I am an evolutionary biologist and vertebrate paleontologist with a research program focused on the auditory system of vertebrates, including fishes and human beings. My research interests span systematic interrelationships (phylogeny), functional anatomy and structural changes related to hearing impairment. My research goal is to understand the mechanisms underlying normal functions of vertebrates and the disorders and dysfunctions of human auditory structures; this understanding may lead to improved diagnosis, treatment and prevention of auditory disorders.
Among organisms, there is a general correlation between form (anatomy) and function. I study the anatomical specializations for sound conduction and reception across vertebrate species. The evolutionary aspect of my research is centered on: 1.) exploring the utility of anatomical features for estimating phylogeny, 2.) describing important fossil taxa to provide deep-time longitudinal data and 3.) conducting integrated phylogenetic analyses using anatomical features and molecular data. I use Otophysi fishes as a model system, including suckers, carps, zebrafish and catfish--all fish with specialized sound-conduction apparatus.
About one in eight people in the U.S. (age 12 and older) has some degree of hearing loss in both ears. My clinically oriented research is focused on the anatomical changes of the human auditory system, with regard to ontogeny and aging and the degree of hearing loss. I use methods in both descriptive and quantitative anatomy, including computed tomography, 3-D modeling and geometric morphometrics, to understand the normal function of human auditory system, along with its diseases and disorders. I also use zebrafish for experiments and computational simulations to test hypotheses on hearing loss.