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Department of Zoology

 

Biography

I graduated with a B.A. (summa cum laude) from Harvard University in 2017. During my undergrad, I worked in the collections of the Museum of Comparative Zoology and conducted research in the Stephanie E. Pierce laboratory on habitat partitioning and trait evolution in fossil horses.

Outside of my academic interests, I am a competitive rower. I was an Academic All-Ivy student-athlete at Harvard, and served as President of the Cambridge University Women's Boat Club in 2018-2019.

Research

For my PhD, I am studying the evolution of reptile body size. My project aims to characterize trends in the maximum body size of lizards, snakes, crocodiles, and turtles throughout the Cenozoic period. I am comparing these trends to records of climatic changes and mammalian body size evolution to look for biotic and abiotic relationships controlling body size over time in these reptile groups. My research also includes detailed work on the reptile faunas of the Neogene of East Africa, which acts as a case study on reptile size change in response to mammalian faunal change and local environmental conditions.

Additionally, my work explores reptiles' body size as an ecometric, a trait correlated to environmental conditions that, when measured in fossils, can help reconstruct past climate.  I am building ecometric models based on modern turtle size distributions to better understand the relationship between climate and their size evolution. This study connects to my broader interest in how the evolution of vertebrates' traits has been influenced by ecological changes. I am motivated to compare evolutionary trends of specific groups with independent records of environmental proxies and consider them in the context of the composition of fossil communities.

Publications

Key publications: 
Parker, Abigail K., Brianna K. McHorse, and Stephanie E. Pierce. “Niche Modeling Reveals Lack of Broad-Scale Habitat Partitioning in Extinct Horses of North America.” Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 511 (December 15, 2018): 103–18. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2018.07.017.
PhD Student

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