Jen is an evolutionary palaeobiologist based at the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville. Her research focuses on understanding the evolutionary history and macroevolutionary patterns of fossil echinoderm groups. She spends much of her time in museum collections exploring the morphology of these extinct animals and digitally reconstructing their internal anatomy to include as data points in reconstructing extinct portions of the echinoderm tree of life. To do this, she uses both historical techniques (for example, acetate peels) and advanced ones (such as X-ray computed tomography). She also has a strong interest in providing educators of children from kindergarten to grade 12 with fossils to incorporate into their classrooms and has distributed more than 400 fossil kits to educators. Outside of research, Jen is an avid cyclist, knitter and devoted cat mom.
Dr. Jennifer E. Bauer, Florida Museum of Natural History, 1659 Museum Road, Gainesville, FL 32611 USA.
by Jennifer E. Bauer*1
The ancient seas of the Palaeozoic era (541 million to 252 million years ago) teemed with unusual creatures that would be almost unrecognizable to us today. Although these animals look very peculiar, they often have living relatives that we are more familiar with. Consider echinoderms, such as sea stars and sea urchins: these marine animals can be recognized easily by scientists and the general public alike due to their distinctive five-fold symmetry and often vibrant colours. However, the Palaeozoic fossil record of echinoderms includes a wide range of forms that are radically different from living species. Indeed, there are only 5 major living groups of echinoderms, but about 20 extinct groups known only from the Palaeozoic. This means that the foss