Research group

Postdoctoral researchers and research associates

Dr Stephan Lautenschlager
Stephan completed his PhD "The evolution of herbivory in therizinosaur dinosaurs" in the Rayfield lab in 2013. He is now a research assistant working on a NERC-funded project to explore the functional evolution of the mammalian jaw, in collaboration with Pam Gill and Professor Michael Fagan of the University of Hull. The project uses CT scanning, finite element modelling and multibody dynamics analysis (MDA) to test classic theories as to how jaw biomechanics facilitates the evolution of the unique mammalian jaw and middle ear.

Dr Pam Gill
Pam works in Bristol and is co-Investigator on our NERC grant to study the functional evolution of the mammalian jaw joint. Previously Pam was funded by NERC on a project to use synchrotron radiation X-ray microtomography to determine the microanatomy and biomechanics of the jaws of two of the earliest stem mammals, Morganucodon and Kuehneotherium, which has recently been published in the journal Nature. Pam is known for her expertise in Triassic and Jurassic mammals and the south Wales fissure fill material.

Dr Karen Roddy
Karen is a postdoctoral research assistant based in the Rayfield lab and in the lab of Dr Chrissy Hammond in the School of Physiology and Pharmacology, University of Bristol. Karen holds a PhD in the mechanobiology of chick development from Trinity College Dublin. She is funded by an MRC standard grant to determine the mechanical and genetics controls on zebrafish jaw joint development, using a combination of molecular biology, high resolution imaging, materials testing and finite element modelling.

PhD students

Melisa Morales GarciaMelisa Morales Garcia
[Bristol; 2016—] Melisa joined the lab in September 2016 after graduation from the Bristol MSc Palaeobiology. Originally from Hildalgo State, north of Mexico City, Melisa studied the ecomorphology of North American Miocene ungulates for her MSc research project, for which she won the poster prize at the annual Symposium of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Comparative Anatomy meeting, September 2016, in Liverpool. Melisa remains in Bristol on a CONACYT funded PhD project studying the functional and ecological diversity of Mesozoic mammals, supervised by myself, Christine Janis and Pam Gill.

Guillermo Navalon
[Bristol; 2015—] Guillermo is studying the evolution and function of the avian skull. Following on from his MSc project on avian skull morphometrics, Guillermo is using morphometric and biomechanical approaches to study the link between skull and beak shape and trophic ecology, allometry and phylogeny. He is funded by a University of Bristol Alumni scholarship, and co-supervised by Jen Bright and Jesus Marugan-Lobon.

Andrew JonesAndrew Jones
[Birmingham 2014—]. NERC-CENTA DTP funded. Andrew is based in Birmingham with his primary supervisor Dr Richard Butler. Here he is using morphological, functional and cladistic techniques to test hypotheses of deep time functional convergence between phytosaurs and crocodilians. Andrew is also co-supervised by Ivan Sansom (Birmingham) and Steve Brusatte (Edinburgh).

Leanne Melbourne
[Bristol-Natural History Museum London; 2013—] PhD topic: The future of shelf ecosystems. Co-supervised with Professor Daniela Schmidt (Bristol) and Dr Juliet Brodie (Natural History Museum, London). Funded by a NERC-CASE PhD studentship.

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Elizabeth Martin
[Southampton 2013—]. PhD topic: Mass estimates in pterosaurs: phylogenetic implications. Liz is funded by NSERC and a University of Southampton scholarship and co-supervised by Philipp Schneider and Jessica Whiteside (Southampton), Colin Palmer (Bristol), Mike Habib (University of Southern California).

Nicola Stone
[Bristol; 2013—, part-time] PhD topic: "The role of heterochrony in the evolution and function of palaeognathus birds". Self funded.

Ma Qingyu
[Bristol; 2012—] PhD topic: "Constraints and efficiency in early avian evolution". Qingyu holds a masters from the IVPP in Beijing. He is funded by a University of Bristol Scholarship.


JJ Hill [Bristol; 2012—] JJ is researching the evolution and function of the vertebrate lower jaw using a combination of morphometrics and finite element modelling. She is co-supervised by Professor Phil Donoghue.

Visiting fellows and students

Sandra Tavares
Sandra is visiting the lab from the University of Campinas (UNICAMP), São Paulo, Brazil. Her PhD research focuses on the functional morphology of the incredible diversity of Mesozoic crocodilians from the Bauru Basin of Brazil. In Bristol she is studying the functional morphology and cranial biomechanics of Montealtosuchus a Cretaceous terrestrial crocodylian.

Postdoc alumni
Dr Laura Porro
Laura was a Marie Curie International Fellow in the lab from 2013-2015, studying the anatomy and biomechanics of the early tetrapod skull across the water-to-land transition, a collaboration that continues to this day. Laura is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the Royal Veterinary College, London.

Dr Jen Bright
Jen was a NERC funded PhD student in the lab from 2007-2011 researching the validity of finite element modelling approaches. After winning the University of Bristol prize for the best Faculty of Science PhD thesis 2011-12, she stayed on in the lab from 2011-2014 as a BBSRC funded postdoctoral researcher quantifying the link between form, function, feeding ecology, allometry and integration in the skulls of raptorial birds. Jen has recently become Assistant Professor of Digital Science at the University of South Florida.

Dr Phil Anderson
Phil held a Royal Society Incoming US Fellowship in the lab from 2007-2009 researching the functional mechanics of the earliest jawed vertebrates. From 2009-2011 he continued with a Marie-Curie Research Fellowship, exploring large-scale questions of jaw and dental functional morphology, functional diversity and morphological convergence in the fossil record. Phil is now Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois in Urbana Champaign.

Dr Phil Cox
Until Dec 2011 Phil worked as a NERC-funded postdoctoral researching the biomechanics of feeding in the rodent skull using finite element analysis. This collaborative project with Nathan Jeffrey (Liverpool) and Michael Fagan (Hull) explored the functional difference between gnawing and chewing and the relationship between skull morphology and the arrangement of the jaw closing muscles. Phil began a lectureship at the Hull-York Medical School in Jan 2012.

PhD alumni
Colin Palmer [Bristol; 2007–2016, part-time, self-funded]: The flight of pterosaurs. Colin's PhD focused upon the biomechanics of pterosaur flight. He used a combination of wind tunnel and vortex-lattice theoretical modelling to understand both the performance of theoretically possible two-dimensional wing sections and of overall three-dimensional wings, looking at the effect of variations in planform and the effects of flexibility on performance and stability. In parallel he investigated the structural strength of the wing bones and used this information to predict how much they may have deflected under different loading conditions, information which helped determine the limits to the flight envelope.
David Button [Bristol-Natural History Museum London; 2011—2015]: Cranial biomechanics of sauropodomorph dinosaurs. Co-supervised with Dr Paul Barrett (Natural History Museum, London). Funded by a NERC-CASE PhD studentship. AWARDS: President's Prize (2014) and Student Poster Prize (2013) Palaeontological Association Annual Meeting; British Science Festival invited speaker (2015). Current position: Postdoctoral research fellow, School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham.
Andrew Cuff [Bristol; 2010–14]: Functional morphology and biomechanics of ornithomimid and other theropod dinosaurs [Self-funded]. Current position: Leverhulme-funded postdoctoral researcher, Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment University College London and The Royal Veterinary College London.
Stephan Lautenschlager [Bristol – Munich; 2010–13] Skull form and function in therizinosaur dinosaurs, and the convergent evolution of herbivory in theropods [Volkswagen Foundation funded]. AWARDS: Sustainable Software Institute Fellowship (£3000); Best Poster, Tomography Symposium London; Young Palaeontologist Award, and best student poster, German Palaeontological Association. Current position: NERC-funded postdoctoral researcher in the Rayfield lab, School of Earth Sciences, Bristol.
Roger Close [Monash, Australia / Bristol; 2008–12]: The functional evolution of the flight complex in Mesozoic birds [Monash University Studentship], Co-supervised with Prof. Pat Vickers-Rich (Monash). Current position: ERC funded postdoctoral researcher, School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham.
Aude Caromel [Bristol; 2008–12]: The link between form and function in planktonic foraminifers [NERC algorithm funded studentship], jointly supervised with Drs Daniela Schmidt and Jeremy Phillips (Bristol). Current position: Research Collaborator, School of Earth Sciences, Bristol.
Jen Bright [Bristol; 2007–2011, Viva date 26/07/11]: Validation of finite element models and the implications for palaeontology [NERC algorithm funded studentship], single advisor. AWARDS: University of Bristol Science Faculty Prize for best PhD thesis 2011/12. Current position: Assistant Professor of Digital Science, University of South Florida.
Dr Mark Young [Bristol & Natural History Museum; 2006–2009]: Quantifying macroevolutionary patterns in highly specialised clades of archosaurs [NERC funded with NHM CASE partner, with Dr PM Barrett (NHM), Dr P Upchurch (UCL) and Prof. LM Witmer (Ohio)].
Dr Laura Porro [Cambridge; 2004–09]: Investigation of proposed feeding behaviour in the basal ornithischian Heterodontosaurus tucki using finite element analysis [Cambridge-Gates Foundation Scholarship; with Dr DB Norman]. AWARDS: Society of Vertebrate Palaeontology Student poster prize. Current position: Postdoctoral researcher, Royal Veterinary College, London.
Dr Sandra Jasinoski [Bristol; 2004–08]:Cranial mechanics of Dicynodontia using Finite Element Analysis [ORS, NSERC, UoB funded; with Prof. MJ Benton]. Current position: Independent researcher in paleontology, and photographer.
Dr Stephanie Pierce [Bristol; 2003–2007]: Morphospace occupation and mechanical performance in extant and extinct crocodile skulls: A combined geometric morphometric and finite element modelling approach [ORS, NSERC, UoB funded; with Prof. MJ Benton] Current position: Assistant Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology and Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology in the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University.