Geology and Geological Engineering

Dr. Laurie Anderson
Paleobiology, Paleoecology, Taphonomy
Research Teaching People News & Links Publications CV

Dr. Laurie C. Anderson

Ph.D. (1991), University of Wisconsin-Madison
Professor and Head
Geology and Geological Engineering
Director and Curator of Invertebrates
Museum of Geology
South Dakota School of Mines & Technology
Rapid City, SD 57701
phone 605-394-1290 or 605-394-1212

Research synopsis

The primary foci of my research are the (paleo)biology, (paleo)ecology, taphonomy and phylogeny of mollusks, particularly the Bivalvia. My work combines field research in both modern and ancient settings, museum studies, and laboratory analyses.

Current projects include:

  • Functional diversity of chemosymbiosis in lucinid bivalves from coastal biomes.
    NSF DEB Dimensions of Biodiversity (2014-2019) In this collaborative study with Annette Engel (University of Tennessee Knoxville) and Barbara Campbell (Clemson University), lucinid (Lucinidae; Bivalvia) chemosymbioses from coastal biomes that range from pristine to highly altered conditions are being examined. We are sampling these shallow marine biomes in Florida, California, and The Bahamas, and targeting the Lucininae, Leucosphaerinae and Codakiinae subfamilies within the Lucinidae. Microbial diversity of habitat sediments and water physicochemistry will reveal environmental factors controlling lucinid endosymbiont diversity and the evolution of chemosymbiosis within clades. The effects of anthropogenic activities on the functional diversity of chemosymbiotic associations will be evaluated from innovative geochemical and -omics approaches and compared to pristine and low-impact systems. The presence of chemosymbionts and/or degree or type of symbiotic dependence in fossil taxa will provide more accurate data to reconstruct trophic relationships in paleocommunities and extant habitats. This research will fill gaps in understanding about lucinid chemosymbiotic systems and potential biodiversity losses, and will identify how gene expression is altered for lucinids and their endosymbionts in changing ecosystem conditions, particularly due to anthropogenic impact.

  • Digitization TCN: The Cretaceous World: Digitizing Fossils to Reconstruct Evolving Ecosystems in the Western Interior Seaway
    NSF DBI Digitization (2016-2019) With support from this grant we are digitizing and georeferencing a orphaned collection obtained by the Museum of Geology in 2011 from the University of South Dakota (USD). These derive from R. E. Stevenson whose collections focused on Late Cretaceous marine invertebrates from central and western South Dakota. This collection is a valuable addition to TCN efforts because invertebrate fossil localities from South Dakota are underrepresented in data accessible online for biogeographic studies (e.g., currently there are 23 collections for Cretaceous marine localities in South Dakota in the PBDB, 7 of which include Mollusca, which make up 84% of species from the 378 localities in the USD collection). All 4,575 lots have stratigraphic information resolved to at least formation along with geographic information resolved at least to county, with half resolved to quarter-quarter section.

  • Curation and Digitization of Newly Acquired Modern and Fossil Invertebrate and Protist Research Collections at the SDSM&T Museum of Geology
    NSF DBI Collections in Support of Biological Research (2014-2018) With support from this grant we are curating and digitizing three recently acquired collections of modern and Neogene-age invertebrates and protists. The targeted collections represent ancient and recent shallow-marine environments and are a foundation for conservation paleobiology and contemporary ecological research. Materials include 1989-2011 field collections of PI Anderson, dissertation collections of co-PI Belanger, and an orphaned collection from the former University of South Dakota-Springfield.Outreach and educational activities of this project include the training of graduate and undergraduate students in modern curatorial techniques. College students will also be involved in designing exhibits for use in outreach to middle and high school students. Furthermore, the targeted specimens will be used in course development for the training of the next generation of museum curators, including students from state and tribal colleges. Participating students will be encouraged to become intellectually invested through the development of research projects using the collections.

  • Advancing Collections Digitization, Integration, and Access for the SDSM&T Museum of Geology
    IMLS Museums for America (2013-2017) This grant supports efforts to build a digital catalog for about 40,000 lots of paleontologic collections from the Cretaceous Western Interior Seaway housed in the Museum of Geology (MOG). The project is integrating collections of MOG-owned specimens with repository collections held in perpetuity for regional Federal, tribal, and state agencies. In addition, lots from the MOG's three main paleontological collections (vertebrate, invertebrate, and microfauna) will be united into one cataloging system allowing for greater data integration. Finally, critical ancillary documents housed in the MOG's archives will be linked to specimen lots within the digital catalog. Efforts supported by the proposed project will help build a significant fraction of the MOG digital catalog, make those data available via collections-search portals, and establish online and physical exhibits on the Cretaceous Western Interior Seaway.

  • Aquatic faunal survey of the lower Amazon
    NSF DEB (2012-2018) This grant supports a comprehensive survey of the free-living freshwater macrofauna of the lower Amazon basin by a team of 13 senior personnel from five nations. Will Crampton (University of Central Florida) is PI and I am co-PI on the grant. The team is conducting thorough species inventories of sponges, flatworms, annelids, mollusks, crustaceans, and fishes from all major aquatic habitats in a target area extending from the lower Rio Trombetas in Pará to the Maracá-Puçu drainage in Amapá. The massive deployment of taxonomic expertise will allow a large proportion of regional species diversity to be collected, identified, cataloged, and analyzed. Project products will include: 1) large, geo-referenced collections in premier natural history museums; 2) species descriptions and taxonomic revisions; 3) online and printed guides to the aquatic macrofauna, with illustrated keys and photographs; 4) a guide book to fishes of the lower Amazon; 5) databases of ecological information; 6) a detailed plan for the long-term monitoring of aquatic diversity in floodplain and forest stream systems; 7) a Tropical Biodiversity Field Course for US and Brazilian students; and 8) synthetic studies on the ecology and evolution of Amazonian aquatic organisms.

  • Evolution of the Corbulidae
    The evolutionary history of the Corbulidae (Bivalvia: Myoidea), especially as it relates to environmental, oceanographic, and climatic changes over the last 23 million years (Neogene) in tropical America, is long-standing project. This work has led to the exploration of topics that include 1) the role of constraint, innovation and heterochrony in the morphologic evolution; 2) phylogenetic reconstruction of Neogene corbulids of tropical America; and 3) phylogenetic reconstruction of freshwater radiation(s) of corbulid bivalves.

  • Coastal Ecosystems in response to perturbations associated with the Deepwater Horizon Spill (2010)
    This project investigates changes in coastal food webs caused by the Deepwater Horizon crude oil spill (2010), in particular, the responses by and effects on oysters and other molluscan primary consumers to the environmental stressors associated with the spill. The work includes histologic analysis of soft tissues, geochemical data from shells, and food web modeling.

contact: Dept. of Geology and Geological Engineering, 501 E. Saint Joseph St., SDSMT, Rapid City, SD 57701
phone: (605)394-1290 or -1212/ fax: (605)394-6703 / email: