My overall research interest is the ecological context of evolutionary diversification. At present, much of it focuses on the form and ecology of the earliest animals through the examination of both trace fossils and body fossils.
Recent Research Interests
My research in collaboration with Jim Gehling (South Australia Museum) assesses the ecology, morphology and affinities of these organisms - to ask what these features tell us about how these animals lived and interacted and how this compares with modern ecosystems. We have concentrated on a series of localities in South Australia where we are able to excavate successive beds over a large area and therefore have significant surfaces to examine. The first four years of field work consisted of excavation. Work to date includes documenting the ecological complexity of Earth's earliest ecosystem the potential evidence for bilaterians, and the evidence for mobility. Further work with Martin Kennedy examines the triggers for this radiation, in particular, the rise of free atmospheric oxygen at this time. Work on the Ediacaran record along with postdoc Sören Jensen and collaborator Jim Gehling concentrates on the nature of the record of the advent of bioturbation. Current students Aaron Sappenfield, Lidya Tarhan and Erica Clites are working on aspects of the Ediacara fauna.
In my work on the Ordovician diversification event I have moved beyond simple tabulations of faunal diversity to examine differences in the absolute abundance of different faunal elements to assess the question of whether increasing taxic diversity was a question of the expansion of available ecospace, or a fundamental restructuring of ecological communities. This work is done in collaboration with former student, Seth Finnegan and current student Robyn Dahl.
Fine-grained sediments constitute the most significant portion of the sedimentary record. Many of these fine-grained deposits are interpreted to have been deposited in reduced oxygen or anoxic (no oxygen) settings and are commonly refereed to as black shales. This is significant for two reasons: 1) many fossil lagerstätten are preserved in black shales (which facilitate soft-bodied preservation) and 2) this represents an extreme ecological setting which was more prevalent in the geologic past than it is now, but may become more common due to global warming. My research in this area focusing on the Cambrian is in collaboration with former student Bob Gaines (Pomona College) and Derek Briggs (Yale Univ) as well as current student Daniel Garson. Work on Devonian black shales is in collaboration with colleague Tim Lyons and former student Diana Boyer (SUNY Oswego). .
Droser Lab News Updates
New Lab Space
As of the beginning of the winter quarter, we've moved into our beautiful new labs in the north wing of the Geology Building. Students offices are now housed in room 1453, so come by and say hi!
Droser Paleoecology Lab website