K.E. Beth Townsend, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Anatomy

Midwestern University
Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine
Department of Anatomy
19555 N. 59th Avenue
Glendale, AZ, 85308

Office: 623-572-3332
Lab: 623-572-6332
email: btowns@midwestern.edu


B.A. University of Colorado-Boulder Biological Anthropology & French  1994
A.M. Washington University in St. Louis Biological Anthropology 1997
Ph.D. Washington University in St. Louis Biological Anthropology 2004
Post-Doctoral Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine  Paleoecology & Neuroanatomy 2008


The main focus of research in  my lab is to understand how shifts in local and global environments over geologic time influence the form and function of mammals. Global warming and increased mammalian diversity are thought to go hand in hand, but this phenomenon is not so clear for the terrestrial fossil faunas.  One reason for this lack of clarity is that global climatic events are typically discovered from the marine record and associating them with the terrestrial fossil record can be tenuous. The long-term goal of our research program is to understand the influence of large-scale climatic events and understand their influence (if any) on terrestrial systems. My research takes a three-pronged approach to evaluating this relationship between environment and evolution. First, I run an extensive field program, collecting middle Eocene (46.5-40.0 million years old) vertebrate fossils from the Uinta and Duchesne River Formations, of the Uinta Basin in northeastern Utah. Second, I study the relationship between diet and tooth wear, via microwear analysis. This allows us to infer dietary shifts within a stratigraphic sequence and evaluate any evolutionary changes in diet. Third, I work with students (both masters and veterinary) on anatomical studies of exotic mammalian taxa that are currently not well-understood within the zoological literature, these studies are highly informative to elucidating the anatomy of extinct mammals as we as understanding the anatomy of these animals for veterinary medicine as some exotic mammals become more common as pets.


Climate Change and Mammalian Diversity during the Middle Eocene of North America: My main research interest is to evaluate the terrestrial mammal evolutionary response during the ramp up to a global warming event, the Middle Eocene Climatic Optimum (MECO) that has been detected in the marine record. Both the middle Eocene Uinta and Duchesne River Formations, of the Uinta Basin in northeastern Utah (46.5-40.0 million years old) have yielded a spectacular array of well-preserved fossils that are well-suited for paleoecological studies. Prior investigations allow myself along with colleagues to:  1) build on our stratigraphic framework for the Uinta and Duchesne River Formations; 2) generate a high-resolution chemostratigraphic and pollen record for these fossil beds; and 3) develop a high-resolution biostratigraphy and faunally based habitat reconstruction via ecological diversity and mammalian niche structure analyses for the faunas of the Uinta and Duchesne River Formations. This work is done in collaboration with University of Rochester, Lamar University, San Diego Museum of Natural History, University of California - Los Angeles, and Grand Valley State University.

South American Mammalian Microwear Studies: My main research interest here is to continue to improve our vast database of modern caviomorph rodent microwear and apply these data to varied extinct South American mammals, rodents and also some smaller notoungulate taxa. We have shown that there is a relationship with modern caviomorph microwear and the known diets of these living rodents.  This work is dones in collaboration with Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, Smithsonian Institution, Museo de la Plata (La Plata, Argentina), Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales Bernardino Rivadavia (Buenos Aires, Argentina), Museo Nacional de Historia Naturale  (Montevideo, Uruguay), and The Field Museum.  We have recently applied these data to understand the dietary adaptations of the largest rodent everknown, Josephoartigasia monesi. Also, I have worked with Masters of Biological Sciences students on microwear studies of modern marsupials with the goal working towards understanding the diets of extinct marsupials.

Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy: In conjunction with the Phoenix Zoo, the Phoenix Herpetelogical Society, and a new initiative on the Midwestern University, Glendale, Arizona campus called ARCIVES (Arizona Research Collection for Integrative Vertebrate Education and Study), I am mentoring students and assisting faculty with the anatomical description of exotic vertebrates and aquisition of tissues to be used in various studies. The mission of ARCIVES is to generate a working collection of vertebrate specimens to  provide numerous clinical, anatomical, and functional research opportunities to CVM-MWU students, faculty, and outside researchers. The availability of a wide range of domestic and exotic specimens via the on-campus veterinary clinic and from the Phoenix Zoo would improve the understanding of the functional morphology and evolutionary anatomy of poorly documented species, facilitate advances in the understanding of domestic and exotic animal disease and development of new treatments, and yield advancements in the understanding of human disorders and treatments (One Health). Currently, a master's student in my lab is dissecting and analyzing the forelimb musculature of the kinkajou (Potos flavus, part of the ARCIVES collection). The kinkajou is rapidly becoming a common exotic pet and there is little known about its limb anatomy, veterinarians routinely assess health factors for domestic mammals via the limbs, hence the utility of our project.  Additionally, the kinkajou is the most primitive member of the carnivoran family Procyonidae (racoons and their kin) and our study of the anatomy of this arboreal, fruit-eating carnivore will be essential to understanding diversification of locomotor patterns among the procyonids.


Ramsey, K.H. Sigar, I.M., Schrpsema, J.H., Townsend, K.E., Barry, R.J., Peters, J., Platt, K.B. 2016. Detection of Chlamydia infection in Peromyscus species rodents from sylvatic and laboratory sources. Pathogens and Disease. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/femspd/ftv129 

Townsend KEB & Murphey PC. 2015. Fossil col-lection practices and their effect on museum collections composition. In MD Vanden Berg, R Ressetar & LP Birgenheier LP (Eds.) Geology of Utah's Uinta Basin and Uinta Mountains Publication 44. (pp.439-453). Salt Lake City, UT: Utah Geological Association.

Campisano, C.J., E.C. Kirk, K.E.B. Townsend, A.L. Deino. 2014. Geochronological and Taxonomic Revisions of the Middle Eocene Whistler Squat Quarry (Devil's Graveyard Formation, Texas) and Implications for the Early Uintan in Trans-Pecos Texas. PLosOne. 9(7): 1-21

G.C. Conroy, C.W. Emerson, R. L. Anemone, K.E. Beth Townsend. 2012. Let your fingers do the walking: a simple spectral signature model for "remote" fossil prospecting. Journal of Human Evolution. Volume 63 (1): 79-84

K.E. Beth Townsend and Aryeh Grossman. 2011. Book Review: Urumaco and Venezuelan Paleontology. Edited by Marcelo R. Sánchez-Villagra, Orangel A.Aguilera, Alfredo A. Carlini. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. $49.95. X + 286 p.; References and subject index. ISBN 978-0-253-35476. 2010. Quarterly Review of Biology.

Paul C. Murphey, K.E. Beth Townsend, Anthony R. Friscia, Emmett Evanoff. 2011. Paleontology and stratigraphy of middle Eocene rock units in the Bridger and Uinta Basins, Wyoming and Utah.  The Geological Society of America Field Guide 21: 125-164. 

Townsend, K.E. Beth, D.T. Rasmussen, P.C. Murphey, E. Evanoff. 2010. Middle Eocene habitat shifts in the North American western interior: A case study. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 297: 144-158.

Townsend, K.E. Beth and D. A. Croft. 2010. Middle Miocene Mesotheriine diversity at Cerdas, Bolivia and a reconsideration of PLESIOTYPOTHERIUM MINUS. Palaeontologia Electronica, 13(1).

Gunnell, G. F., P. C. Murphey, R. K. Stucky, K. E. Townsend, P. Robinson, J.-P. Zonneveld, and W. S. Bartels. 2009. Biostratigraphy and Biochronology of the latest Wasatchian, Bridgerian and Uintan North American Land-Mammal "Ages". Papers on Geology, Vertebrate Paleontology, and Biostratigraphy in Honor of Michael O. Woodburne.  L. Barry Albright III and Judd S. Case, editors.  Museum of Northern Arizona Bulletin, 65.

Townsend, K. E. Beth and D. A. Croft. 2008. Enamel microwear in caviomorph rodents. Journal of Mammalogy. 89(3):729-742.

Townsend, K. E. Beth and D. A. Croft. 2008. Diets of Notoungulates from the Santa Cruz Formation, Argentina: New Evidence from Enamel Microwear. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

Townsend, K.E., A. R. Friscia, D. T. Rasmussen. 2006.  Stratigraphic distribution of upper middle Eocene fossil vertebrate localities in the eastern Uinta Basin, Utah, with comments on Uintan biostratigraphy. Mountain Geologist, 43(2): 115-134.