Chris Mulligan

Chris (he/him) graduated with a BA in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from CU Boulder, and he is currently an Earth and Planetary Sciences PhD student here at UC Davis. Chris had a wide range of research experiences before starting grad school – studying honeybee behavioral genetics, helping curate vertebrates at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, and most recently working as a research assistant on an NSF funded project studying the biosynthesis of unique bacterial lipids used in paleoclimate models. His undergraduate honors thesis took place at CU’s Organic Geochemistry Lab under Dr. Julio Sepúlveda, where he analyzed sediments from a Late Cretaceous floodplain in Madagascar to reconstruct the ecosystem and learn if the dinosaur mass mortality events that took place were caused by seasonal toxic algal blooms.

Chris’ current work focuses on the ecology of early animals using lipid biomarkers, specifically trying to distinguish between signals from animal tissues, gut microbiomes, dietary sources, and the environment that are all preserved together in fossilized remains. This work involves both modern animals, such as experimentally controlling their diets then looking at their tissue composition, and body fossils directly using biomarkers to understand the animal’s paleobiology.

    Liyu Mekonnen

    Originally from the Bay Area, Liyu is an undergraduate student currently working towards a B.S in Chemistry and a minor in Geology. Her interests have always lived within the walls of science and history, leading her curiosity to the development of early life and the geochemical evidence of said development. She is working alongside team members Chris and Tessa to further the dated dialogue concerning early demosponges and ancient algae by means of biomarker data and genetic phylogeny. Liyu is beyond excited to contribute to the unfinished puzzle that is early life evolution.

        Tessa Brunoir

        Originally from North Carolina, I graduated from Smith College (‘17) with a BA in Geosciences. I am an “early life” geobiologist and a paleobiologist primarily interested in major biotic turn over events during the Neoproterozoic. My previous experience is in geology, however, while in the Gold Lab I plan to incorporate genetic phylogeny tools and biomarker data to help render a more complete picture of early eukaryotic evolution.

        Broadly, I am interested in the Earth’s biogeochemistry, how major biotic turnover events are triggered, and how Earth’s geochemistry responds. I have previously worked on projects in North America involving redox geochemistry during the Late Devonian-Early Mississippian and Cambrian carbon isotopes, as well as Cryogenian geochronology in Namibia.

          Hannah Hensel

          I am interested in how animals respond to environmental stress on various timescales. My work is highly interdisciplinary, drawing from genomics, biogeochemistry, sclerochronology and Indigenous knowledge. My dissertation focuses on how the Pacific littleneck clam (Leukoma staminea) responds to ocean acidification, and methods for buffering animals against the negative effects of acidified water. Prior to starting graduate school at UC Davis in 2019, I earned my BS and MS degrees in geology from Miami University, and spent a year as a high school ENL/ESL Instructional Assistant for STEM subjects in Indianapolis, IN.