Whipple-Coddington Professor of Geology

My research interests span a wide range of geobiological disciplines including taphonomy of macrofossil and dispersed organic matter, paleoecology (synecology and autecology), and the integration of paleontological data for depositional environment interpretation. I have been publishing on results of my plant taphonomic investigations for almost fifteen years, and have focused my attention on coastal and nearshore settings in the tropics and subtropics. These studies have been basic to understanding the plant megafossil record of not only the Permo-Carboniferous, but of the Paleophytic. Where subfossil plants have not been found, I have shifted my research towards the palynological record to determine the applicability and fidelity of this data set. There are many untested assumptions under which we utilize and interpret paleontological data; only the advent of empirical studies have allowed us to better understand what we collect in the stratigraphic record. Without cognizance of the underlying mechanisms responsible for a fossil assemblage, higher-level data syntheses are fraught with problems. Hence, my results have been used globally to ground-truth investigations of ancient terrestrial ecosystems. I have applied my own taphonomic investigations to a wide diversity of pre-angiosperm and angiosperm paleoecological studies, and believe that the conclusions I have drawn from these efforts are firmly grounded.

Within the past several years, I have begun to examine local, regional, and global vegetational response to the transition from an icehouse to greenhouse world. There is only one time in Earth history when a vegetated landscape experienced this transition -- the Permo-Carboniferous. Other periods of pronounced greenhouse climate (Late Cretaceous or Eocene) do not reflect the climate transition; rather, these intervals represent thermal maxima within long-persistent greenhouse intervals. In any period of rapid environmental modification it is crucial to understand the fundamental principles that underlie vegetational change and recovery from disturbance at a variety of scales. Hence, I've been investigating the deep-past tropical data set from both coastal-plain settings of the U.S. and Europe, and intermontane basins of central Europe. I am presently involved in a collaborative project with scientists from the Czech Republic to assess whether or not Late Carboniferous vegetational response is synchronous or asynchronous throughout the paleotropics. These data will provide us some indication relative to timing of landscape modification and portents to major biotic turnover we have documented in the Late Pennsylvanian and, again, in the Permian.

This site was last modified on: Thursday, 19-Aug-1999 15:10:05 EDT

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