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Department of Geosciences
Fort Hays State University
600 Park Street
Tomanek Hall 233
Phone: 785-628-5389

P. Grady Dixon, Chair
(785) 628-5389
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Department of Geosciences - Faculty


Dr. Laura E Wilson

Associate Professor of Geosciences

Chief Curator, Sternberg Museum of Natural History

Office: Tomanek Hall, 241
Fax: 785-628-5389
Research website:
Curriculum Vitae - contact me for a current vitae

Educational Background | Courses Taught | Research Interests & Specializations
Recent Publications | Awards Received | Professional Memberships | Service Activities |
Current Research | Personal Interest | Additional Resources

Educational Background

  • Ph.D. in Geological Sciences, University of Colorado at Boulder - Boulder, CO    2012
    Dissertation: Paleobiology of hesperonithiforms (Aves) from the Campanian Western Interior Seaway of North America, with analyses of extant penguin bone histology
  • M.S.  in Earth Sciences, Montana State University - Bozeman, MT     2006
    Thesis: Comparative taphonomy and paleoecological reconstruction from two microvertebrate accumulations from the lower Hell Creek Formation (late Maastrichtian), Garfield County, Montana
  • B.S. in Geology, Washington and Lee University - Lexington, VA    2003
    Thesis: Taphonomy and depositional setting of a Tyrannosaurus rex quarry from the Hell Creek Formation (late Maastrichtian), eastern Montana 

Courses Taught

  • Paleontology of Higher Vertebrates
  • Paleontology of Lower Vertebrates
  • Paleobiology
  • Invertebrate Paleontology
  • Historical Geology
  • Introduction to Geology

Research Interests and Specializations

  • Hard tissue histology of extinct and extant vertebrates
  • Western Interior Seaway paleoecology
  • Paleornithology
  • Taphonomy and paleoecological reconstructions

Publications/Abstracts & Presentations  

 Wilson, L.E., Chin, K. 2014. Comparative osteohistology of Hesperornis with reference to pygoscelid penguins: The effects of climate and behavior on avian bone microstructure. Royal Society Open Science 1:140245.

 Wilson, L.E., de Boef Miara, M. 2013. Chapter 6: Database standardization. In Bone Histology of Fossil Tetrapods: Issues, Methods, and Databases (eds. Padian, K, Lamm, E.-T.), University of California Press, Berkeley.

Padian, K., de Boef Miara, M., Larsson, H.C.E., Wilson, L.E., Bromage, T. 2013. Chapter 10: Research applications and integration. In Bone Histology of Fossil Tetrapods: Issues, Methods, and Databases (eds. Padian, K, Lamm, E.-T.), University of California Press, Berkeley.

Wilson, L.E., Chin, K., Cumbaa, S., and Dyke, G. 2011. A high latitude hesperornithiform (Aves) from Devon Island: Palaeobiogeography and size distribution of North American hesperornithiforms. Journal of Systematic Paleontology 9(1):9-23.

Wilson, L.E., Chin, K., Jackson, F.D., and Bray, E.S. 2010. Fossil eggshell: Fragments from the past.

Wilson, L.E., 2008. Comparative taphonomy and paleoecological reconstruction of two microvertebrate accumulations from the Hell Creek Formation (Maastrichtian), eastern Montana. Palaios 23: 289-297.

Awards Received

  • 2nd Place for Faculty - Empirical - FHSU Scholarly and Creative Activities Day - 2015
  •  Association for Women Geoscientists Outstanding Student Award; Laramide Chapter - 2011
  • United Government of Graduate Students Travel Grant; University of Colorado, Boulder - 2009
  • Shell Oil Student Grant for project "Paleobiology of Hesperornithiforms (Aves) from the Late Cretaceous Western Interior Seaway of North America: Implications for Long-Distance Migration - 2009

Professional Memberships

  • Association of Women Geoscientists
  • Geological Society of America
  • Society for Sedimentary Geology
  • Society of Vertebrate Paleontology

Service Activities

  • FHSU: I currently serve on the NOYCE scholarship advisory committee and am working to help revise the Kansas state teacher education standards. In 2015 I joined the Honors College Steering Committee and sit on the Nationally Competitive Scholarships subcommittee. Within Geosciences, I am the faculty advisor for the Sternberg Geosciences Club and am a member of the department scholarship committee.
  • Professional: I am a frequent reviewer of scientific research articles for various paleontology journals and an active member of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology. I recently became a Review Editor in Paleontology for Frontiers Journal.
  • Community: I assist in educational outreach through the Department of Geosciences and Sternberg Museum to reach community members of all ages. I give talks to groups throughout the community (e.g. Chamber of Commerce, Kiwanis Club), lead museum tours and field trips, and deliver public lectures to local, amateur, and professional audiences. 

Current Research

Ongoing research projects include the study of the paleobiology and paleoecology of a group of flightless seabirds from the Late Cretaceous Western Interior Seaway of North America called hesperornithiforms.  I study aspects of their body size evolution, functional morphology, the role in ecosystems along the seaway, and bone growth dynamics.  I am particularly interested in the application of bone histology analyses to these birds to study the effects of climate and behavior on their growth patterns. Part of my research with hesperornithiforms has led me to working with modern penguins as an ecological analog. Consequently, I also study modern penguin bone histology to look at the effects of climate and migration on bone growth patterns. Current studies focus on pygoscelid penguins (Adelies, Chinstraps, and Gentoos), but I hope to expand my research and analyses to other penguin taxa.

While hesperornithiform birds have been a focus, I am also interested in the ecology of the Western Interior System as a whole system. What were the oceanographic factors that were influencing the distribution of organisms and environments along the Seaway? How did ecosystem structure differ between high and mid latitude regions? How were the Cretaceous inland seas different from the oceans that characterize Earth today?

Previous research has included taphonomic analyses and paleoecological  reconstructions of Late Cretaceous terrestrial environments. Terrestrial and marine taphonomy remains an interest and I hope to develop new and continuing research projects with students and colleagues.

Personal Interests

For more information about ongoing research projects and student opportunities in my paleontology program, please visit my Personal/Research Group Website.

Additional Resources

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