Dr. Michelle Stocker


Dr. Stocker is an Assistant Professor in vertebrate paleobiology in the Department of Geosciences at Virginia Tech. Prior to joining the faculty at Virginia Tech, she completed her BS in Geological Sciences (Minor in Biology) at the University of Michigan, MS in Geosciences at the University of Iowa, and PhD in Geological Sciences at The University of Texas at Austin.Dr. Stocker’s research centers on exploring the macroevolutionary patterns and processes of biodiversity, including how species diversify in the functional, phylogenetic, and developmental constraints of convergent evolution. Dr. Stocker is particularly interested in the evolutionary history of terrestrial vertebrates, specifically extinct and extant reptiles, often with the primary objectives to explore the anatomical evolution of those reptiles with respect to their ecology and to better understand the composition of terrestrial assemblages.


She incorporates critical data from fossil specimens with her research on extant taxa through domestic and international fieldwork, which enables her to explore the regional and chronologic differences between and among terrestrial vertebrate assemblages and continental ecosystems over deep time. Dr. Stocker often collaborates with scientists at Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona, and is a research associate/affiliate with the Vertebrate Paleontology Laboratory at The University of Texas at Austin, the Virginia Museum of Natural History, the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, and the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. At Virginia Tech, she is the founder of the Women in (Geo)Science group, which provides professional mentorship to undergraduate and graduate students. Additionally she works closely with the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology (ICAT) to create stronger collaborations with physical and historical sciences like paleobiology.


Department Website       

VT Paleobiology

Recent Relevant Publications

Nesbitt, S. J., Stocker, M. R., Parker, W. G., Wood, T.*, Sidor, C., and Angielczyk, K. 2018. The braincase and endocast of Parringtonia gracilis, a Middle Triassic suchian (Archosaur: Pseudosuchia). Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology Memoir 37(suppl. 1):122-141.

Stocker, M. R., Zhao, L.-J., Nesbitt, S. J., Wu, X.-C., and Li, C. 2017. Corrigendum: A short-snouted, Middle Triassic phytosaur may indicate salt-water tolerance is ancestral for Archosauria. Scientific Reports 7:46885.

Griffin, C. T.†, Stefanic, C. M.†, Parker, W. G., Hungerbuehler, A., and Stocker, M. R. 2017. Sacral anatomy of the phytosaur Smilosuchus adamanensis, with implications for pelvic girdle evolution among Archosauriformes. Journal of Anatomy 231:886-905.

Lessner, E. J.* and Stocker, M. R. 2017. Archosauriform endocranial morphology and osteological evidence for semiaquatic sensory adaptations in phytosaurs. Journal of Anatomy 231:655-664.

Stocker, M. R., Zhao, L.-J., Nesbitt, S. J., Wu, X.-C., and Li, C. 2017. A short-snouted, Middle Triassic phytosaur may indicate salt-water tolerance is ancestral for Archosauria. Scientific Reports 7:46028.

Nesbitt, S. J., Butler, R., Ezcurra, M., Barrett, P., Stocker, M., Angielczyk, K., Smith, R., Sidor, C., Niedźwiedzki, G., Sennikov, A., and Charig, A. 2017. The earliest bird-line archosaurs and assembly of the dinosaur body plan. Nature 544:484-487.

Li, C., Wu, X.-C., Zhao, L.-J., Nesbitt, S. J., Stocker, M. R., and Wang, L.-T. 2016. A new armored archosauriform (Diapsida: Archosauromorpha) from the marine Middle Triassic of China, with implications for the diverse ecologies of archosauriforms prior to diversification of crown Archosauria. The Science of Nature- Naturwissenschaften, DOI: 10.1007/s00114-016-1418-4

Stocker, M. R., Nesbitt, S. J., Criswell, K. E., Parker, W. G., Witmer, L. M., Rowe, T. B., Ridgely, R., and Brown, M. A. 2016. A dome-headed stem-archosaur exemplifies convergence among dinosaurs and their distant relatives. Current Biology, DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2016.07.066.

Lessner, E. J.*, Stocker, M. R., Smith, N. D., Turner, A. H., Irmis, R. B., and Nesbitt, S. J. 2016. A new rauisuchid (Archosauria, Pseudosuchia) from the Upper Triassic (Norian) of New Mexico increases the diversity and temporal range of the clade. Peer J, DOI: 10.7717/peerj.2336.

Stocker, M. R. and Kirk, E. C. 2016. The first amphisbaenians from Texas with notes on other squamates from the Middle Eocene Purple Bench locality. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. DOI: 10.1080/02724634.2016.1094081.