Tara M. Smiley, Assistant Professor
Ph.D., University of Michigan, 2016
Paleobiology, Biogeography, Stable isotope ecology
Lab Website: Smiley Lab Website
I am an evolutionary ecologist interested in how climate and landscape history shape the diversity, biogeography, and ecological structure of mammalian faunas across spatio-temporal scales. I test hypotheses about how changes in climate, tectonic activity, topographic complexity, and habitat heterogeneity impact communities and ecological processes at local scales and govern diversity at regional scales.
To do so, I use the fossil record to investigate diversity patterns, macroevolutionary processes, and paleoecology, focusing on the history of small mammals during the Cenozoic. My work on the past is conducted in parallel with investigations of modern and historical small-mammal populations across broad climatic and environmental gradients today.
My research group integrates fieldwork, specimen-based research, and quantitative paleobiology. Primary tools of our research include stable isotope ecology and paleoenvironmental reconstruction, analysis of trait variation, diversification analysis, and coupling of geological and biological modeling approaches. We work in western North America and in the East African Rift, both tectonically active and dynamic landscapes with high species richness today and in the past. Along with collaborators at the Turkana Basin Institute, we are actively developing projects in the fossil-rich setting of Turkana Basin in Kenya.