Cindy Looy

Research Expertise and Interest

paleoecology, paleobotany, palynology

Research Description

Cindy Looy is a professor in the Department of Integrative Biology and a plant ecologist who tumbled down the rabbit hole of deep time. As a notorious subject hopper Cin's interests are all over the place, however a common denominator in much of her work is the response of plants and plant communities to major environmental change and its evolutionary consequences. Her primary interest is investigating aspects of the terrestrial end-Permian biotic crisis and its aftermath, and the terrestrial consequences of the transition from a glacial-dominated ice-house world to an ice-free greenhouse one—going from the late Carboniferous to the middle Permian. Although she likes almost all things green (even after they stopped being green 100s of millions of years ago), she has a soft spot for conifers and lycophytes.

In the News

Pacific Kelp Forests Are Far Older Than We Thought

A new UC Berkeley study shows that kelp flourished off the Northwest Coast more than 32 million years ago, long before the appearance of modern groups of marine mammals, sea urchins, birds and bivalves that today call the forests home.

Women don beards to highlight gender bias in science

When you picture a geologist or paleontologist tramping through steep, eroded badlands in search of rocks or bones, does that scientist have a beard? For many people, including women, the answer is yes, which spurred dozens of paleontologists around the world – all of them women – to glue on beards for photos now being exhibited at the Lawrence Hall of Science (LHS) at the University of California, Berkeley. The ironic message of the Bearded Lady Project is that, contrary to the persisting stereotype, you don’t have to be a man to love fieldwork and contribute to science; in fact: many field scientists are not.

Graduate student brings extinct plants to life

When Berkeley graduate student Jeff Benca submitted a paper describing a new species of long-extinct lycopod, he ditched the standard line drawing and insisted on a detailed color reconstruction of the plant. This piece earned the cover of the American Journal of Botany.

Hindcasting helps scientists improve forecasts for life on Earth

Scientists at UC Berkeley have launched a unique program, the Berkeley Initiative in Global Change Biology, to use hindcasting – “predicting” what happened during past episodes of climate change – to improve the reliability and accuracy of computer models that forecast how plants and animals will adapt to a changing planet.

Scientists Core Into Clear Lake to Explore Past Climate Change

One of the oldest lakes in the world, Clear Lake has deep sediments that contain a record of the climate and local plants and animals going back perhaps 500,000 years. UC Berkeley scientists are drilling cores from the lake sediments to explore this history and fine-tune models for predicting the fate of today’s flora and fauna in the face of global warming and pressure from a burgeoning human populations.

Fungi helped destroy forests during mass extinction 250 million years ago

The Permian extinction 250 million years ago was the largest mass extinction on record, and among the losers were conifers that originally blanketed the supercontinent of Pangaea. Now researchers say that climate change led to the proliferation of tree-killing soil fungi that helped destroy the forests – something that could happen as a consequence of global warming today.

Featured in the Media

Please note: The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or positions of UC Berkeley.
January 23, 2024
Ari Daniel

Kelp was likely available as a food source for ancient marine mammals, said senior author Cindy Looy, a professor of integrative biology. 

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