU, Paleontology Program, M.S. Graduate

Research Interests: vertebrate paleontology from lizards to mammals

Current Projects: Helodermatid lizards, Pleistocene fauna, and early Miocene carnivorans


 Mark H

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Dr. Mark N. Hutchinson
South Australian Museum, Adelaide,   
Senior Researcher

Research Interests Evolution and systematics of lizards; fossil history of Australian lizards; origins and timing of reptile evolutionary radiations.

Current Projects: Pleistocene fossil record of Australian lizards and implications for past climates; lizard fossils as calibration points for molecular phylogenetics; Tertiary history of lizards in Australasia.


Steven Jasinski
Curator of Paleontology and Geology, State Museum of Pennsylvania
ETSU, Paleontology Program, M.S. Graduate

Research Interests: vertebrate evolution, paleobiology and systematics, morphologic variation of various vertebrate groups, focused on Testudines, Dinosauria, Carnivora, and Chondrichthyes

Current Projects: Evolution of the Emydidae; morphologic variation and biomechanics of felids; description of a new dromaeosaurid; tooth pathologies among Chondrichthyians

Eric Lynch
Logging Geologist, Horizon Well Logging, LLC
ETSU, Paleontology Program, M.S. Graduate

Research Interests: vertebrate locomotion and biomechanics; paleobiology of musteloids, bears, and dinosaurs; geometric morphometrics; role of bacteria in fossilization

Current Projects: Interpreting the locomotor behavior and paleoecology of the Gray Fossil Site red panda, Pristinailurus bristoli, and the Pleistocene North American giant short-faced bear, Arctodus simus; Investigating biofilm formation and preservation within the vascular cavities of dinosaur bone and their potential for preserving vertebrate remains.


J Martin 

Jeff Martin 
ETSU, Graduate Student 

Research Interests: vertebrate paleontology; comparative anatomy; Pliocene and Pleistocene paleoecology; North American bovids (particularly bison); geometric morphometrics and statistics; geospatial analysis

Thesis: Late Pleistocene and Holocene Bison of Grand Canyon and Colorado Plateau

Advisor: Mead

Elizabeth Schmitt
ETSU, Paleontology Program, M.S. Graduate

Research Interests: Vertebrate paleontology; dietary behavior of Pleistocene carnivorans; predator - prey relationships; language and brain development in human evolution.

Current Projects : Analysis of bone crushing behavior in the dire wolf ( Canis dirus) using microwear texture analysis.



Rachel A. Short
ETSU, Paleontology Program, M.S. Graduate

Research Interests: vertebrate paleontology; functional anatomy; geometric morphometrics; North American Miocene mammals (particularly rhinos)

Current Projects: rhinos of the Gray Fossil Site, TN; a Pleistocene fauna from Sonora, Mexico

Dr. H. Gregory McDonald
National Park Service
Senior Curator of Natural History

Research Interests
:  Paleobiology of American mammals with an emphasis on Xenarthra; Great American Biotic Interchange; taxonomy, systematics, and evolution of ground sloths.

Current Projects:  Description of sloth remains from the GFS; biostratigraphy and chronology of ground sloths in North America; Pleistocene tar pit faunas of Venezuela.

Dr. Roger Moore
FLMNH, Research Associate

Research Interests
:  Eocene paleobotany southeast U.S., paleoecology, paleo-CO2 reconcentrations, Cenozoic depositional environments, Neogene plant fossils in Thailand.

Current Projects:  Eocene plant fossils of Tennessee-Kentucky; leaf ecophysical and epidermal architecture; Plio-Pleistocene fossils of Thailand; west Tennessee Neogene locality.  

Diana Ochoa Lozano
ETSU, Biological Sciences, M.S. Graduate

Research Interests: Palynology; paleoecology; biodiversity and dynamics of floristic communities through time (mainly in tropical and subtropical regions).

Current Projects : Description and analysis of the Gray site palynoflora and comparison to other Mio-Pliocene sites in North America. 


Dr. Cheng Quan
Jilin University, China, Associate Professor
ETSU, Biological Sciences, Visiting Scholar

Research Interests
:  Paleobotany; paleoecology of Cretaceous - Cenozoic plants; quantitative paleoenvironmental reconstructions based on plants.

Current Projects:  Evolution of the genus Ginkgo; climate evolution in eastern Asia during the Cenozoic; quantitative climate reconstructions during the early Cenozoic.

Dr. Aaron Shunk
Geologist, Shell Exploration and Production

Research Interests
: P aleoclimatology using paleosols, spectral analyses, stable isotopes, and sedimentology and stratigraphy. Of particular interest is the interaction between the sun and climate.  

Current Projects: S pectral analyses of lacustrine rhythmites and annual tree-rings to characterize the GFS paleoclimate. Cretaceous Western Interior Seaway and its record of paleoclimate.

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Dr. Leopoldo H. Soibelzon
Universidad Nacional de La Plata, CONICET
La Plata Museum of Natural History
Adjunct Researcher / Professor

Research Interests
:  Great America Biotic Interchange; South American carnivorans; late Cenozoic extinctions; paleobiology; geometric morphometrics; biostratigraphy.

Current Projects:  Description of bear remains from GFS; morphological phylogeny of fossil and recent bears; systematics and palaeobiology of fossil procyonids; paleopathologies in bears.

Jeremy B. Stout
ETSU, Paleontology Program, M.S. Graduate

Research Interests
:  Vertebrate paleontology and paleoecology; systematics; evolutionary history of archosaurs (paticularly crocodilians); Pleistocene cave paleontology.

Current Projects:  Cranial morphology and systematics of Late Pliocene Alligator from Florida; description of new crocodilian material from the Bridger Formation of Wyoming. 

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Dr. Peter S. Ungar
U. of Arkansas, Anthropology, Professor and Chair

Research Interests
:  Hominid paleobiology; dental microwear and functional morphology; Cenozoic mammalian community ecology.

Current Projects:  Dental microwear studies of living and fossil primates, rodents, carnivorans and ruminants, developing new technologies for inferring diet from tooth shape and wear.

Richard S. White, Jr.
International Wildlife Museum, Director

Research Interests
:  Neogene North American artiodactyls; Great American Biotic Interchange; xenarthrans; turtles; history of vertebrate paleontology, especially in North America.

Current Projects:  Neogene vertebrate sites in Sonora, Mexico; phylogeny of the Antilocapridae; North American capybaras; the late Blancan 111 Ranch fauna from Arizona.

Yuan Wang
Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences

Research Interests
:  Paleomammalogy and Biostratigraphy during the Neogene and Quaternary.

Current Projects:  Proboscidean evolution and systematics in China during the late Cenozoic; evolution of Muridae in China; dental microstructure of hominoids from China.

Student Researchers


Kevin Chovanec
ETSU, Graduate Student

Research Interests: squamate evolution and systematics; lizard cranial morphology; Neotropical biogeography; the latitudinal diversity gradient; microvertebrate fossil recovery

Thesis: Non-anguimorph lizards from the late Oligocene and early Miocene of Florida, USA and implications for New World squamate biogeography

Advisor: Schubert


Joshua Doby
ETSU, Graduate Student

Research Interests: Soricidae, Coleoptera, convergence, taxonomy, phylogeny, community ecology, and visual communication

Thesis: Systematic review of the shrew and shrew-like mammals of the Gray Fossil Site (Hemphillian), Tennessee

Advisor: Wallace



Nathaniel Fox
ETSU, Graduate Student

Research Interests: vertebrate paleontology; conservation biology; biogeography; paleoecology; paleoichnology

Thesis: Review of the Snake Creek Burial Cave Mustela spp. using linear and landmark-based morphometrics: Implications for species classification and modern management

Advisor: Wallace



Will Harris
ETSU, Graduate Student

Research Interests: vertebrate paleontology; crocodilian osteology; cranial osteology

Thesis: Ontogenetic variation in the skull of Alligator mississippiensis based on disarticulated cranial and mandibular elements

Advisor: Schubert


Aly Baumgartner
ETSU, Graduate Student

Research Interests: late Cenozoic paleoclimate and paleoecology; vertebrate paleontology; comparative anatomy

Thesis: Neogene climate change in eastern North America: A quantitative reconstruction

Advisor: Lui


Technical Associates

Arturo Baez
University of Arizona, Tucson

Specialties: Pleistocene mammals of Sonora Mexico and Arizona.  Fieldwork.

Interests :  Vertebrate paleontology; Pleistocene localities of the Moctezuma River Valley, east-central Sonora, and coastal Sonora.

Jeff Supplee
ETSU, Contractor & Volunteer

Specialties: Fossil preparation and fieldwork; molding and casting; surveying; 3D scanning and rapid prototyping.

Interests:  Paleontology; fossil preparation and preservation; skeletal morphology; travel.

Sandra Swift
ETSU, Contractor & Volunteer
ETVP Collections Manager

Specialties: Management of vertebrate comparative collection (ETVP) for Geosciences; prepartion of fossils; photography and image processing.

Interests:  Travel; paleontology; photography; anything to do with nature; working with students; the wonder of bones.

Abbreviations :
ETSU = East Tennessee State University
GFS = Gray Fossil Site, Washington County, Tennesse

Museum = ETSU and General Shale Brick Natural History Museum and Visitors Center
ETVP = ETSU Vertebrate Paleontology Laboratory
FLMNH = Florida Museum of Natural History

To learn more about Center membership click here.

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