PhD CandidateOffice: CHCB 103
Geology and paleontology have always piqued my interests and I'm lucky enough to be able to work in both fields. I recieved my B.Sc in Solid Earth Geology from Purdue University and from there travelled to Edmonton, Alberta where Iearned my M.Sc in Vertebrate Paleontology. My Master's research focused on the dentitions of acanthodians and chondrichthyans from the Early Devonian Man on the Hill (MOTH) locality in the Northwest Territories of Canada. This fossil site is important due to the excellent preservation and diversity of the fishes found there.
My current research allows me to study another excellent fossil deposit, the Early Cambrian Chengjiang Biota in China. I am focused on understanding the factors allowing for the excelllent preservation of the fossils and how this site differs from others. My main advisor is Nancy Hinman, but I also work closely with Michael Hofmann and George Stanley in order to understand the many factors controlling the preservation of these fossils. I am excited to apply the knowledge obtained in this project to other fossil deposits in order to better understand the factors controlling fossilization.
I developed a love for fishes during my Master's work and cannot help myself from looking at various species wherever I go, even if it's outside a restaurant in China.
University of Montana, 2008-Present (PhD Candidate in Geochemistry/Sedimentology; Advisor: Nancy Hinman)
University of Alberta, 2004-2008 (MSc in Vertebrate Paleontology; Advisor: Mark Wilson)
Purdue University, 2000-2004 (BSc in Solid Earth Sciences)
I am currently working on my PhD with Dr. Nancy Hinman, looking at the taphonomy of the Early Cambrian Chengjiang Biota in China. The Chengjiang is an Early Cambrian fossil deposit, found in the Maotianshan shale, showing excellent preservation of a wide variety of organisms depicting the "Explosion of Life." The fossils are similar to those of the Burgess Shale, in British Columbia, Canada, but are about 15 milllion years older, and have not undergone metamorphosis.
Taphonomy is the study of the processes an organism undergoes from death until discovery, and can include burial, decay and fossilization. For my dissertation I am using a combination of geochemistry, sedimentology, mineralogy, and paleobiology to determine the conditions which account for the excellent preservation of the diverse fossil assemblage of the Chengjiang Biota.
In the future I hope to apply the techniques I'm learing in my dissertation to various vertebrate fossil deposits, especially those depicting the early diversification of fishes.
Looking at the sedimentology of the fossil-bearing layers containing the Chengjiang Biota with my field assistant Adam Johnson.
Doing geological fieldwork overseas means bringing plenty of bags in which to bring back samples!
Field of Study
Sedimentology, Paleontology, Geochemistry
Blais, S.A., MacKenzie, L.A., and Wilson, M.V.H., 2011, Tooth-like scales in Early Devonian eugnathostomes and the 'outside-in" hypothesis for the origins of teeth in vertebrates: Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, v. 31, p. 1189-1199.
I have many hobbies including: horseback riding, skiing, hiking, camping. Check out a few of the images below!
Riding my horse, Romeo
Visiting Logan's Pass in Glacier National Park