Ryan Bebej


Ryan Bebej

Education

  • B.S. in Biology (with honors), Calvin College, 2005
  • Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Michigan, 2011

Professional Experience

  • Calvin University, Associate Professor of Biology (2019–present)
  • Calvin College, Assistant Professor of Biology (2012–2019)
  • Olivet Nazarene University, Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences (2011–2012)

Professional Website

Biography

I grew up in central Illinois and graduated from Calvin in 2005. I moved on to the University of Michigan, where I earned a Ph.D. in ecology and evolutionary biology in 2011. After spending a year as a professor at Olivet Nazarene University, I returned to Calvin and joined the Department of Biology in 2012. Outside of academia, I enjoy German tabletop games, science fiction (especially Star Wars), super heroes, rooting for the St. Louis Cardinals and Michigan Wolverines, and exploring nature with my wife and two sons.

What it's like to learn in my classroom

In my classes, we focus a lot on details. Whether we are discussing the potential pathways of individual neurons in the sympathetic nervous system, the array of physiological mechanisms that work together to combat a decrease in blood pressure, or the various theological implications of evolutionary theory, I encourage students to resist the urge to oversimplify. The bodies we inhabit are incredibly complex, and so is the world we live in. I push students to honor that complexity by digging into the details, giving them a richer appreciation for how their bodies move, hear, and breathe, but also helping them to see that a deep and nuanced understanding of the world is necessary to cope with many of the complicated issues we are dealing with in the 21st century.

Academic interests

I am interested in comparative anatomy, functional morphology, vertebrate paleontology, and the evolutionary history of mammals (especially aquatic mammals). I mostly teach courses courses related to anatomy and physiology, but I have also co-led off-campus courses in Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands, and New Zealand.

I am also deeply interested in the relationship between science and Christian faith. I have been a speaker for the BioLogos Foundation since 2016 and frequently speak at churches and schools about evolutionary science and Christianity. In addition, I have been a Scholarship and Christianity in Oxford (SCIO) visiting scholar in science and religion and a participant in SCIO's Bridging the Two Cultures of Science and the Humanities II program.

Research and scholarship

In the past, I have worked on fossil horses and pinnipeds, but most of my research has focused on fossil cetaceans. For my doctoral work, I studied an enigmatic group of fossil whales from the middle Eocene of Pakistan called remingtonocetids. My research focused on their postcranial skeleton and utilized multivariate statistical analyses and three-dimensional multibody dynamic models to test hypotheses of vertebral function. In 2009, I spent two months on a paleontological dig in Egypt, where I helped to excavate the skeletons of fossil whales at Wadi Al-Hitan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Egypt's western desert. I routinely work in research collections at museums, where I study the anatomies of modern mammals to aid in the interpretation of fossil forms.

My current research focuses on the transition from foot-powered to tail-powered swimming in the earliest fossil cetaceans. I am also working on an interdisciplinary project exploring the theological ramifications of pre-human animal death and suffering that are a part of the evolutionary process.

Publications

K.M. Smith, A.K. Hastings, R.M. Bebej, M.D. Uhen. 2021. Biogeographic, stratigraphic, and environmental distribution of Basilosaurus (Mammalia, Cetacea) in North America with a review of the late Eocene shoreline in the southeastern coastal plain. Journal of Paleontology. DOI: 10.1017/jpa.2021.90

R.M. Bebej, C. Curia. 2020. Book review: Jesus Loves You and Evolution Is True: Why Youth Ministry Needs Science by Sara Sybesma Tolsma and Jason Lief. Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 72: 185–186.

R.M. Bebej. 2019. Book review: The Rhinoceros and the Megatherium: An Essay in Natural History by Juan Pimentel. Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 71: 57-58.

R.M. Bebej. 2018. Book review: The Rise of Marine Mammals: 50 Million Years of Evolution by Annalisa Berta. Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 70: 275-276.

R.M. Bebej, K.M. Smith. 2018. Lumbar mobility in archaeocetes (Mammalia: Cetacea) and the evolution of aquatic locomotion in the earliest whales. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 182: 695-721. DOI: 10.1093/zoolinnean/zlx058

P.D. Gingerich, K. Heissig, R.M. Bebej, W. von Koenigswald. 2017. Astragali of Pakicetidae and other early-to-middle Eocene archaeocetes (Mammalia, Cetacea) of Pakistan: locomotion and habitat in the initial stages of whale evolution. Paläontologische Zeitschrift 91: 601-627. DOI: 10.1007/s12542-017-0362-8

R.M. Bebej. 2017. Book review: Cetacean Paleobiology by Felix G. Marx, Olivier Lambert, and Mark D. Uhen. Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 69: 113-114.

R.M. Bebej, I.S. Zalmout, A.A. Abed El-Aziz, M.S.M. Antar, P.D. Gingerich. 2015. First remingtonocetid archaeocete (Mammalia, Cetacea) from the middle Eocene of Egypt with implications for locomotion and biogeography in early cetacean evolution. Journal of Paleontology 89: 882-893. DOI: 10.1017/jpa.2015.57

R.M. Bebej. 2013. Book review: Evolution and Belief: Confessions of a Religious Paleontologist by Robert J. Asher. Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 65: 56-58.

R.M. Bebej, M. ul-Haq, I.S. Zalmout, and P.D. Gingerich. 2012. Morphology and function of the vertebral column in Remingtonocetus domandaensis (Mammalia, Cetacea) from the middle Eocene Domanda Formation of Pakistan. Journal of Mammalian Evolution 19: 77-104. DOI: 10.1007/s10914-011-9184-8

A.R. Wood, R.M. Bebej, C.L. Manz, D.L. Begun, and P.D. Gingerich. 2011. Postcranial functional morphology of Hyracotherium (Equidae, Perissodactyla) and locomotion in the earliest horses. Journal of Mammalian Evolution 18: 1-32. DOI: 10.1007/s10914-010-9145-7

R.M. Bebej. 2009. Swimming mode inferred from skeletal proportions in the fossil pinnipeds Enaliarctos and Allodesmus (Mammalia, Carnivora). Journal of Mammalian Evolution 16: 77-97. DOI: 10.1007/s10914-008-9099-1

Online Articles

R.M. Bebej. 2022. Evolutionary theodicies, humility, and hope. Christian Scholar's Reivew.

R.M. Bebej. 2021. A sea of gifts: caring for marine creatures. BioLogos Foundation.

R.M. Bebej. 2020. Defending the tale of the whale. BioLogos Foundation.

R.M. Bebej. 2019. Biological death: part of God's "good" creation? BioLogos Foundation.

R.M. Bebej. 2018. My favorite fossil: Maiacetus inuus. BioLogos Foundation.

R.M. Bebej. 2018. From young-earth creationist to whale evolution expert: my story. BioLogos Foundation.

R.M. Bebej. 2017. A whale of an argument. BioLogos Foundation.

R.M. Bebej. 2016. Celebrating 10 years of The Language of God. Think Christian.

Awards

  • 2020 Calvin University Advising and Mentoring Award
  • 2018-2019 Scholarship and Christianity in Oxford (SCIO) visiting scholar in science and religion
  • 2017 Calvin College Professor of the Year (presented by Calvin College K4L: Student Alumni Association)

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