Faculty by Research Area

Paleobiology

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Ambrose Ambrose,  Stanley

ambrose@illinois.edu
217-244-3504

Professor
PEEC

C cheng Cheng,  C.-H. Christina

c-cheng@illinois.edu
17E Burrill Hall
217-333-2832

Professor
Animal Biology, PEEC

Fhu Hu,  Feng Sheng

fshu@illinois.edu
265 Morrill Hall
217-244-2982

Professor and Dean of LAS, and a Ralph E. Grim Professor of Geology
Plant Biology, School of Integrative Biology, PEEC

I work at the interfaces of biological, geological and climatological sciences. The overall objective of my research is to understand patterns and mechanisms of long-term ecosystem dynamics under changing climatic conditions. To achieve this objective, I use "the natural experiments of the past" that are archived in geological deposits. These deposits offer a long-term holistic perspective into past environmental conditions, some of which do not exist today but may be analogs of different climatic conditions in the future. In pursuing my research interests, I integrate traditional paleoecological analyses and state-of-the-art analytical tools (e.g., genomic, isotopic, and numerical-modeling techniques). My students and I have conducted field research from the tropics to the Arctic to address a wide array of global change questions. We have authored more than 100 scholarly articles in top-tier disciplinary and interdisciplinary journals. I served as Head of the Department of Plant Biology from 2008-2014, and am currently Associate Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences where I work with the science departments to promote research, teaching, innovation, and public service. Despite my administrative duties, I continue to enjoy working closely with my students on their research projects. Prospective graduate students are encouraged to contact me directly to explore research of mutual interest.
Photo Punyasena,  Surangi

spunya1@illinois.edu
139 Morrill Hall
217-244-8049

Associate Professor
Plant Biology, PEEC

My research focuses on the role that climate has played in the long-term evolution of Neotropical forests, primarily through the reconstruction of paleoecological and macroevolutionary trends of individual plant clades from the fossil pollen record. Despite its modest standing in the popular imagination, fossil pollen is an ideal source for paleoecological information. The palynological record is one of the most ubiquitous terrestrial fossil records. Pollen and spores are abundant, resist degradation, and are found at the bottom of most water bodies, past or present. For this reason, the palynological record is expressly suited for quantitative analyses of continuous, long-term trends in plant ecology and evolution, including time-series analysis of origination and extinction rates, migration, and functional morphological evolution. Paleoecological analyses complement neo-ecological approaches to the study of Neotropical forest composition, diversity, and structure, providing extensive temporal information that is unattainable through other forms of investigation. My approach to understanding the relationship between plant diversity and climate has been multifaceted, investigating both modern spatial and Holocene/Late Quaternary temporal patterns in Neotropical vegetation. Current research includes (1) exploring Quaternary and deep-time (pre-Quaternary) patterns of tropical plant diversity, ecology, and evolutionary change; (2) developing and applying quantitative vegetation models of paleotemperature and paleoprecipitation; and (3) developing quantitative measures of pollen morphology. The aim of this interdisciplinary research program is to develop a temporal picture of tropical forest evolution in order to better understand how community composition and functional ecology are affected by climatic change. The results provide a means of testing regional and global climate models, as well as predicting the response of tropical forests to anthropogenic climate forcing.