Faculty & Staff Directory

Laura Stroik

Photo of Laura Stroik


Assistant Professor

224 PAD



Office Hours

See available times here, or by appointment.

Courses Taught

BMS 208 - Human Anatomy
BMS 309 - Human Anatomy lab


PhD in Anthropology, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, 2014
MA in Anthropology, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, 2005
BA in Anthropology, University of San Diego, San Diego, CA, 2001

Research Interests

My primary research interest lies in understanding the ecological mechanisms that drove changes in community composition and structure throughout mammalian evolution. Both biotic (e.g., competition, predation) and abiotic (e.g., climate change, habitat structure) factors influence the structure of extant communities, but their relative impacts and specific effects on the evolutionary course of different mammalian clades is unknown. By modeling these factors in the fossil record, I am interested in determining why and how mammalian groups originated, diversified, and went extinct.

My current research evaluates the significance of one major mechanisminterspecific dietary competitionin Paleocene-Eocene (~60-50 Ma) North American mammalian evolution. In mammals, one of the most impactful species interactions is competition, and those species most likely to compete with one another are those who occupy the same ecological niche. As teeth are the point of contact between a mammal and its dietary resources, I reconstruct the dietary niches, and ultimately the pattern of dietary competition, within these fossil mammalian communities using three-dimensional measures of molar morphology (obtained from microCT scans).

So far, this research has indicated that one group of Eocene mammals, euprimates (primates of modern aspect), originated into a dietary niche that had only recently become available within the broader mammalian community. In addition, my results show that euprimates were primarily the sole occupants of their niche for the first part of their radiation. However, it is not known how often this particular pattern recurred during mammalian evolution nor have we clearly identified which additional factors make any pattern of origination (or extinction) more common than others. For instance, are the origins of mammalian radiations consistently driven mainly by climate change, or are species interactions more important than previously suggested? More broadly, what explains differences among paleocommunities, particularly those in the same geographic region and composed of related species, and what are the major causes of change within paleocommunities over time? By merging my methods for reconstructing species ecological niches using fossil anatomy, novel analytical techniques, and current and new collaborative field projects, it is my goal to begin to interpret the biogeographic (i.e., species distributional) patterning of mammalian communities throughout the Paleogene of North America.

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