William Gearty

Evolutionary Paleobiologist

Postdoctoral Research Fellow
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

I am a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where I study the constraints and drivers of evolution as our planet has changed through time. I integrate paleontological and neontological tools to investigate the evolution of various biological systems through time and test hypotheses regarding the constraints and drivers of that evolution.

My postdoctoral research focuses on the constraints and drivers of body size variation of terrestrial mammals at community and global scales. Previous research has shown that the physiological, environmental, and biotic constraints that are imposed on organisms result in optimal body sizes. However, closer inspection shows that variation, of multiple orders of magnitude, exists among mammals, even within smaller clades that share a niche. Why might species evolve towards non-optimal body sizes to produce the variance that we observe? This work will provide us with a better understanding of how factors such as competition, diet, climate, and extinction work together or against each other to produce the body size distributions we see today and in the fossil record at both local and global scales.

Much of my previous research has focused on major habitat transitions. To date, I have focused on groups of land vertebrates that have invaded the oceans (e.g. mammals, crocodiles, and snakes), the physiological challenges that exist across these habitat transition, and how these animals have overcome these challenges.


Sep 1, 2019 I’ve moved to Nebraska! I’m now a Postdoc at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with Dr. Kate Lyons!

selected publications

  1. Our past creates our present: a brief overview of racism and colonialism in Western paleontology
    Monarrez, Pedro M., Zimmt, Joshua B., Clement, Annaka M., Gearty, William, Jacisin, John J., Jenkins, Kelsey M., Kusnerik, Kristopher M., Poust, Ashley W., Robson, Selina V., Sclafani, Judith A., Stilson, Kelsey T., Tennakoon, Shamindri D., and Milagros Thompson, Carmi
  2. Anthropogenic disruptions to longstanding patterns of trophic-size structure in vertebrates
    Cooke, Rob, Gearty, William, Chapman, Abbie S. A., Dunic, Jillian, Edgar, Graham J., Lefcheck, Jonathan S., Rilov, Gil, McClain, Craig R., Stuart-Smith, Rick D., Lyons, S. Kathleen, and Bates, Amanda E.
    Nature Ecology & Evolution