Chris Organ (PI)
Curriculum vitae
I have a broad background in comparative and evolutionary biology with specific training in paleobiology, genomics, and phylogenetic comparative methods. My Ph.D. was earned under dinosaur paleontologist Jack Horner. I was an NIH postdoctoral fellow at Harvard in Scott Edwards’ lab, where my research turned to genome evolution. I also worked in the Department of Genetics and Genomics at Biogen. My research is driven by phylogenetic comparative methods I help develop with Mark Pagel and Andrew Meade (University Reading, UK). My current research program at Montana State University is located within the Department of Earth Sciences. I also serve as the Senior Bioinformatics Scientist for Montana INBRE, which is funded by the NIH.

Jacob Gardner (PhD Student)
Curriculum vitae
I am currently a Ph.D. student in the Department of Earth Sciences at Montana State University. My dissertation tackles two aspects of human evolution: population history and sexual selection. The goal of the first project is to use paleogenomics to assess the population history and genetic adaptations of humans in Late Neolithic to Early Bronze Age Northern China. Northern China was an epicenter for the independent development of East Asian farming and state-level societies. However, East Asian population history is poorly known compared to other regions in Eurasia due to the lack of ancient DNA. These analyses will incorporate new ancient human genomes to clarify the relationships and timing of admixture among East Asian populations. The goal of the second project is to test for sexual selection in humans. Although there are numerous phenotypes and genotypes hypothesized to evolve under sexual selection, empirical analyses are restricted to sociological assessments of human attraction. We apply a quantitative test for sexual selection – verifiable for a wide range of animal groups – to human phenotypes and genotypes while accounting for phylogeny and geography. These analyses are the next-step for inferring sexual selection on larger timescales.

Isaura Aguilar (Masters Student)
I am a master student in the Department of Earth Sciences at the Montana State University and did a major in Biology at the Universidad Aútonoma Metropolitana (Mexico City, Mexico). I am interested in the paleobiology of archosaurs, which includes evolutionary biology and functional morphology. As an undergrad, I did my social service at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, mainly identifying fossils of Campanian terrestrial vertebrate fauna. As of now, I am currently working with Dr. David Varricchio and Dr. Chris Organ on a project that has to do with evolutionary trends in non-avian dinosaurs.

Sarah Montalbano (Undergraduate Research Assistant)
I’m a freshman Presidential Scholar in the Honors College at Montana State University studying computer science. My research focuses primarily on using quantitative methods to compare methods of analyzing phylogenetic trees.

Kevin Surya (Undergraduate Research Assistant)
I’m an Indonesian undergraduate student at Montana State University. My mentors (Chris Organ, Dana Rashid, David Varricchio, and John Borkowski) and I have studied various subjects like bird prelaying egg rotation, bird tail vertebral fusion, fossil record bias, and the genotype-phenotype association. Now, I’m interested in using macroevolutionary models to study the origin and evolution of social structures, especially eusociality.

Isabelle Brenes (Undergraduate Research Assistant)
I am an undergraduate student at Montana State University in the Department of Earth Science. My research interests include non-avian and avian dinosaur evolution, as well as how developmental patterns may influence evolutionary mechanisms. I have conducted research under the mentorship of Dr. Aki Watanabe that focused on the size and shape changes that occurred in the avian brain along developmental and evolutionary timelines. Currently, I am working with Kevin Surya and Lázaro W. Viñola-López on a project that is looking at sexual dimorphism of the avian pelvis.

Thomas LaBarge (Undergraduate Research Assistant)
I am an undergraduate at Montana State University majoring in paleontology.  My research interests involve comparative and evolutionary biology, specifically paleozoology and exploring evolutionary trends in animal behavior. Currently, I am helping to conduct research into Sexual Selection and Display in modern vertebrates.

Past Lab Members

Holley Flora (Undergrad Research Assistant)

Mikayla Struble (Undergrad Research Assistant)

Kevin Jones (Undergrad Research Assistant)

Rudy Hummel (Undergrad Research Assistant)

Carolyn Kocken (Undergrad Research Assistant)

Jack Wilson (Undergrad Research Assistant)

1 Comment

  1. About My Research – Holley Flora
    May 3, 2018

    […] to their spine. This project was with Chris Organ, Jacob Gardner, and Jack Wilson at Montana State ( and Jack Horner and Cary Woodruff at the Museum of the […]