TED Fellow Lauren Sallan is a paleobiologist using big data analytics to reveal how macroevolution, or evolution happens at the largest scales, happens.

Why you should listen

Lauren Sallan uses the vast fossil record of fishes as a deep time database, mining to find out why some species persist and diversify while others die off. She has used these methods to discover the lost, largest, "sixth" mass extinction of vertebrates; the end-Devonian Hangenberg event (359 million years ago), reveal how fish heads changed first during their rise to dominance; test why some species thrive after global disruptions while others flounder; and show how invasions by new predators can shift prey diversity at global scales.

Sallan is the Martin Meyerson Assistant Professor in Interdisciplinary Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, based in the Department Earth and Environmental Science, and became a TED Fellow in 2017. Her research has been published in Science, PNAS and Current Biology. It has also been featured in the New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, Forbes, the New Scientist, the Discovery Channel and the recent popular science book, The Ends of the World by Peter Brannen.

Lauren Sallan’s TED talk

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Gallery: Who won the evolutionary race in our oceans?

April 25, 2017

TED Fellow Lauren Sallan is a paleobiologist who analyzes “big data” — the fossil record — to study large-scale evolution. As she says: “I want to know why some fishes win and others lose.” Here’s the story of her talk, in amazing work from illustrator and animator Dennis Moore.    

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