credit: Halleema Allam
  • Assistant Professor, Geology & Geophysics
(801) 587-8846

Research Statement

State Shifts in Benthic Ecology

Animals that dominate seafloor ecosystems can switch roles during local or widespread environmental change or global mass extinctions, and altered ecosystem states can persist for millions of years. I investigate the ways marine animals influence habitat development and water conditions, to determine how new states arise, persist, and eventually terminate. Shifts in benthic ecosystems influence marine sedimentation, geochemistry, and global climate.


Ammonites: Swimmers or Drifters?

Ammonites are extinct shelled cephalopods distantly related to squids. Ammonite shells vary wildly in shape and size. I analyze hydrodynamics of ammonite shells to determine challenges to moving through the water. I use comparisons to modern cephalopod physiology to interpret the possible locomotion styles of these once world-dominant ocean animals.


Life, Weathering, and Marine Chemistry

Biotic regimes can remove crucial ions from seawater, changing the balance of ocean chemistry. Distinguishing the temporal and spatial distribution of biotic and diagenetic sinks for silica and calcium carbonate can reveal long term marine cycling dynamics.

Research Keywords

  • Paleontology
  • Marine Ecology
  • Biomechanics

Grants, Contracts & Research Gifts

  • Permian Spiculites of Utah. PI: Kathleen Ritterbush. American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund, 07/01/2016 - 07/01/2018. Total project budget to date: $110,000.00


  • Spanish, functional.

Geographical Regions of Interest

  • Peru
    Field research on sedimentology and paleontology of Triassic and Jurassic rocks in mining regions of the central Peruvian Andes.
  • United States of America
    Marine ecology in California and Hawaii; Paleoecology in Nevada and Utah.

Student Research Opportunities

The Marine Paleoecology Lab is currently home to two MS and two PhD students. We are not currently seeking additional graduate students for the 2019-2020 academic cycle.

Undergraduate Research Opportunities

The Marine Paleoecology Lab is currently home to several undergraduate students, studying mass extinctions, functional morphology, and growth in fossil animal life histories. Students interested in proposing new projects to start in spring 2019 should contact Dr. Ritterbush.