Associate Professor and Curator of Paleontology, University of Colorado Boulder, Colorado
NFD Kid's Page Interview...
What is your job, and what do you study?
My job includes doing research, teaching undergraduate and graduate students, and overseeing our Museum's trace fossil and fossil eggshell collections. My research includes laboratory and field work; I study fossil feces (called coprolites) and other trace fossils in order to learn more about ancient ecosystems.
What are you working on now?
I am continuing my research on fossilized feces to help decipher the feeding behaviors of extinct animals and reconstruct ancient food webs. Fossil feces are challenging to study for several reasons. They can be hard to identify, and it is usually difficult--or downright impossible--to figure out which types of animals produced the ancient feces. It can also be challenging to identify dietary residues inside coprolites. Just think--the food first went through an animal's digestive tract and was then subject to geologic alteration over millions of years! Many coprolites are too poorly preserved to tell us much. But well-preserved specimens can provide important perspectives on ancient ecosystems that we can't learn from body fossils like bones or shells.