David William Bapst

David William Bapst

2023 ConocoPhillips Data Science Faculty Fellow

Instructional Assistant Professor

Quantitative Paleobiology, Stochastic Models, Incompleteness of Geological Records, Computational Phylogenetics, Macroevolutionary Theory, Paleozoic Graptolites


  (979) 845-2451

  Halbouty 169


I am an analytical paleobiologist, focused how we infer evolutionary relationships in the fossil record, date when lineages diverge from each other, and how we can use relationships among extinct organisms to say something about evolutionary processes in deep time. I work on whatever group of organism is best for a particular question (because every fossil record is different), so my research includes everything from living brachiopods to fossil birds. I most often work on the planktonic graptolites, a group of colonial zooplankton that diversified rapidly and went extinct during the Ordovician, Silurian and Devonian periods, hundreds of millions of years ago. Graptolites have a fantastically detailed fossil record for asking evolutionary questions, but they have also long been important as a biostratigraphic tool in economic geology in the early Paleozoic.

Selected Publications

Hopkins, M. J., D. W. Bapst, C. Simpson, and R. C. M. Warnock. 2018. The inseparability of sampling and time and its influence on attempts to unify the molecular and fossil records. Paleobiology. 44(4):561-574.

Bapst, D. W., H. A. Schreiber, and S. J. Carlson. 2018. Combined Analysis of Extant Rhynchonellida (Brachiopoda) using Morphological and Molecular Data. Systematic Biology. 67(1):32-48. doi: 10.1093/sysbio/syx049 (Open Access)

Bapst, D. W. and M. J. Hopkins. 2017. Comparing cal3 and other a posteriori time-scaling approaches in a case study with the pterocephaliid trilobites. Paleobiology. 43(1):49-67. doi: 10.1017/pab.2016.34

Lloyd, G. T., D. W. Bapst, M. Friedman, and K. E. Davis. 2016. Probabilistic divergence time estimation without branch lengths: dating the origins of dinosaurs, avian flight and crown birds. Biology Letters. 12(11). doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2016.0609 (Open Access)

Bapst, D. W., A. M. Wright, N. J. Matzke, and G. T. Lloyd. 2016. Topology, divergence dates, and macroevolutionary inferences vary between different tip-dating approaches applied to fossil theropods (Dinosauria). Biology Letters. 12(7). doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2016.0237

Bapst, D. W. 2014. Preparing paleontological datasets for phylogenetic comparative methods. Pp. 515-544. In L. Z. Garamszegi, ed. Modern Phylogenetic Comparative Methods and Their Application in Evolutionary Biology. Springer Berlin Heidelberg. doi:10.1007/978-3-662-43550-2_22 (Invited Submission) 

Bapst, D. W. 2014. Assessing the effect of time-scaling methods on phylogeny-based analyses in the fossil record. Paleobiology. 40(3):331-351. doi:10.1666/13033

Bapst, D. W. 2013. A stochastic rate-calibrated method for time-scaling phylogenies of fossil taxa. Methods in Ecology and Evolution. 4(8):724-733. doi:10.1111/2041-210X.12081 (Invited Submission)

Bapst, D. W. 2013. When can clades be potentially resolved with morphology? PLoS ONE 8(4):e62312. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0062312

Bapst, D. W. 2012. paleotree: an R package for paleontological and phylogenetic analyses of evolution. Methods in Ecology and Evolution 3: 803-807. doi:10.1111/j.2041-210X.2012.00223.x

Bapst, D. W., P. C. Bollock, M. J. Melchin, H. D. Sheets, and C. E. Mitchell. 2012. Graptoloid diversity and disparity became decoupled during the Ordovician mass extinction. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 109(9):3428-3433. doi:10.1073/pnas.1113870109 (Press Release Link or bit.ly/AD2T0S)


University of Chicago. Geophysical Sciences. PhD, 2013 (Advisor: Michael Foote)

State University of New York at Buffalo. Geology. Bachelor of Science, 2007

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