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Rachel Ann Merz

  • BS, Biology, Western New Mexico University
  • MS, Zoology, University of Florida
  • Ph.D., Anatomy, The University of Chicago
  • Post Doc, Northeastern University

Rachel Merz is a functional morphologist, a biologist who uses theories and techniques borrowed from engineering to ask questions about the evolution and ecology of invertebrate animals. Growing up in the high desert of New Mexico, she nonetheless developed a deep interest in Marine Biology and received an MS from the University of Florida. In 1979, as a doctoral student at The University of Chicago, she traveled to the University of Washington’s Friday Harbor Laboratories for a course in Biomechanics, and eventually developed her dissertation project based on field sites here on San Juan Island. A postdoctoral position at Northeastern University’s marine laboratory in Nahant, MA was followed by a 33-year career at Swarthmore College, where in addition to teaching Introductory Biology, Marine Biology, Invertebrate Biology, Paleontology, and Biomechanics, she served as Chair of the Biology Department and of the Division of Natural Sciences and Engineering, as well as being co-chair of the committee responsible for design and development of Swarthmore’s Science Center. In both her research and teaching she has incorporated field- and lab-based techniques that have allowed her and her students to ask, and try to answer, questions of nature.