The unparalleled collections and ongoing excavations at the La Brea Tar Pits and Museum offer countless opportunities for students to conduct independent research related to paleobiology, ecology, evolution, and global change.  I am open to a wide variety of projects, and am particularly interested in taking on students who wish to capitalize on Rancho La Brea's heretofore understudied microfossil collections -- the plants, insects, mollusks, small mammals, birds, and herpetofauna -- to contribute to our understanding of ecological processes and changes related to climate dynamics and human impacts.

 

Currently Accepting:

Postdoctoral applicants

Graduate students (co-advised)

Undergraduate students (guided independent research and thesis projects)

More info and contact

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Current Postdoctoral Fellows

  Dr. Libby Ellwood   My ecological research occurs at the intersection of climate change, conservation, and citizen science. I work to understand past systems while conducting contemporary research to see how these systems have changed and how they may continue to change in the future. This research depends on historical or ancient information and citizen scientists are playing an increasing role in making such data available. Recently, I completed a postdoctoral position with iDigBio at Florida State University where I worked to engage the public in digitizing specimens and data contained in natural history collections. In my current Research Fellow position at La Brea Tar Pits & Museum I am part of the "A mouse's eye view of Rancho La Brea" project to reconstruct paleo food webs. Specifically, I'm developing educational resources to involve students in sorting microfossils that will inform us of the small mammals and plants that comprised ecosystems here 50-30,000 years ago.  lellwood@tarpits.org   www.libbyellwood.space

Dr. Libby Ellwood

My ecological research occurs at the intersection of climate change, conservation, and citizen science. I work to understand past systems while conducting contemporary research to see how these systems have changed and how they may continue to change in the future. This research depends on historical or ancient information and citizen scientists are playing an increasing role in making such data available. Recently, I completed a postdoctoral position with iDigBio at Florida State University where I worked to engage the public in digitizing specimens and data contained in natural history collections. In my current Research Fellow position at La Brea Tar Pits & Museum I am part of the "A mouse's eye view of Rancho La Brea" project to reconstruct paleo food webs. Specifically, I'm developing educational resources to involve students in sorting microfossils that will inform us of the small mammals and plants that comprised ecosystems here 50-30,000 years ago. lellwood@tarpits.org
www.libbyellwood.space

  Dr. Mairin Balisi   I have worked with fossils from La Brea Tar Pits for over a decade: first, as an undergraduate at UC Berkeley, studying locomotion; next, as a Master's student at the University of Michigan, testing resource partitioning among large Pleistocene carnivores; then, as a Ph.D. candidate at the University of California, Los Angeles, quantifying injuries sustained by the sabertooth cat and dire wolf; and, most recently, as manager of the Tar Pits Field School. Now, I am funded by the National Science Foundation and co-sponsored by UC Merced to conduct postdoctoral research on small- to medium-sized carnivores (mesocarnivores). La Brea Tar Pits are famous for their large carnivores, but mesocarnivores lived alongside the megafauna, too! The carnivorous megafauna had become extinct by the end of the last Ice Age, but mesocarnivores (like coyotes and bobcats) remain with us to this day. I am investigating how the dual disturbances of megafaunal extinction and climate transition shaped the mesocarnivore community over the past 40,000 years--and, by extension, our Los Angeles community today.  mbalisi@ucmerced.edu   mairinbalisi.com

Dr. Mairin Balisi

I have worked with fossils from La Brea Tar Pits for over a decade: first, as an undergraduate at UC Berkeley, studying locomotion; next, as a Master's student at the University of Michigan, testing resource partitioning among large Pleistocene carnivores; then, as a Ph.D. candidate at the University of California, Los Angeles, quantifying injuries sustained by the sabertooth cat and dire wolf; and, most recently, as manager of the Tar Pits Field School. Now, I am funded by the National Science Foundation and co-sponsored by UC Merced to conduct postdoctoral research on small- to medium-sized carnivores (mesocarnivores). La Brea Tar Pits are famous for their large carnivores, but mesocarnivores lived alongside the megafauna, too! The carnivorous megafauna had become extinct by the end of the last Ice Age, but mesocarnivores (like coyotes and bobcats) remain with us to this day. I am investigating how the dual disturbances of megafaunal extinction and climate transition shaped the mesocarnivore community over the past 40,000 years--and, by extension, our Los Angeles community today. mbalisi@ucmerced.edu
mairinbalisi.com

  Dr. Alexis Mychajliw   Genomes, bones, and sediments hold clues to how species responded to extinction pressures in the past. I apply a diverse methodological toolkit to understand how faunal communities have changed over the past 20,000 years into today, and place these results in a modern conservation context. I have a BS in Biology and Natural Resources from Cornell University and just received my PhD in Biology from Stanford University, working closely with the Museo Nacional de Historia Natural of the Dominican Republic. At La Brea, I use stable isotopes of Holocene fauna to develop a baseline for understanding the rapidly changing biodiversity of Los Angeles. I am excited to compare the Holocene of California with my ongoing research of Caribbean mammal extinctions - especially all things insectivore!  amychajl@tarpits.org    http://www.insectivora.org

Dr. Alexis Mychajliw

Genomes, bones, and sediments hold clues to how species responded to extinction pressures in the past. I apply a diverse methodological toolkit to understand how faunal communities have changed over the past 20,000 years into today, and place these results in a modern conservation context. I have a BS in Biology and Natural Resources from Cornell University and just received my PhD in Biology from Stanford University, working closely with the Museo Nacional de Historia Natural of the Dominican Republic. At La Brea, I use stable isotopes of Holocene fauna to develop a baseline for understanding the rapidly changing biodiversity of Los Angeles. I am excited to compare the Holocene of California with my ongoing research of Caribbean mammal extinctions - especially all things insectivore! amychajl@tarpits.org
http://www.insectivora.org

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La Brea Tar Pits Field School

A month-long, intensive training program in paleoecological theory, excavation, fossil preparation, collections management, museology, and science communication.

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Past Courses Taught

General Biology (U.C. Berkeley)

Field Ecology Section for General Biology (U.C. Berkeley)

Paleontología de Vertebrados - Teoría y Metodología (Universidad Estatal Península de Santa Elena, Ecuador)

Introducción a la Evolución y Paleontología de Vertebrados (Universidad Estatal Península de Santa Elena, Ecuador)

Uruguay en la Era del Hielo (Museo Nacional de Historia Natural, Uruguay)

Extinctions - Big and Small (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute)

Marine Mammals (U.C. Berkeley)

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