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Lauren Lyon

Research Interest

comparative vertebrate anatomy, niche modeling, wildlife conservation, paleontology

Faculty Advisor(s)


Degree Pursuing



Doctor of Philosophy in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology- University of Tennessee at Knoxville (in progress)
Master of Science in Geosciences - East Tennessee State University (2017)
Bachelor of Science in Biology - cum laude - University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (2015)


My love for comparative anatomy drove me to pursue a Biology BS from UT Chattanooga. I was fortunate enough to gain two publications on fossil armadillos and sloths with the aid of my undergraduate adviser Dr. Gaudin. My presentation on fossil sloth premaxillae at a regional conference (SeAVP, 2014; Jackson, MS) attracted the attention of paleontologists at ETSU. I was offered a position in their Geosciences department as an MS student, where I began work describing the most complete fossil red panda skeleton in the entire world. Though my love of comparative anatomy was great, upon the completion of a niche modeling course with Dr. Joyner, I had enough material for a thesis from that class alone. I switched projects halfway through my degree and fell in love with conservation and niche modeling. As of May 2018, a major chapter of my thesis (Contributing Abiotic Factors in Predicting the Range of Ailurus fulgens; Habitat Preferences and Conservation Implications) is in peer-review through PeerJ, and I was fortunate enough to be accepted into Dr. Papes' lab at UTK. For my dissertation, I want to switch focus to regional animals (Appalachian Mountains) and work on conservation in the Smoky Mountains.


My research focuses on a variety of mammals, and interests include: comparative vertebrate anatomy, niche modeling, wildlife conservation, paleontology. For my dissertation I wish focus to the local wildlife of the Appalachian Mountains. My primary focus is creating niche models for local mammals, particularly small, often overlooked mammals (those less popular with the mass public than black bears or elk but still critical to the ecosystem), and field testing the accuracy of these predictions. Some major questions are:
How do anthropogenic influences change distribution?
How does interspecific competition factor into smaller scale models?
How accurate are models based solely on climate variables in creating a proxy for distribution?

Awards and Recognitions

The Kincaid Mills Gift Fund through the East Tennessee State University Don Sundquist Center of Excellence in Paleontology
An award to fund an exemplary paleontology student to dig at the Gray Fossil Site for the summer field season.
Awarded for the summer of 2015 and 2016


Lyon, L. M., S. C. Wallace, and T. A. Joyner. 2017. Niche Modeling of the Extant Ailurid Taxon to Improve Sampling Probability of Extinct Relatives (Carnivora, Musteloidea). Society of Vertebrate Paleontology 77th Annual Meeting, Calgary, Canada.

Lyon, L. M., T. A. Joyner. 2017. Predicting the Current Range of Ailurus fulgens: Habitat Preferences and Conservation Implications. American Association of Geographers 2017 Annual Meeting. Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

Lyon, L. M., S. C. Wallace, M. J. Salesa, G. Siliceo, and M. Anton. 2016. Anatomical comparison of the postcranial skeleton of the extant red panda, Ailurus fulgens, to the extinct Late Miocene ailurids Simocyon batalleri and Pristinailurus bristoli (Carnivora, Ailuridae). Society of Vertebrate Paleontology 76th Annual Meeting, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.

Lyon, L. M., and S. C. Wallace. 2016. Shoulder-to-shoulder with Bristol’s former panda: Pristinailurus bristoli (Carnivora, Ailuridae). Southeastern Association of Vertebrate Paleontology 9th Annual Meeting, Virginia Museum of Natural History, Martinsville, Virginia, USA.

Lyon, L. M., and T. J. Gaudin. 2015. Cranial osteology of Holmesina floridanus (Mammalia, Xenarthra, Cingulata, Pampatheriidae) from the Pliocene of Florida. Association of Southeastern Biologists 76th Annual Meeting, Chattanooga, Tennessee, USA.

Lyon, L. M., and T. J. Gaudin. 2014. Premaxillae of extinct megalonychid sloths Acratocnus, Neoconus, and Megalonyx, and their phylogenetic implications (Xenarthra, Mammalia). Southeastern Association of Vertebrate Paleontology 7th Annual Meeting, Jackson, Mississippi, USA.

Contact Information