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About Me

I attended Yale University from 2010 to 2014 where I earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Geology and Geophysics with a concentration in Paleontology and Geobiology.

I am now a PhD candidate studying Paleobiology in the Department of Geological Sciences at the Stanford School of Earth, Energy, and Environmental Sciences.

My overall goal is to improve our understanding of the requirements and effects of major evolutionary environmental transitions. What, if anything, does any species need to change to live in a completely different habitat? What traits are necessary to make the transition? What traits make it more likely that the species will make such a transition? How are these major habitat transitions distributed across the tree of life? How do these transitions further cause changes in species and lineages?

Using phylogenetic comparative methods, I analyze various animal groups that inhabit an array of different habitats (e.g. marine, freshwater, and terrestrial environments) for significant differences in body size between group members that inhabit those different habitats. Taking into account fossil taxa and geologic time, I analyze the reaction of body sizes of these taxa to transitions between these different environments.

Currently, my research is focused on Mammalia and Gastropoda. Mammals are a well-studied group, with at least 4 independent transitions from land to the ocean (pinnipeds, whales, otters, and dugongs/manatees). They make an excellent group to study how these transitions have effected the lineages that moved into the water, specifically with regards to body size.

Gastropoda, the largest group within Mollusca, comprises more than 60,000 species of snails, slugs, and limpets, more than one quarter of which are extinct. Gastropod body size spans eight orders of magnitude, with the smallest gastropods having shell volumes of less than .03 cubic millimeters and the largest gastropods having shell volumes of nearly 14,000 cubic centimeters. They are cosmopolitan in distribution and occupy a wide range of habitats, ranging from high mountains to deserts and rainforests, coral reefs, lagoons, and the deep sea, and from the tropics to high latitudes. They are the only molluscs that can be found in deep sea and shallow sea marine, estuarine, freshwater, and terrestrial habitats. While many different animal groups may inhabit both marine and non-marine habitats, this evolutionary history and the long time span over which it has taken place make gastropods uniquely suited for studying the relationships of body size and habitat over time.

In my spare time, I enjoy playing the saxophone and clarinet. I have performed in numerous classical, jazz, rock, and pop performances across the country and internationally.


You may contact me about anything at wgearty@stanford.edu.

You can learn more about the Paleobiology Lab at Stanford at https://pangea.stanford.edu/researchgroups/paleobiology/.