Judith A. Sclafani, Ph.D.
Research Interests - Paleoecology, Stratigraphic Paleobiology, Quantitative Methods
I use the fossil record to study how ecosystems evolved through time in order to understand the environmental controls on biotic crises. Specifically, I focus on Paleozoic brachiopods and use a combination of morphometric analyses, sedimentology, stratigraphic interpretations, and multivariate statistics to understand why species evolve, prefer certain environments, and ultimately go extinct.
Hierarchical scaling of biodiversity trends
How ecological and evolutionary processes vary between local, regional, and global scales is a substantial outstanding question in both modern ecology and paleontology. Global biodiversity studies are critical for highlighting biotic trends throughout the Phanerozoic, but global patterns do not scale linearly from biodiversity measured within regions, which makes connecting generalized trends to patterns observed at local and regional scales difficult. I am working to examine how ecological and evolutionary processes scale in order to develop a better understanding of how their expression in the fossil record compares to modern ecology.
Morphological change at the Late Ordovican mass extinction
This animation shows the change in morphospace of exemplar taxa from the order Strophomenida (Brachiopoda) throughout the duration of this group. Brachiopods after the extinction are morphologically distinct from those prior to the event.
This is a growing subdiscipline that combines both phylogenetic and paleoecological methods to comprehensively understand biological change in the Phanerozoic. I've collaborated with phylogenetists to better understand the Late Ordovician mass extinction. I am interested in using sedimentological and geochemical data about the rocks brachiopods are found in to understand how the shape of their shells reflects both their evolutionary relationships and their ecological preferences.
3D morphological data within a stratigraphic sequence
This is an example rock slab that I used to test Structure-from-Motion as a method for collecting morphological data from the field. This photo was taken during field work in the Cincinnati Arch (Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana) to test the potential for collecting 3D morphological data from the field. This work is ongoing, but initial results are very promising!