Rowan is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Geosciences specializing in paleontology.
How did you get interested in what you study?
I grew up hiking in the Canadian Rockies and picking up fossils so I have long been interested in ecosystems, geology, and science. After high school biology, I became very interested in evolution and extinction and so took biology and geology classes at University. I also had the opportunity to snorkel and SCUBA dive while I was growing up, so understanding marine ecosystems, especially reefs, became a passion of mine at the end of my undergrad and into grad school.
What are you working on now?
I am currently working on the paleoecology of Early Jurassic marine communities. More specifically, I study how exceptional fossil deposits are formed (check out a public talk I gave recently here: https://youtu.be/YU7JYdoinTA) and how reef ecosystems and other communities survived (or did not survive) an Oceanic Anoxic Event at ~183 million years ago. My research is focused on understanding how these fossil ecosystems responded to major environmental perturbations so that we can make better predictions about how modern marine communities with be affected by current and future environmental changes.
What advice do you have for people just getting started in your field?
Go find mentors... not one mentor, many mentors. Get a support network that includes a wide range of expertise including mentors that are your peers, your colleagues, young professors, experienced professors, etc. Use this network for support and never be afraid to ask questions. Also, do not tolerate toxic people; if a colleague or mentor does not respect you or your ideas, you are better off finding someone who does and walking away from a bad relationship.
What is your favorite thing to do when not working?
I love being outside with my significant other. On the weekends you can often find us on walks in the country, gardening in our yard, or relaxing and/or playing games with friends in a beer garden, coffee shop, or at a winery (there are so many great places in Austin!). I also like to create things, so I cook/bake, I brew beer, and I do a number of different fiber arts (e.g., spinning, knitting, etc.)