Simon Scarpetta headshot

Simon Scarpetta

Assistant Professor


Simon Scarpetta is an evolutionary biologist, paleontologist, and herpetologist with a particular appreciation for lizards and salamanders. He received a PhD in Geosciences from The University of Texas at Austin in 2021, and recently finished an NSF Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Biology at UC Berkeley. His research incorporates molecular and paleontological data to determine evolutionary relationships and timescales of the lizards of North America, in the context of climatic changes through geologic time. Current research focuses on phylogenomics and historical biogeography of iguanas, horned lizards, and their relatives, osteology and computed tomography of alligator lizards, and Pleistocene lizard, snake, and frog fossils from Texas and Maryland. Phylogenetics, fossils, molecular biology lab techniques, field biology, and modeling all figure prominently in his research.

At USF, Simon is excited to teach Climate Change, Quantitative Methods, environmental science labs, and Research Methods in the ENVS and MSESM programs. He is passionate about working with and teaching undergraduate students and researchers.


  • Phylogenomics
  • Morphology
  • Computed tomography

Research Areas

  • Evolutionary biology
  • Vertebrate paleontology
  • Herpetology
  • Biogeography
  • Paleoecology


  • The University of Texas at Austin, PhD in Geosciences, 2021
  • Stanford University, BS in Biology (Specialization in Ecology and Evolution), 2014

Prior Experience

  • NSF Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Biology, Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, UC Berkeley
  • Graduate teaching assistant, The University of Texas at Austin
  • Senior conservation technician, Stanford University Conservation Program

Awards & Distinctions

  • Jackson School of Geosciences Best Graduate Paper Award Winner, The University of Texas at Austin, 2021        
  • NSF Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Biology, Rules of Life Program, National Science Foundation, 2021
  • Graduate Student Paper Competition Award, Texas Academy of Science, 2019

Selected Publications