- Fisher Professor of Natural History
- Curator of the Paleobotanical Collections
- Knoll Lab
Members of the Knoll lab are broadly interested in the evolution of life, the evolution of Earth surface environments, and the relationships between the two. We are particularly interested in Archean and Proterozoic paleontology and biogeochemistry; however, both past and current projects include investigations of selected problems in Phanerozoic Earth history. Motivating evolutionary issues include the diversification of prokaryotic metabolisms on the Precambrian Earth, the initial radiation of eukaryotic life, and the rise of large complex algae and animals near the end of the Proterozoic Eon. Current projects that address these issues include coupled paleontological/biogeochemical work on late Archean basins from southern Africa and Australia, mid-Proterozoic basins in Australia, and Neoproterozoic-Cambrian successions in northern Russia and Australia. In a genuine extension of this research, we are also involved actively in Mars exploration, both as part of the 2004 MER missions and in planning for future landings. In other work, our lab is engaged in studies of Triassic recovery from end-Permian mass extinction and, more broadly, in an effort to apply physiological insights to problems of Paleozoic biological and environmental evolution. Specific research in the latter area includes combined microchemical/anatomical analyses designed to provide quantitative estimates of whole plant physiological performance in extinct vascular plants.