I am undertaking a PhD on the Taxonomy and Dynamics of small Solar system objects, including the satellite systems of the giant planets and the Jovian Trojan Asteroids. The project includes adapting a taxonomic technique called Cladistics for use in the planetary sciences, with the aim of identifying families in the Jovian Trojan swarms. I am also using n-body simulations to examine the dynamics of the Jovian Trojans, within a taxonomic context. My hope is to provide a context for future use of cladistics in Planetary sciences, as well as the exploration of the Jovian Trojans.
Astrocladistics is a relatively new technique borrowed from biology. Cladistics, or phylogenetics is the processes used by biologists and paleontologists to create the 'Tree of Life'. In terms of astronomy, it has been used to investigate the taxonomy of Galaxies, globular clusters, Stars and Black holes. Personally, I have started to use the technique to look at the satellite systems of the Gas Giants. I am expanding the technique to look at the relationships within the Jovian Trojan swarms.
Small-Solar System Bodies and Exoplanets
Small Solar system bodies, including Asteroids, comets, KBO's and Satellites seem to fascinate me. There are over 750,000 of them in the solar system, with more being discovered daily. The rich diversity of objects throughout the solar system give lots of room to explore their taxonomy and dynamics. The emerging area of Exo-planets, and how our plants fit into the wider diversity of systems, also fascinates me.
Part of my heart will always be in Paleontology. Every kids goes through a Dinosaur phase, mine just happened to last all the way through undergraduate. While part of the UQ Dinosaur Lab i was lucky enough to go on several digs and help discover new species . I have published a paper describing a new species of fossil crocodilian from Australia, Kambara molnari. I still keep an active interest in paleontology, fossils, evolution and biology in general.
A natural crossover between my interests is of course astrobiology. I am intrigued as to the possibility of life outside of Earth. As to where, that will be, I keep an open mind, but hold to the philosophy of "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" - C. Sagan