As a conservation paleobiologist, Chris’s main interest is in understanding how species survived ancient mass extinctions and environmental crises so that present and future marine protected areas may be managed successfully. Her past and present research also includes Paleozoic sea urchin taxonomy and paleoecology, the paleoecological interactions of fossil encrusting organisms and the host organisms that they encrust, and northwest Pacific intertidal ecosystem change through “The Blob” heatwave events of 2014-2016 and 2019.
Professionally, Chris works as a reclamation paleontologist and as a geologist in the petroleum industry. Most of Chris’s past employment concerned the mapping of karst and geohazards in Devonian-aged strata beneath the Alberta tar sands, a major environmental concern for the escape of deep, hypersaline groundwater and subsurface-disposed wastewater. Her current employment continues in the same Devonian strata of Alberta but also includes the salvage of fossils from construction sites and the curation of those fossils into Alberta museum collections. Her present work and research takes her into liaison opportunities between First Nations, industry, government, museums, and academia.
Chris received her bachelor’s degrees in geology and archaeology from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities and her Ph.D. in paleoecology from the University of Texas. While in the U.S., she taught at Cornell College, Appalachian State University, California State University Bakersfield, and Colorado College, and spent a year as AAUW American Postdoctoral Fellow at U.C. Davis. While the Canadian leg of her professional journey has led her along a non-academic path, Chris won awards for her research at international conferences and has given keynote and invited lectures in paleoecology across North America and in Europe. In addition to authoring peer-reviewed papers and government reports, Chris is co-editor for two books (Marine Conservation Paleobiology and another forthcoming from Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution on conservation paleobiology and conservation management).
In her spare time, Chris is a musician, dancer, fiction writer, and “armchair” linguist. She lives happily with her paleontologist husband, Lindsey Leighton, and a clowder of rescue cats.