Estimating the duration of extinction using fossil records: An MLE approach
How long does an extinction last? Last summer, I researched statistical paleontology under the supervision of Professor Steve Wang. Our goal was to derive statistical methods to estimate the duration of extinctions based on fossil records of species living in the same epoch. Previous methods to estimate the duration assume that fossils of each species are equally likely to be found throughout the period in which the species lived. In reality, such an assumption does not hold: as species were on the verge of extinction, their population dwindled, and fewer fossils in this stage would be found as a result (i.e. diminishing recovery potential). Our research group sought to develop from previous work an estimation method that takes the diminishing recovery potential into account using maximum likelihood estimates.