I am a Peter Buck Deep Time post-doctoral fellow at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. My research focuses on the early evolutionary history of the Ambulacraria (Hemichordata and Echinodermata) as revealed by exceptional fossils from the Cambrian Period. Ambulacrarians are actually the sister group (close relatives) of the chordates including all vertebrates such as fish, birds, reptiles and us. Therefore, by studying these fossils, we gain insight into the link that connects humans to worms and starfish.

I did my PhD work at the University of Toronto and the Royal Ontario Museum. My thesis was focused on the Marble Canyon palaeocommunity, which was discovered in 2012 and is part of the Burgess Shale, a collection of fossil sites that is over half a billion years old. I was part of the field crews to return to Marble Canyon in 2014 and 2016; in total we’ve collected over 20,000 observations of fossil animals from the quarry.

My goal was to comprehensively describe the Marble Canyon fauna from the level of individual organisms up to community level interactions. I then integrated this data with other exceptional Burgess Shale fossil sites to give an unparalleled glimpse into ecosystem dynamics near the dawn of animal life.