Talks with classrooms and school groups with Skype a Scientist and Nepris
I’ve met with elementary and middle school classrooms and school groups to share my interests in paleontology, how paleontology is used in the ‘real world’, skills needed to become a paleontologist, and career pathways within paleontology.
Watch my Nepris talks here:
Interview with the Alf Museum of Paleontology and the Western Science Center November 2020:
“Mammoths, Dinosaurs, and Mammals, Oh My!”
Who knew what started as a topic for a middle school science paper would turn into a career? On this episode, we join paleontologist and PhD student, Devra Hock, as she discusses where her love for science and paleontology came from and her journey in exploring that passion, from watching documentaries to pursuing her PhD.
Devra is currently at University of Nebraska Lincoln for her PhD, where she also got her Master’s, and went to Montana State University for her undergrad. Devra has done field work in Montana, South Dakota, and Wyoming and loves visiting natural history museums wherever she can. She also loves theater and dance, including aerial dance.
Talk with UNSM’s Science Cafe April 2020:
Common Conceptions of Evolution and the Fossil Record and How Natural History Museums Can Address Them
Each and every person develops an individual and unique foundation of knowledge, created and tailored by their reality and experiences. As such, everyone has a mental framework that includes a range of conceptions they then build on throughout their life. Science is conducted through series of testing hypotheses, and as such, these conceptions are often not scientifically correct. Additionally, many people accept new scientific knowledge that fits within their existing framework and reject knowledge that does not. These prior conceptions exist in the public’s perception of every scientific field. However, conceptions about geology and paleontology are particularly more challenging to overcome, possibly because of the underlying difficulty of understanding historical sciences. Here, I discuss documented prior conceptions concerning paleontology, and specifically to evolution and the fossil record. Common conceptions include science as a collection of static facts, evolution as a linear and progressive process, difficulty understanding geologic timelines, overlapping existence of ancient and modern organisms, such as dinosaurs and humans, and extinction equating to evolutionary failure. To combat these prior conceptions, a full understanding of paleontology is required. In its simplest form, paleontology is the study of ancient life. In practice, many different fields within paleontology look to answer the myriad of questions about the ancient world through time using the fossil record and the theory of evolution. There is an interesting dichotomy between society’s perpetual fascination in paleontology and the abundance of prior conceptions about it. Natural history museums have been at the forefront of introducing the public to paleontology since the first sauropods and theropods were being brought back from the field in the 1800s, and still hold the public’s perception as authoritative scientific institutions. Museum exhibits not only inform visitors but also engage them creatively and encourage them to connect past experiences with the content presented. Museums are places of live, active research, and museums are more and more frequently displaying that research to teach visitors about science. Paleontology is at the forefront of these shifts, as museums display ongoing preparatory work, offer object-based learning, mock dig sites, and even offer programs to participate at real fossil excavations. Museums can better inform and educate visitors by closing the disconnect of science and the public. Showing the scientific processes and application of evolution and the fossil record through paleontology gives visitors the chance to see science at work and is more effective than simply displaying facts in static exhibits. As such, natural history museums are prime places to address and correct prior conceptions.
UNL Alumni Poster Session 2021:
Functional diversity of North American and African regional biomes and implications for paleoecological applications
Oral Presentation at SVP 2019:
Comparison of ‘Big Data’ uses in paleoecological multi-proxy models for North American mammalian paleoecological interpretations
See a poster version of my talk here: https://paleogalsadventures.files.wordpress.com/2022/06/eas-alumni-poster-session-svp-2019.pdf
Master’s Thesis; Oral Presentation at SVP 2018:
A taxon-free, multi-proxy model for making paleontological interpretations of Neogene North American mammalian faunas
Find my thesis here: https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/geoscidiss/110/
Proxies used for interpreting the paleoecology of extinct vertebrate communities are usually based on modern ecosystems, with many developed from Old World ecosystems. However, because no model is completely taxon-free and phylogenetic influences cannot be entirely discounted, these proxies may not be appropriate for paleoecological interpretations of North American ecosystems. Additionally, many proxies based on modern vertebrate communities exclude small-bodied mammals. Here I explore several new paleoecological models based on the frequency of mammalian traits within three ecological categories: locomotion, diet, and body mass. Since these models are intended for interpreting paleoenvironments occupied by Neogene North American mammals, the data used to develop the models are from historical North American faunas. Pre-existing datasets were augmented with locomotion, diet, and body mass information from a variety of sources. Mammalian geographic occurrences were assigned to digital maps of Bailey’s Ecoregions of North America in ESRI ArcMap and ecoregions were combined into broader biomes in an iterative process using preliminary Principle Component Analysis (PCA). Taxa were sorted by biome and two datasets were created, one where the number of individual occurrences were used to weight traits, and one where only a single taxonomic occurrence was used for each biome. Taxonomic analyses were conducted on unweighted taxa both with and without rodents and lagomorphs. PCA was conducted using frequencies of trait classifications per biome for all datasets. Stacked area charts were created to visualize changing trait frequencies among biomes. PCA analyses using unweighted data without the smallest mammals (<500 g) provides the strongest separation of biomes. High frequencies of grazer, cursorial, and size class G traits (<10500 g) are correlated traits in the grassland biome. Size classes C (500-1000 g) and D (1000 – 1500 g) are the second group of correlated traits, plotting in the opposite direction in grassland. High frequencies of arboreal/scansorial, omnivore, and granivore traits make up key indicators for the forest biome. Weighted datasets without small-bodied mammals (<500 g) work well to distinguish among biomes. I conclude that unweighted analyses excluding small-bodied mammals should provide the best separation of biomes and be most appropriate for certain paleoecological applications in North America.
Poster Presentation at SVP 2017:
Vertebrate species richness change from the late Miocene to early Pliocene of Lothagam, Turkana Basin, Kenya
Click for my 2017 SVP Poster: Hock SVP Poster 2017
Poster Presentation at SVP and Oral Presentation at GSA 2015:
A comprehensive study of key paleoenvironmental changes using major faunal turnovers focusing in the Turkana Basin, Kenya: A development of a new model to determine environmental change.
Click for my 2015 SVP poster: poster_48x721