Research Assistant Professor
3139 Jordan Hall
B.S., Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey (Geological Sciences), 2002
M.S., Columbia University, New York, NY (Earth and Environmental Sciences), 2004
PhD, Columbia University, New York, NY (Earth and Environmental Sciences), 2007
TEACHING AND RESEARCH AREAS:
My research focuses on avian paleontology and systematics. I am interested in reconstructing the evolutionary relationships of birds through analysis of morphological and molecular data, with an emphasis on fossil diversity. Incorporating the stratigraphic information from fossils into phylogenetic analyses reveals the timing of major radiations, biogeographic events, and patterns of survivorship across extinction horizons and intervals of abrupt climate shifts.
One of my primary groups of interest is Sphenisciformes (penguins). Research projects involve applying systematic analyses, histological studies and computed tomography scanning to gain insight into the evolution of underwater flight in these fascinating birds. Penguins have thick, osteosclerotic bones that preserve well in many environments and so they have an excellent fossil record by avian standards. Field work and international collaborations often bring me to Peru and New Zealand, two centers of fossil penguin diversity.
Outside of Sphenisciformes, ongoing projects target resolving the relationships of fossil Galliformes (landfowl) and using this data to whether modern landfowl diversified before or after the K-T extinction, tracking patterns of dispersal and ecological specialization in Coliiformes (mousebirds), and describing a new Miocene avifauna from the western US including new species of grebes, songbirds and other groups.
My teaching interests include introductory and core paleontology undergraduate courses (Dinosaurian World, Terrestrial Paleontology) and graduate courses in phylogenetic systematics and comparative anatomy (offered under MEA 592).
Ksepka, D.T., R.E. Fordyce, T. Ando and C.M. Jones. 2012. New fossil penguins (Aves: Sphenisciformes) from the Oligocene of New Zealand reveal the skeletal plan of stem penguins. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 32: 235-254.
Ksepka, D.T. and C.A. Boyd. 2012. Quantifying historical trends in the completeness of the fossil record and the contributing factors: an example using Aves. Paleobiology 38: 826-839.
Ksepka, D.T. and D.B. Thomas. 2012. Multiple Cenozoic invasions of Africa by penguins (Aves, Sphenisciformes). Proceedings of the Royal Society B Biological Sciences 279: 1027-1032.
Cadena, E.A., D.T. Ksepka, C.A. Jaramilo and J.I. Bloch. 2012. New pelomedusoid turtles (Testudines, Panpleurodira) from the late Paleocene Cerrejón Formation of Colombia and implications for phylogeny and body size evolution. Journal of Systematic Palaeontology. 10: 313-331.
Ksepka, D.T., M.J. Benton, M.T. Carrano, M.A. Gandolfo, J.J. Head, E. J. Hermsen, W.G. Joyce, K.S. Lamm, J.S.L. Patané, M.J. Phillips, P.D. Polly, M. van Tuinen, J.L. Ware, R.C.M. Warnock, and J.F. Parham. 2011. Synthesizing and databasing fossil calibrations: divergence dating and beyond. Biology Letters 7: 801-803.
Clarke, J.A., D.T. Ksepka, R. Salas-Gismondi, A.J. Altamirano, M.D. Shawkey, L. D'Alba, J. Vinther, T.J. DeVries and P. Baby. 2010. Fossil evidence for evolution of the shape and color of penguin feathers. Science 330: 954-957.