Jon Mitchell graduated from CEB in 2015. Please see his entry on the CEB Alumni Page to see what he is currently doing!
Jon Mitchell studies how ecological processes observed in the modern world have influenced the history of life. Most of his research has looked at the ecological radiation of birds, and how food web dynamics can predict extinction. He has collected data on fossil birds from China, Germany, and Belgium, while collecting information on modern birds from collections at the American Museum, Smithsonian Institution and especially the excellent collections at the Field Museum in Chicago. His results show how to best reconstruct the diet and habits of long extinct birds, how a bird’s habitat choice influences the probability of preservation, and that birds diversified ecologically much faster than would be expected if modern birds alone were considered. His food web research has focused on testing models used by conservation biologists meant to predict extinctions, and applying them to the fossil record where we know what the actual extinctions were. By fitting models to the ecosystems present in one layer of rock, and seeing how well those models predict what species make it to the next layer of rock, he is working to further our understanding of how to predict extinctions and understand ancient environments.
As a graduate student in Chicago, Jon has worked closely with the Field Museum’s Education Department. He regularly works with Chicago Public School teachers, the Boy Scouts of America, and the general public by giving tours, helping proofread lesson plans, as well as giving lectures and presentations. He has also worked with other Chicago educational programs, such as City Year and the Garfield Park Conservatory.