Research Interests


Integrating the fossil record with molecular data: Evolution of modern diversity

Using both fossil (principally pollen and spores) and extant data (molecules), my research addresses the evolution of plants in deep-time and the factors affecting patterns in modern diversity.

The study of fossils provides information about extinction and diversification, whereas neobotanical data informs our understanding of the origin and diversification of extant species.


Origins of extant species diversity

The generation and maintenance of diversity is central to explaining patterns of modern species diversity. I use molecular data to understand the processes involved in generating and maintaining diversity. In particular, I am interested in ancient lineages such as ferns and cycads to address three major questions. What is the timeframe for the evolution of modern species? What is the diversification rate through time? What factors (biotic and abiotic) have influenced patterns in modern species diversity?

Plant macroevolution and the influence of climate

The history of life has been shaped, in part, by major environmental changes and rare events.  These major events in the history of life are known only because of fossil data.  Fossil data also provide quantitative evidence demonstrating the magnitude of turnover events and can track changes in geographic distributions. By understanding past events, responses to the current biodiversity crisis can be calibrated and predicted.  I am compiling a comprehensive database of pollen and spores from Australia that spans the Cretaceous to the Recent to examine climate change, macroevolution, and the origins of tropical diversity.

Synergistic Activities

Symposium: International Organization of Paleobotany Congress, Bonn, Germany, 2008.

Gathering the twigs and branches: reconstructing the gymnosperm tree of life.

Link to conference and symposia


Colloquium: Botanical Society of America Meeting, Chico, USA, 2006.

Bringing together the living and the dead: integrating extant and fossil biodiversity in evolutionary studies.

Link to colloquium speakers and schedule



NESCent Working Group

CLOCKWORK: a Triangle working group redefining interfaces for molecular biology and paleontology.

PI with J. Clarke, and B. Weigmann.

Link to Clockwork at NESCent



NESCent Working Group

FAMED: Fossil and Molecular Estimates of Divergence Times.


Link to FAMED at NESCent