Ben became interested in science, particularly geology and paleontology, after finding fossils from the Triassic and Cretaceous periods as a child near his home in southeast Pennsylvania. In high school, he interned at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia doing cataloguing of herpetology and paleontology collections. Through these experiences he became interested in pursuing a career studying ancient organisms and the earth system in deep time. As an undergraduate at UC Berkeley, Ben focused on taking classes in evolutionary biology, ecology, and geosciences, and in 2016 he received a bachelor’s degree in Integrative Biology. As an undergraduate, he conducted an independent research project examining fossil vertebrate assemblages from the Late Triassic of Arizona, with original data collected during summer internships.
During his undergraduate studies, Ben worked as a paleontology intern at Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona, which culminated in a year-long research position post-graduation. The focus of his research was to systematically sample microvertebrate assemblages at stratigraphic intervals through the late Triassic Chinle Formation in Arizona, creating a high-resolution record of macroevolutionary change over the last 25 million years of the Triassic. Ben intends to use this project as a starting point for his PhD work. Next steps include integrating this fossil record with data on major Earth system changes during the same time period such as climate change and bolide impacts, therefore shedding light on the proximal causes of observed macroevolutionary change in the fossil record.
Ben views events in Earth history as important analogues for Earth system changes that are currently being observed. He is particularly interested in how climate change and associated events might affect the evolution of life, and cause diversification and extinction events. Ben’s goals for participation in the IGC IGEP include bringing a perspective of current Earth system change that contextualizes it within the framework of Earth history as a whole. Additionally, he would like to learn about and contribute to effective communication of science to the general public.