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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.

The overall goal of my research 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? In my thesis, I am focusing on a sliver of this larger topic, particularly how moving from a terrestrial lifestyle to an aquatic one (or vice versa) impacts the evolution of the size of a group of organisms, and whether these effects are consistent in magnitude and/or direction across independent transitions.

To better understand how these shifts impact the rate, magnitude, and directionality of body size evolution, I am studying several, distantly related, animal groups that have each made independent transitions between aquatic and terrestrial habitats. The first part of this research combined the use of evolutionary trees and energetic modelling to provide a theoretical basis for why these aquatic mammals achieve such large sizes and what prevents them from getting larger: contrary to popular belief, it isn't releases from the pressures of living on land, rather they are forced to larger sizes due to the thermoregulatory requirements of living in water and constrained from achieving even greater sizes by their food consumption capacity. The second part of this research focuses on the diversity and disparity of body size in ancient crocodiles through time, and how it is related to the physiological pressures of habitat, ecological pressures of competition, and historical pressures of evolution. The third and final part of this research focuses on neritimorphs, a depauperate, highly morphologically disparate, group of snails. I intend to study if and how the various transitions between marine, freshwater, and terrestrial habitats have driven this morphological disparity and/or limited species diversity.

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/.