2015 Student Research Exhibits

Read on for details about the student researchers and a summary of their work. For more information you can access links to the Florida Museum programs mentoring each research project and a downloadable PDF of each poster. Contact information for current Museum graduate students is available on the Florida Museum Graduate Student Directory, through links to the University of Florida departments, or via the Florida Museum mentors.


Fall 2015




PaleoTEACH: stem integration through paleontology & 3D technology for K-12 education

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Student Authors:  Claudia Grant1, Sean Moran1, Victor Perez1, Doug M. Boyer2, Jason Tovani3, Megan Hendrickson4

 Florida Museum Research Mentors: Bruce MacFadden, Dr. Jonathan Bloch

Poster Abstract: PaleoTEACH is a collaboration involving the Florida Museum of Natural History, Duke University and science educators. The goal is to create curricula using high-quality 3D models for a K-12 audience.  Fossils are oftentimes delicate or rare, and not universally suitable for classroom use. Therefore, 3D scanning and printing technology provides a unique opportunity to make these specimens available for K-12 education. Paleontology is an interdisciplinary and engaging area of study that provides distinctive opportunities for STEM integration. STEM integration is an instructional method that aims to emphasize the connections between Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

1Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida. Gainesville FL;  2Duke University, Morpho Source. Durham, NC;  3Pacific Grove Middle School. Pacific Grove, CA;  4Academy of the Holy Names. Tampa, FL



Evolution of small mammals during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum: A case study using automated geometric morphometric methods to quantify tooth shape and size

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Student Authors:  Natasha Vitek1, Carly Manz1, Jonathan Bloch1, Douglas Boyer2, Suzanne Strait3

 Florida Museum Research Mentors: Bruce MacFadden, Dr. Jonathan Bloch

Poster Abstract: The Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) is marked by a rapid negative carbon isotope excursion with an associated shift towards warmer global temperatures by ~5–10 °C. At least 40% of the measured mammalian genera in the Bighorn Basin (BHB) are smaller during the PETM compared to adjacent, cooler biochrons, suggesting a relationship between climate change and body size. To date, only stasis in shape between biochrons was documented. Within the PETM, size changes correlated with climate proxies have been documented in only one lineage (Sifrhippus sandrae) in the BHB, and changes in shape were not addressed. Here, we explore methods for quantifying both shape and size change at high stratigraphic and morphologic resolution.

1Florida Museum of Natural History, Gainesville, FL;  2Duke University, Durham, NC; 3Marshall University, Huntington, WV



Evolving Equids: Using Fossil Horses to Teach High School Science

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Authors:  Sean M. Moran1, Bruce J. MacFadden1, Cheryl A. McLaughlin2, Julie Bokor3, Jennifer Broo4, Jessica Mahoney5

Poster Abstract: This curriculum uses a well-known and charistmatic mammalian family, Equidae, to teach various topics of high school biology.  Students: 

-measure hypsodonty indices (HI) of 15 equid species from the early Eocene to the late Pleistocene

-look at changes in HI in relation to changes in paleoenvironment

-observe intraspecific variation and its importance in evolution

-create a phylogeny of horse evolution

The lesson was created in the summer of 2014 during a teacher training program held by the Center for Precollegiate Education and Training at the University of Florida. The curriculum has since been implemented across the country in middle and high school science classes.

1Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL; 2National Education Inspectorate, Kingston, Jamaica; 3Center for Precollegiate Education and Training, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL; 4St. Ursula Academy, Cincinnati, OH; 5Edgewater High School, Orlando, FL



Dental Topography and Dietary Ecology of the First North American Euprimates

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Authors:  Paul E. Morse1,2, Jonathan I. Bloch2, Gabriel S. Yapuncich3, Doug M. Boyer3, Suzanne G. Strait4

Poster Abstract:The Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) was a significant global warming event that occurred 56 million years ago1, characterized by an increase of ~5-8 °C in mean annual global temperature. Among the panoply of physical, chemical, and biotic effects associated with the PETM, this brief interval (~200 thousand years2) marks the first appearance of primates of modern aspect, or ‘euprimates.’ The first euprimate immigrants to reach North America were the omomyid Teilhardina brandti and the notharctid Cantius torresi.

 1Department of Anthropology, University of Florida; 2Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida; 3Department of Evolutionary Anthropology, Duke University; 4Department of Biological Sciences, Marshall University


Spring 2015




Fossil fruits of the London Clay: A new insight from X-Ray analysis

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Authors:  Neil F. Adams1*, Mary J. Andrew1, Margaret E. Collinson1,2, Steven R. Manchester3, Gregory W. Stull3, Fabiany Herrera3,4, Paul Kenrick2, Dan Sykes2

Poster Abstract: The London Clay Formation has yielded one of the most diverse floral assemblages from the Early Eocene (52-49Ma), with over 300 species, and has become a global benchmark for the vegetation of the Early Eocene Climatic Optimum (EECO). Here we focus on the Anacardiaceae (the cashew family) and Icacinaceae (mainly lianas), which are typical examples of tropical families in this flora.

1Royal Holloway University of London, Egham, U.K.; 2Natural History Museum, London, U.K.; 3Florida Museum of Natural History and Department of Biology, University of Florida, U.S.A.; 4Chicago Botanic Garden, U.S.A. 



A morphotype catalog of leaves from the Middle Eocene Cockfield Formation, TN

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Student Authors: Ariel Guggino and Nathan A Jud

Florida Museum Research Mentors:

Poster Abstract: The Florida Museum of Natural History collected fossilized leaves from the Dawson’s Pit in Tennessee in 2001. The Dawson Pit plant locality is in the Middle Eocene Cockfield Formation, within the Claiborne Group. This formation consists of many clay lenses interpreted as oxbow lake deposits. Many of these have well-preserved leaves.



Eocene and Miocene fruits and seeds reveal the evolution of ancient Panamanian forests

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Student Author: Fabiany Herrera

Florida Museum Research Mentors: Steven Manchester and Carlos Jaramillo

Poster Abstract: Fossils from Middle Miocene Cucaracha formation from the Panama Canal provide a unique opportunity to explore ancient biomes that lived under two very different conditions than modern-day forests in the region.




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Student Authors:  Christopher W. Nelson and Nathan A. Jud

Florida Museum Research Mentors: Steve Manchester, Bruce MacFadden, Jonathan Bloch, and Fabiany Herrera

Poster Abstract:  Lianas (climbing woody plants, commonly known as vines) are important components of tropical and subtropical forest diversity, photosynthetic area, and canopy structure. Liana abundance and diversity in the tropics is related to seasonality, disturbance, and pCO2 (Schnitzer & Bongers, 2011).  Fossil lianas can provide a record of forest structure and change in deep time; but recognizing them can be difficult. Lianas generally have relatively large water-conducting vessels compared to trees and shrubs. Many liana stems also have unusual organization of the vascular cambium. Currently, only 19% of the megafossil record of lianas is made up of fossil wood and stems (Burnham, 2009).