Dana Friend

Dana Friend
Graduate Student

Concentration

Education

B.A. Cornell College, Iowa

M.A. University of North Carolina Wilmington

 

Overview

I grew up in Colorado surrounded by nature and this sparked an intense fascination with the histories and intricate connections between the landscape and life. I guess you could say that I became an earth-systems naturalist at a young age. While at Cornell College, I conducted research on the skeletal micro-morphology of Fire Corals displaying phenotypic plasticity. Under the guidance of Dr. Kelley at UNCW, I completed a thesis investigating the foraging strategies of Euspira heros (a marine snail) and I also tested the hypothesis of coevolutionary alternation using the naticid gastropod predator-prey system. This involved traveling more than 800 km of the Atlantic coast and collecting bulk samples of shells on many beaches (in the winter)!

Research Focus

I'm currently working on a project testing the new and exciting evolutionary hypothesis of "coevolutionary alternation". This particular hypothesis attempts to explain how the interaction between a generalist predator and its prey can cause both to remain static (i.e. unchanged) in the fossil record for long periods of time. It's estimated that the vast majority of fossil species exhibit stasis (meaning no change in morphology through time) but this is the first and only hypothesis that attempts to explain stasis with a specific and testable ecological interaction. I am using time-averaged beach assemblages of mollusc shells and testing for coevolutionary alternation between carnivorous marine snails (Naticids) and its two preferred prey bivalve species (the Atlantic surf-clam and the Blood Ark).

 

This hypothesis may illuminate just how a specific ecological relationship (operating at all times and between a myriad of coevolving organisms) may be a significant cause of patterns visible in the fossil record; paleontologists in the past have often neglected ecologically-based hypotheses when deciphering evolutionary trends.