I am a plant ecologist who investigates the response of Paleozoic plants and plant communities to environmental change during periods of mass extinction and deglaciation, and the possible evolutionary consequences. My primary research is focused on several aspects of the end-Permian biotic crisis and its aftermath, and the transition from a glacial-dominated world to an ice-free one during the Late Carboniferous to the Middle Permian. My studies strongly rely on an interdisciplinary approach combining quantitative palynological and paleobotanical data with organic geochemistry, isotope analysis, marine paleontology, biostratigraphy, ecology and plant physiology.
In the News
The whirling, winged seeds of today’s conifers are an engineering wonder and, as UC Berkeley, scientists show, a result of about 270 million years of evolution by trees experimenting with the best way to disperse their seeds.
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.
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.
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.
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.