Since 2014 I have developed my philosophical research in collaboration with Kevin de Queiroz and other scientists at the National Museum of Natural History.
Through the museum, I became a "philosophy consultant" for Harry W. Greene, one of the principal advocates for Pleistocene rewilding. Harry has contributed directly to my teaching and to my view that virtue ethics is the most promising approach to an environmental ethic.
At Caltech I have developed a research collaboration with Sam Sweet (University of California, Santa Barbara). Sam has led a field expedition for my class, challenged my views about the theory of evolution, and deepened my apprecation for evolutionary developmental biology.
I thank Olivier Rieppel & Scott Lidgard (Field Museum of Natural History) for bi-weekly discussions during my time at Notre Dame, and subsequent correspondence.
I have been delighted to assist as a citizen and to involve my students in the following research projects.
Amanda Zellmer (Occidental College) researches salamanders that hang out up to 3 meters underground for most of the year. When the rains come, salamanders surface to eat and reproduce. They can only surface when the leaf litter is wet because they breathe through their moist skins. Compiling data about salamander distribution enables us to identify particular strips of habitat - behind a McDonald's or along the railroad track - that maintain connectivity of salamander populations across L.A. Amanda updates conservation models that treat urban areas as uniform grey space. I contribute by searching for and photographing salamanders in the L.A. area. I have also assisted Amanda's student Tatum Kat who studies the occurrence of chytrid fungus in local amphibians.
Greg Pauly (Natural History Museum of Los Angeles) tracks the introduction of Italian wall lizards and brahminy blind snakes to California. Brahminy blind snakes are rapidly becoming the most widespread vertebrate on earth other than humans. Landscaping pots and other materials sold at Home Depot, Lowe's, etc. frequently contain blind snakes or their eggs. These snakes are all female and reproduce asexually (which raises various issues for philosophical arguments about species). To study the interactions of these introduced species with natives, Greg maintains the RASCals project (Reptiles and Amphibians of Southern California) in collaboration with the San Diego Natural History Museum. Citizens like me contribute by uploading photographs and locality data through iNaturalist. My students recorded a rare siting of a hatchling Crotalus oreganus helleri (Southern Pacific Rattlesnake).
Brian Hinds, Brian Hubbs, and others have been incredibly successful in moving amateur and semi-professional herp culture from collection (poaching) to documentation. Instead of collecting a cool snake to show a handful of your friends, you can now upload photos of the cool snake that you found to a mass audience on the HERP website. All sorts of research projects draw on HERP data. I contribute data and have been fortunate to learn natural history skills from Brian Hinds.
We found the last and toughest salamander in this bulldozed area by the railroad tracks.
Rattlesnake hatchling found by my students, 2016.
Juvenile alligator lizard.
It is possible that we jumped some railroad tracks, trespassing signs, etc., for science. Also possible we brought a wonderful little girl with us.
Caltech physics student Ben Bartlett and I are co-authoring a critique of Robert Brandon's zero-force law.
The Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study brings together philosophers, historians, scientists, and theologians. My 2015 Fellowship there resulted in a paper in anthropologist Ilana Gershon's forthcoming volume, How to Do Things with Animals.
The American Institute of Physics sponsored my presentation, Reduction & Reform in Classificatory Mineralogy at their Biennial Early-Career Conference, 6-10 April 2016.