Shuhai Xiao.jpg

Dr. Xiao is a geobiologist that studies early animal life from all over the world. His work has illustrated the extraordinary preservation of fossil cells and continues to study the early evolution of some of the most bizarre creatures to ever have lived.


Shuhai received his PhD degree from Harvard University. He taught three years at Tulane University before joining Virginia Tech in 2003. He is interested in biological and environmental evolution in the Proterozoic Eon (2500-540 Ma).


Dr. Xiao’s research site

Shuhai Xiao

Nesbitt headshot 3-19-18.jpg

Dr. Nesbitt is a vertebrate paleontologist interested in terrestrial vertebrate evolution during Earth’s great transitions. Particularly, Sterling studies the rise of reptiles (archosaurs and their relatives) following the end-Permian extinction.


Sterling received a BA in Integrative Biology from the University of California, Berkeley, a PhD in Geosciences from Columbia University and has conducted postdoctoral projects at The University of Texas at Austin, University of Washington, and the Field Museum of Natural History.

Dr. Nesbitt’s research site

Sterling Nesbitt

Dr. Stocker is a vertebrate paleontologist focusing on the evolutionary history of reptiles. Michelle splits her research between Triassic archosauromorphs and Paleogene reptiles, as well as the evolution of extant fossorial reptiles called amphisbaenians.


Michelle received a BS in Geological Sciences from the University of Michigan, a MS in Geosciences from the University of Iowa, and a PhD in Geological Sciences from The University of Texas at Austin.

Dr. Stocker’s research site

Michelle Stocker

Rachel Reid

Dr. Reid is a paleoecologist interested in how disturbances, such as climate and environmental change, impact species, ecosystems, and their interactions over a range of timescales. Rachel brings an interdisciplinary approach to her research, incorporating viewpoints, tools, and data from geology, ecology, and archaeology, using stable isotope geochemistry as a central methodological tool.


Rachel received a BA in Geology from Carleton College, an MS and PhD in Earth Sciences from The University of California Santa Cruz, and conducted postdoctoral research at Washington University in St. Louis.

Dr. Reid's Google Scholar site

Vicki Yarborough is a paleontology lab manager and vertebrate fossil preparator focusing on Triassic archosauromorphs and dinosaurs. Besides carefully exposing specimens from rock, Vicki develops custom archival specimen storage housings along with support jackets for use during preparation. She trains and helps students and volunteers prepare and conserve specimens for CT (Computed Tomography) scanning and research. 


Vicki received a Bachelors in Fine Art from the University of Texas at Austin, and a Foundation degree from the Wimbledon School of Art in London, England.

Vicki Yarborough

Post-Doctoral Fellows

Qing Tang

Post Doctoral Fellow

Office: 3053 Derring

PhD      Geosciences, Virginia Tech (2018)

M.Sc.    Paleontology and Stratigraphy, Nanjing Institute of Geology &    

             Palaeontology, Chinese Academy of Sciences (2013)


B.Sc.     Geology, Northwest University, China (2010)


Research topics:

     Acritarchs from the early Neoproterozoic

     Neoproterozoic paleoecology & paleoclimate

     Cambrian sponges

Graduate Students

Devin Hoffman

PhD Candidate

Office: 3067 Derring

B.Sc.     Geology, Appalachian State University (2017)

Research topics:

     Vertebrate responses to mass extinction

     Diversification of archosaurs

     Growth rate variation in archosaurs



Junyao Kang

PhD Student

Office: 3067 Derring

B.Sc.     Geology, Peking University, China (2018)

Research topics:

     Sedimentary Geochemistry


     The Tonian Period


Ben Kligman

PhD Candidate

Office: 3067 Derring



B.A.     Integrative Biology, University of California Berkeley (2016)


Research topics:

     Evolutionary response to Earth system change

     Early Mesozoic paleoclimate and paleoecology

     Small-bodied vertebrates in the fossil record

Morrison Nolan

PhD Candidate

Office: 3053 Derring

B.Sc. Chemistry, University of Georgia (2016)

B.Sc. Geology, University of Georgia (2016)

Research Topics:

The changes in environment and organisms during the Ediacaran - Cambrian Transition

How chemical signals can be used to explore the environment and organisms of the Cambrian

Arthropods of the early Paleozoic

Twitter: atmorrisonnolan1



Khanh To

PhD Student

Office: 3051 Derring



B.Sc.     Integrative Biology, Oklahoma State University (2018)

B.Sc.     Geology, Oklahoma State University (2018)

Research topics:

     Vertebrate feeding mechanisms (specifically archosaurs)

     Cranial kinesis characteristics and evolution

     Comparative anatomy


Brenen Wynd

PhD Candidate

Office: 3051 Derring



B.Sc.     Biology, University of Washington (2015)

B.Sc.     Biochemestry, University of Washington (2015)


Research topics:

     Microfossil communities across mass extinction boundaries

     Biostratigraphy of terrestrial vertebrates

     Phylogenetics of archosauromorphs



Visiting Scholars

Qi Wang

Visiting Scientist

Office: 3053 Derring

M.Sc. Chang'an University, China (2017)

Tian Gan

Visiting Scientist

Office: 3053 Derring



M.Sc.     Chinese Academy of Sciences, China (2017)

Undergraduate Students

Mason McCabe


Lagerpeton Forelimb

Emily Patellos


Triassic reptile from Madagascar

Hannah-Marie Eddins

Animal and Poultry Science

Phytosaur Feet

Zach Lester


Triassic Microvertebrates

Rebecca Hawkins

Wildlife Conservation

Amphisbaenian skulls

Rebecca Plosey

Miocene Teid

Kayla Plattman


Christy Nelson

Thea Torrisi


Permian Diapsid

Carly Heltzel


Triassic Microvertebrates


Lab Night Volunteers

Louisa Gay

Angela Vikesland

Travis Oishi

Stacy Estes

Former Undergraduates

Simon McKay

Alexa Mullin

Hunter Edwards

Emily Lessner

Colin Sweeney

Grant Plunkett

Tara Helms

Alex Bradley

Christopher Hayes

Camielle Do

Justin Lau

Lauren Bano

Elizabeth Evans

Emeritus & Affiliated Researchers

Richard Bambach (Research Associate at Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History

Michal Kowalewski (Florida Museum of Natural History)

Nicolas Fraser (National Museum of Scotland)

S. Scheckler (Virginia Tech Department of Biology)

L. W. Ward (Virginia Museum of Natural History)


Maxwel Schwid (MSc, 2020)

Christopher Griffin (PhD, 2020)

Dana Korneisel (MSc, 2019)

Krista Koeller (MSc, 2018)

Caitlin Colleary (PhD, 2018)

Qing Tang (PhD, 2018)

Mitchell Riegler (MSc, 2018)

Natasha Bykova (PhD, 2017)

Andrew Hawkins (PhD, 2017)

Drew Muscente (PhD, 2017)

Candice Stefanic (MsC, 2017)

Jacalyn Witmer (PhD, 2014)

Mike Meyers (PhD, 2013)

Jackie Malinowski (PhD, 2013)

Kenneth O'Donnell (PhD, 2013)

Jesse Broce (MSc, 2013)

Carrie Tyler (PhD, 2012)

Troy Dexter (PhD, 2011)

Amy Smith (PhD, 2011)

Evan Anderson (MSc, 2010)

Majken Schimmel (MsC, 2010)

Peter Voice (PhD, 2010)

James D. Schiffbauer (PhD, 2009)

Michael Nakagaki (MSc, 2009)

Kathleen McFadden (PhD, 2009)

Bing Shen (PhD, 2008)

Lin Dong (PhD, 2007)

John W. Huntley (PhD, 2007)

Susan Barbour-Wood (PhD, 2006)

Jennifer Stempien (PhD, 2006)

Richard A. Krause Jr. (PhD, 2006)

Michelle Casey (MSc, 2005)

Megan Brown (MSc, 2003)

Hong Zhou (MSc 2003)

David L. Rodland (PhD, 2003)

Alan P. Hoffmeister (PhD, 2002)

Monica Carroll (MSc, 2001)

Brook K. Wilborn (MSc, 2001)

Roderic J. Brame (PhD, 2000)

Matthew G. Powell (MSc, 2000)

Andrew M. Bush (MSc, 1999)

Gwen M. Daley (PhD, 1999)

Amy E. Tobias (MSc, 1998)

John C. Cawley (MSc, 1998)

Anna L. M. Davis (MSc, 1996)

Philip A. Jahnke (MSc, 1993)

Susan E. Philips (MSc, 1993)

Delphine E. Welch (PhD, 1991)

Allen E. Hubbard (MSc, 1991)

David K. Jacobs (PhD, 1990)

Frederick A. Sandberg (PhD, 1990)

Mark Crowell (MSc, 1988)

David J. Weary (MSc, 1988)

Keith T. Degnan (MSc, 1987)

Julie D. Herman (MSc, 1987)

Roger J. Witmer (MSc, 1987)

Lauren J. McKeever (MSc, 1985)

Sam Wong (MSc, 1985)

Linda T. Deck (MSc, 1984)

John V. Firth (MSc, 1984)

Michael J. Huggins (MSc, 1983)

Wilson S. McClung (MSc, 1983)

Anne E. Maxson (MSc, 1982)

Craig D. Faris (MSc, 1982)

Thomas R. Rounds Jr. (MSc, 1982)

Dale A. Springer (PhD, 1982)

Julia A. Carey (MSc, 1981)

Arnold I. Miller (MSc, 1981)

Robert D. Sartain (MSc, 1981)

Roger G. Humphreville (MSc, 1981)

Bryan H. Roberts (MSc, 1980)

H. Frances Plants (MSc, 1977)

John M. Wilson (MSc, 1977)

Fred E. May (PhD, 1976)

Barbara L. Whitney (PhD, 1976)

Leonard N. Ford (MSc, 1975)

David K. Goodman (MSc, 1975)

David  K. Watkins (MSc, 1975)

David R. Suter (MSc, 1973)

Charles T. Helfrich (PhD, 1972)

Betty Cook Friedman

Past visiting students and scholars:

Axel Hégron (2020)

Dr. Zhengjie Zhu (2019-2020)

Gabriel Mestriner (2019)

Dr. Fanfan Kong (2018-2019)

Juliana Okubo (2017-2019)

Hazel Taruvinga (2018)

Mario Bronzati (2018)

Qin Ye (2016-2018)

Ke Pang (2016-2017)

Julia Arrouy (2016)

Wei Wang (2015-2016)

Junfeng Guo (2014-2015)

Zhou Wang (2013-2015)

Yunhuan Liu (2012-2013)

Zhen Dai (2012-2013)

Tiequan Shao (2012-2013)

Ke Pang (2011)

Bin Wan (2011)

Carolina Zabini (2011)

Yaoping Cai (2009)

Marc Laflamme (2009-2009)

Prof. Jiasheng Wang (2007)

Dr. Pengju Liu (2006-2007)

Chuanming Zhou (2003-2004)

Daniele Decarponi (2003-2004)

Dr. Guoxiang Li (2002)

Jinxian Yao (2001)