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Taxonomic Revision and Intraspecific Variation Among Early and Middle Eocene Rodents from the Green River Basin, Bighorn Basin, and Lost Cabin of Wyoming

Name: Kimberly Keil
Year of Graduation: 2010
Hometown: Manitowoc, WI
Major: Biology (Biomedical Science)
Minor: Chemistry

Name: Dr. Deb Anderson, Associate Professor of Biology
Research Specialty: Paleobiology

Early Eocene (about 54 mya) fossil rodents have been collected from the central Bighorn Basin of Northeastern Wyoming, from the Green River Basin and Lost Cabin of Southeastern Wyoming.  Over 1200 specimens make up this collection which includes some of the earliest rodents to show up in the fossil record.  The taxonomy of these rodents has been confusing and a revision of their taxonomy is needed for them to be used as biochronological species.  Comparison of species will also reveal any variation occuring at different locations from Wyoming.  We will be revising the alpha taxonomy for Thisbemys, Paramys, and Sciuravis and establishing biodiversity levels in the rodents for a comparison of evolutionary changes over time.  By studying these two rodent groups we can indentify effects of past global warming events, and can predict how biodiversity may be affected in the future.  Together, the results will be used to describe variation and systematic diversity of the Early and Middle Eocene Rodents of Wyoming.

Our work in the past has been presented at the Tri-Beta regional research conference, the National Conference for Undergraduate Research, and at St. Norbert College's Day of Collaboration.

I have always been interested in science, and coming to college I knew that I wanted to experience the research field.  I had the opportunity to get a research grant for incoming freshman and continued my research experience every year since.  Dr. Anderson's research intrigued me because I enjoy looking at the whole organism and how it interacts with the environment.  The research we do with the rodents gives us an up close look at evolution and we have to try and see the patterns that nature worked out among these rodents living millions of years ago.  I plan on attending graduate school for a career in biomedical research, and the experience at St. Norbert has given me the confidence and ability to pursue those goals.  As I look back, I am grateful that I had the opportunity to work with Dr. Anderson to develop my ability to look at scientific evidence and draw logical conclusions.  There is no proof if our findings are right or wrong, but conducting science relies upon the fact that you have to make conclusions based on the data you are given.  Contributing to the scientific community is an experience that I have enjoyed and want to continue in graduate school as I continue my education in biological research.

I value the experiences conducting, writing and presenting the research that I have worked so hard on over the years.  The ability to work on a project with a professor is an incredible experience that has prepared me to move on the next level.  Presenting your personal research gives a feeling of accomplishment, and it is very rewarding to know that you are one of the few people who know about this area of study.  Knowing that you are working on a problem that others do not know about is great and you become an expert on that subject.  There are only a handful of people that could say they have looked at Thisbemys and far fewer who could define the species like Dr. Anderson and I can, and that feeling is what scientific research is all about.

The one on one research with a professor is so important in not only learning the techniques of research, but also in having someone to go to for advice and planning for the future.  The work that I have done has guided me to find the right career path, and the collaboration with Dr. Anderson has given me the ability to enter the graduate schools in the programs that I want, knowing that I have the right background to be considered a strong candidate.

Professor Deb Anderson
In the process of revising the alpha taxonomy for the Eocene rodent genus Thisbemys, Kim and I have discovered that five different species coexisted during the middle Bridgerian time (about 52 mya).  Prior to our work, only two species of Thisbemys were known from this time period. We also have discovered the first mandibular specimens of T. brevicrista, previously known only from maxillary teeth and fragments.  Kim has a real passion and talent for this research.  Our research has been supported by grants from Beta Beta Beta and the Student-Faculty Development Endowment program.  Results of our past findings were presented at BBB the spring of 2009 and at St. Norbert College.  This year, new findings will be presented at the same two conferences as well as at the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology and the Geological Society of America the fall of 2010.
Gretchen Panzer
Kimberly Keil

“I plan on attending graduate school for a career in biomedical research, and the experience at St. Norbert has given me the confidence and ability to pursue those goals.”

St. Norbert Collaborative

Phone: (920) 403-3147
Fax: (920) 403-4086

St. Norbert College • 100 Grant Street • De Pere, WI 54115-2099 • 920-337-3181