Dr. Bell's research centers on understanding the complex dynamics of vertebrate faunal communities during the Quaternary Period. Chris is interested in investigating patterns of vertebrate evolution, biodiversity and biogeography throughout the Quaternary, and the responses of different vertebrate groups to the various changes in climate that took place during the last two million years. Two major current research areas are: 1) the study of early and middle Pleistocene (Irvingtonian) North American arvicoline rodent biochronology, and 2) the study of anatomy and systematics of extant and fossil turtles and squamate reptiles (lizards, snakes, and amphisbaenians).

Areas of Expertise

Vertebrate paleontology, North American Pliocene and Pleistocene small mammal biostratigraphy and biochronology, osteology, anatomy, and systematics of squamate reptiles and turtles, Impacts of climate change on vertebrate communities


Research Locations



G. Moses and Carolyn G. Knebl Distinguished Teaching Award - The University of Texas at Austin (2005)

Faculty Excellence Award - Houston Oil and Minerals Corporation (2004)

Faculty Achievement Award - El Paso Corporate Foundation (2003)

UT Austin Dads' Association Centennial Teaching Fellowship - The University of Texas at Austin (2001)

Teaching Excellence Award - The College of Natural Sciences, University of Texas at Austin (2000)

Editor, Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology (2003 - 2004)

Member, Publications Committee, Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (2002 - 2005)

Member, Estes Award Committee, Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (1999 - 2003)

Member, Student Poster Prize Committee, Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (1998 - 2005)

Member, Editorial Board, Asiatic Herpetological Research (1998 - 2004)

Associate Editor, Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology (1998 - 2002)

Southwestern Region Editor, Society of Vertebrate Paleontology News Bulletin (1998 - 2002)

Program Committee member, Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (1996)

Editor, PaleoBios (1994 - 1995)

Assistant Editor, PaleoBios (1993 - 1994)

Postdocs

Ascanio Rincon, 2005
Project title: 'Pleistocene Mammal Fauna from Mene Inciarte Tar Seep, Estado Zulia, Venezuela.' Jackson School of Geosciences and Foundation for Quaternary Paleontology of Venezuela Postdoctoral Research Fellow.

Jason Head, 2002 - 2005
Project title: 'Morphological Phylogeography of Erycine Snakes: Recovering the Historical Relationship Between Fauna and Environment.' NSF Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Biological Informatics; NSF 98-162. Other co-sponsors are P. David Polly (Queen Mary College, University of London), and Anna K. Behrensmeyer (National Museum of Natural History, Washington, D.C.).


Graduate Students

Christian O George, Ph.D., expected 2012

Michelle Stocker, Ph.D., expected 2013
I am a vertebrate paleontologist who examines questions about the evolution of tetrapods within an explicitly phylogenetic framework. I have interests in comparative anatomy and osteology of tetrapods, biostratigraphy and biochronology, and macroevolution. I am interested in how a cladistic framework modifies our secondary inferences, such as the use of vertebrates for biochronology or our understanding of paleobiogeographic patterns, in the fossil record. I explore the acquisition of the modern fauna through extinction and diversification events in multiple, well-sampled time periods; my dissertation research focuses on the Late Triassic and the Middle Eocene. I examine these issues mainly with two taxonomic groups - phytosaurs and amphisbaenians. I use CT and traditional dissection of extant animals to understand skeletal anatomy and osteological correlates in fossil specimens.

Natasha S Vitek, M.S., expected 2013
I am broadly interested in spatiotemporal variation and its influence on evolutionary processes. At UT, my thesis research focuses on how well different factors explain variation in the Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina) both now and in the Pleistocene. I've done additional research into the systematics of extinct soft-shelled turtles (Trionychidae) and the taphonomy of extraordinarily well-preserved feathers.

Travis Z Wicks, M.S., expected 2013

Joshua Lively, Ph.D., expected 2017

Jennifer Olori, Ph.D., 2011

Kerin Claeson, Ph.D., 2010

Lyndon Murray, Ph.D., 2008

Bhart-Anjan Bhullar, M.S., 2008

Christopher Jass, Ph.D., 2007

Dennis Ruez, Ph.D., 2007

Gaberiel Bever, Ph.D., 2006

Patrick Wheatley, M.S., 2004

Holly Nance, M.S., 2003


Implications of Faunal Provinciality for North American Biochronology, Quaternary Sciences Program, Northern Arizona University, (2005)

Phylogenetic systematics and Quaternary Paleontology, Department of Geoscience, University of Iowa, (2003)

North American Reptiles of the Pleistocene, Central Texas Paleontology Society, (2003)

Alternative approaches to Quaternary Paleontology, Quaternary Sciences Program, Northern Arizona University, (2003)

North American Quaternary Squamata: Re-evaluation of the stability hypothesis; Special Symposium 'Recent Advances in Lepidosaurian Evolution and Systematics', 62nd Annual Meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, (2002)

Constraint, homoplasy, and informativeness in the evolution of the medial aperture of the recessus scalae tympani in lizards; Special Symposium 'Recent Advances in Lepidosaurian Evolution and Systematics', 62nd Annual Meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, (2002)

The changing face of Pleistocene arvicoline rodent biochronology, Department of Geology, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, Arizona, (1998)

A short course on cladistic methodology, , Quaternary Sciences Program, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, Arizona, (1998)

a short course on squamate reptile systematics, Quaternary Sciences Program, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, Arizona, (1998)

Climatic fluctuations and the evolution of mammalian communities, American Quaternary Association, 14th Biennial Meeting, (1996)

GEO 302M The Age of Mammals: Alternating Spring Semester (Undergraduate)

GEO 322V, 389R Morphology of Vertebrate Skeleton (Undergraduate)

GEO 389R Morphology of Vertebrate Skeleton (Graduate)

GEO 391N Exploring Intelligent Design (Graduate)

GEO 405 Life Through Time (Undergraduate)

Bio471G Natural History Museum Science (Undergraduate)

FS318 The Science of Wonder (Undergraduate)

NS110 Dean's Scholars Seminar (Undergraduate)