Faculty Spotlight: Michelle Stocker

Stocker examines the Permian-Triassic mass extinction and the subsequent recovery in the Ruhuhu Basin of southwestern Tanzania.

November 2, 2021

Michelle Stocker is an Assistant Professor in vertebrate paleobiology in the Department of Geosciences at Virginia Tech. Joining the Global Change Center in April of 2016, Stocker has become an integral part of the community. Prior to joining the faculty at Virginia Tech, she completed her PhD in Geological Sciences at The University of Texas at Austin and was a visiting researcher at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago.

Stocker explores the macroevolutionary patterns and processes of biodiversity. She incorporates critical data from fossil specimens with research on extant taxa through fieldwork, which enables her to explore the regional and chronologic differences between and among terrestrial vertebrate assemblages and continental ecosystems over deep time. Her work has taken her from the Chinle Formation of Petrified Forest National Park in the American Southwest (pictured above), to the Ruhuhu Basin in southwestern Tanzania (pictured left).

As part of the Paleobiology & Geobiology Research Group, she has discovered new species, become a leader in navigating hybrid-learning during the pandemic, and passed her expertise to future generations of paleobiologists. One of her current lab members, PhD student and IGC Fellow Ben Kligman, has also been featured for his work in the lab. Along with GCC Affiliate Dr. Sterling Nesbitt, she is currently working on preparing fossils of Teleocrater for 3-D printing and digitization (view below).  This exhibit is set to be an interactive experience that can be viewed from anywhere in the world.

Preparing ancient fossils to become a modern digital exhibit

Stocker also takes part in numerous teaching and outreach activities including the Virginia Science Festival, curating interactive and immersive experiences through the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology, and Tuesday Lab Night, a unique opportunity for undergraduate students to acquire and perfect fossil preparation techniques and anatomical knowledge (pictured below, left). Stocker is also passionate about addressing the need for increased diversity in the sciences. As part of these efforts, she founded the Virginia Tech Widening Inclusivity in the (Geo)Sciences (WInGS) collective in January, 2020. The group hosts monthly meetings with speakers from Virginia Tech and beyond and facilitates a mentorship program designed to create symbiotic relationships between undergraduate, graduate, and PhD students.

Tuesday Lab Night provides undergraduate students with hands-on experience.
Celebrating International Day of Women in Science with the members of the lab.

The next virtual meeting will be Wednesday, November 3 from 11:00AM to 12:30PM EST, and will feature members of Girls Launch!, a team on campus breaking down gender stereotypes of scientists. Please email WiNGS (women-in-geosciences-g@vt.edu) if you are interested in joining the group or attending meetings.

Follow the links for more information about the Stocker Lab or the Paleobiology & Geobiology Research Group.

All photos sourced from VT Paleobiology Twitter and the Stocker Lab website. 

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