Researcher Profile

Jackson School of Geosciences

Julia A Clarke

Julia A Clarke
Professor and John A. Wilson Cenntenial Fellow in Vertebrate Paleontology, Department of Geological Sciences, Jackson School of Geosciences

Office: JGB 3.216D
Mailcode: C1100
Curriculum Vitae (pdf)

Julia Clarke is a Professor and John A. Wilson Fellow in Vertebrate Paleontology in the Jackson School of Geosciences. Her research focuses on using phylogenetic methods and diverse data types to gain insight into the evolution of birds, avian flight and the co-option of the flight stroke for underwater diving. She is particularly interested in understanding shared patterns and potential causal factors in the evolution of living bird lineages.

The Clarke Lab seeks new data to inform how avian diversity and distributions have changed across their deep histories. International collaborations and fieldwork (e.g., in Peru, New Zealand, Antarctica, Mongolia and China) provide new fossil data to approach these questions.

Areas of Expertise

Evolution of morphology, vertebrate paleontology, systematic biology, avian anatomy and the evolution of flight, fossil birds. Dinosaurs.

Research Locations

Current Research Programs & Projects

Wings to Flippers - Phylogenetics, character acquisition, and feather biomechanics in the evolution of wing-propelled diving

Early ornithurine bird evolution

Evolution of flight

Provost's Teaching Fellow - The University of Texas (2016)

Humboldt Research Award - Humboldt Foundation (2016)

Outstanding Research Award - Jackson School of Geoscience (2013)

Knebel Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching Award - Jackson School of Geosciences (2012)

Gigapan Science Outreach Fellow - Fine Foundation/NASA/Carnegie Mellon Robotics (2010)

Outstanding Faculty Member Engaged in Extension Award - North Carolina State University (2008)

NSF Research Highlights - OISE Directorates (2007)

Argentine Fulbright Commission, 50th anniversary volume, distinguished alumna (2006)

G.G. Simpson Award - Yale University (2006)

NSF Research Highlights - OPP Directorates (2005)

Sigma Xi - Full Associate Member - Brown University (2004)

G.G. Simpson Award - Yale University (2001)

Orville Prize-best dissertation in the Earth Sciences - Yale University (2001)

Hutchinson Prize Fellowship for Biospheric Studies - Yale Institute (2000)

Estwing Hammer Prize for outstanding research in Geology - Yale University (2000)

Henry Gardiner Ferguson Fellowship in Geology - Yale University (1999)

Graduate Student Fellowship - National Science Foundation (1997 - 2000)

Arnold Prize Fellowship for undergraduate achievement and an original research project ($15,000; declined to accept Fulbright Grant). - Brown University (1995)

Sigma Xi - Brown University (1995)

Phi Beta Kappa - Brown University (1994)

Associate Editor, Paleobiology (2013)

Co-Editor in Chief, Journal of Anatomy (2012)

Editor in Vertebrate Morphology, Zoologischer Anzeiger (2011 - 2012)

Executive Committee, Member-At-Large, Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (2008 - 2011)

Operations Committee, Member-At-Large, National Center for Evolutionary Synthesis ( (2007 - 2008)

Session moderator, Meetings of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (2006 - 2007)

Editor in Vertebrate Morphology and Paleontology, Journal of Anatomy (2005 - 2011)

Chair, Predoctoral Fellowship Committee, Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (2004 - 2006)

Sigma Xi Grants, Aid of Research, Committee (2004)

Governing Council, Member-At-Large, International Society of Phylogenetic Nomenclature (2004 - 2006)

Predoctoral Fellowship Committee, Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (2003 - 2008)

Co-convener, "Missing Data- Practical Problems and Theoretical Issues" Symposium, Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (2000)

Organizing committee member and moderator, "New Perspectives on the Origin and Early Evolution of Birds: an International Symposium in Honor of John H. Ostrom,", Yale Peabody Museum and Yale University Department of Geology and Geophysics (1999)

NSF Panelist: Systematics (BIO),

NSF Referee: Systematics (BIO), Paleobiology (EAR), and Polar Programs (OPP),

NERC Referee, UK: Fellows Program,

National Geographic Society, Exploration Fund Referee,

One current postdocs, four graduate students and an array of undergraduate researchers are focused on broad questions concerning evolutionary morphology and the deep time diversification of birds.

Right now we are focused on the evolution of early bird lineages, feathering and wing morphology, wing propelled diving and the origin of bird song. Some student projects are focused on other archosaur lineages and other character systems such as the evolution of armor.


Chad Eliason

Xia Wang, 2013 - 2015, University of Jinan
Assistant Professor

Sterling Nesbitt, 2009 - 2010, Columbia University (PhD) now Assistant Professor, Virginia Tech.

Daniel Ksepka, 2007 - 2009, Columbia University, (PhD) now Postdoctoral Associate, NESCENT

Graduate Students

Lauren English , Ph.D., expected 2017 (Supervisor)

James V Proffitt , Ph.D., expected 2017 (Supervisor)
My current research focuses on vertebrate evolutionary morphology and systematics, particularly in the modern birds and their extinct relatives. Specifically, I am interested in the patterns of morphological and ecological disparity in vertebrates, and how fossils can inform our understanding of the processes and circumstances that generated this disparity. Secondarily, I have a strong interest in locomotor biomechanics and physiology of living species of vertebrates and how these behaviors evolve. I am also interested in comparative phylogenetic methods and their utility in investigating the evolution vertebrate form and function.

Adam D Marsh , Ph.D., expected 2017 (Committee Member)
Contextualizing the evolution of early saurischian dinosaurs using U-Pb detrital zircon geochronology of the Glen Canyon Group in western North America

Zhiheng Li , Ph.D., expected 2014 (Supervisor)
My research interests center on the morphological evolution of birds, from Mesozoic birds to living birds. I am working on a number of well-preserved early Cretaceous and Miocene birds from China. By comparing these extinct birds with their living counterparts, I am also looking into their feeding adaptation and ecology, trying to figure out the role of specific dietary preferences in driving bird evolution.

Sarah N Davis (Supervisor)

Christopher Torres, Ph.D. (Co-supervisor)
Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior

Katherine Browne, M.S., 2014 (Supervisor)

A.J. DeBee, Ph.D., 2012 (Supervisor)

Drew Eddy, M.S., 2008 (Supervisor)
"New information on the skull of Acrocanthosaurus atokensis and the phylogenetic relationships of the Allosauroidea"

Clint Boyd, Ph.D., 2005 (Supervisor)
"Taxonomic revision of the North American neorithischia, implications for ornithischian phylogeny"

Adam Smith, Ph.D., 2001 (Supervisor)
"Phylogeny and evolution of extinct and extant Alcidae (Aves, Charadriiformes)"


Undergraduate Students

There are always about 5 undergraduate doing reseach in the lab. They are typically listed on my CV. I started an undergraduate "research fair" in paleontology where we link up faculty, graduate students and undergraduate collaborators across the program.

See CV,

2017Fall GEO 405 Life Through Time
2017Fall GEO 394 Rsch In Geological Sciences
2017Spring GEO 371T Rsrch Dsgn/Data Anly/Visltn
2017Spring GEO 391 Rsrch Dsgn/Data Anly/Visltn
2016Fall GEO 405 Life Through Time
2016Spring GEO 371T Rsch Mthd/Anly/Vis Paleobio
2016Spring GEO 391 Rsch Mthd/Anly/Vis Paleobio
2014Fall GEO 405 Life Through Time
2014Fall GEO 371C Avian Anatomy
2014Fall GEO 391 Avian Anatomy
2014Fall GEO 394 Rsch In Systematic Paleontol
2014Spring GEO 394 Rsch In Systematic Paleontol

Undergraduate and Graduate Opportunities (Graduate or Undergraduate)
I regularly work with from 2-5 undergraduates and am open to co-advised honors theses and other. I feel undergraduate research is one of the most important aspects of undergraduate education.

I will be accepting several graduate students over the next two years (I average from 2-5 total).

I am particularly interested in PhD students with prior experience in systematic methods, an interest in phylogenetic or anatomical (evolution of morphology) questions concerning the evolution of birds.

I am also interested in highly motivated MS candidates with an interest in studying avian evolution. Although I have advised theses on non-avialan dinosaurs in past years, given current funded research projects, I am presently interested in advising students interested in working on birds (origin and evolution of).

Please feel free to contact me via email with any questions.