AB, MPhil, PhD
Post-Doctoral Research Fellow since 2017
The emergence and diversification of complex life is the most fundamental biological transition in the history of the Earth. I use fossils to chart the evolution of eukaryotes (those organisms with a membrane-bound cell nucleus), multicellularity, cellular differentiation, and animals, through the Proterozoic Eon (2.5-0.5 billion years ago). Understanding how changing fossil diversity correlates to environmental changes—and the Proterozoic Eon sees some of the largest in Earth history—is vital to determining evolutionary drivers. Not only do I seek new fossils that provide this important palaeobiological information, I critically interrogate the nature of the fossil record. Before the terminal Proterozoic advent of biomineralization, fossilization is confined to poorly understood and unusual circumstances that preserve organic remains. I use novel analytical techniques on fossiliferous strata to understand the conditions conducive to preservation. Such research is crucial to our ability to robustly interpret the temporal and ecological range of fossil organisms. It can also provide new insights into their original chemistry and biology.
- Doctorate in Geology and Geophysics, Yale University (2017)
- Masters in Geology and Geophysics, Yale University (2014)
- Undergraduate in Earth and Planetary Sciences, Harvard University (2012)
- Fossil evidence for the evolution of complex life
- Anderson, R.P., Macdonald, F.A., Jones, D.S, McMahon, S., Briggs, D.E.G., 2017. Doushantuo-type microfossils from latest Ediacaran phosphorites of northern Mongolia. Geology.
- Anderson, R.P., McMahon, S., Bold, U., Macdonald, F.A., Briggs, D.E.G., 2017. Palaeobiology of the early Ediacaran Shuurgat Formation, Zavkhan Terrane, south-western Mongolia. Journal of Systematic Palaeontology 15 (11), 947-968.
- McMahon, S., Anderson, R.P., Saupe, E.E., Briggs, D.E.G., 2016. Experimental evidence that clay inhibits bacterial decomposers: Implications for preservation of organic fossils. Geology 44 (10), 867-870.
- Anderson, R.P., Tarhan, L.G., Cummings, K.E., Planavsky, N.J., Bjørnerud, M., 2016. Macroscopic structures in the 1.1 Ga continental Copper Harbor Formation: Concretions or fossils? Palaios 31 (7), 327-338.
- McCoy, V.E., Saupe, E.E., Lamsdell, J.C., Tarhan, L.G., McMahon, S., Lidgard, S., Mayer, P., Whalen, C.D., Soriano, C., Finney, L., Vogt, S., Clark, E.G., Anderson, R.P., Petermann, H., Locatelli, E.R., Briggs, D.E.G., 2016. The ‘Tully Monster’ is a vertebrate. Nature 532, 496-499.
- Anderson, R.P., Fairchild, I.J., Tosca, N.J., Knoll, A.H., 2013. Microstructures in metasedimentary rocks from the Neoproterozoic Bonahaven Formation, Scotland: Microconcretions, impact spherules, or microfossils? Precambrian Research 233, 59-72.
- Publications (External Link)
Other professional memberships and roles
- American Geophysical Union
- Geological Society of America
- Geological Society of London (Fellow)
- Palaeontological Association
- Paleontological Society
Research awards and grants
- Philip M. Orville Prize, Yale University (2017).
- NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship (from 2014 to 2017).
- Geobiology and Geomicrobiology Student Award, Geological Society of America (2016).
- Excellence in Teaching Prize, Yale University (2016).
- MAPS Outstanding Student Research Award, Paleontological Society (2016).
- Edwin Binney Fellowship (from 2012 to 2015).
- Hammer Prize, Yale University (2014).
- Lewis and Clark Scholar in Astrobiology, American Philosophical Society/NASA (2014).
- Student Geoscience Grant, ExxonMobil/Geological Society of America (2014).
- Geophysics, Robert D. Hatcher, and Structural Geology and Tectonics Research Awards, Geological Society of America (2014).
- Bateman Award, Yale University (2012).
- Fermor Prize, Geological Society of London (2012).
- Thomas T. Hoopes Prize, Harvard University (2012).
- Small research grants from: Geological Society of America (2016), Geological Society of London (2016, 2012), Yale Institute for Biospheric studies (2015, 2014), and Harvard Origins of Life Initiative (2011).