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1. Cenozoic evolution of grasses and grazers
The evolution of grassland ecosystems was one of the most profound ecological changes of the past 65 million years, but many questions remain as to when it occurred and what triggered it. A traditional, yet untested assumption is that many animals (e.g., horses, dung beetles) evolved in lockstep with the spread of grass-dominated vegetation. I investigate these questions by using a novel source of paleobotanical data, plant silica (phytolith), integrated with information from, for example, sedimentology, modern ecology, plant anatomy, and vertebrate paleontology. This work entails paleontological and geologic fieldwork in areas such as the North American continental interior, the Pacific Northwest, Argentina, Turkey, Spain, and China, laboratory work, as well as systematic, statistical, and phylogenetic analysis. Many of these projects involve international collaborators including from Duke University, Geologic Survey of Turkey, Utrecht University, Netherlands, University of Helsinki, Finland, and National Museum of Natural Science, Madrid, Spain.
2. Origin, early diversification, and biogeography of the grass clade
Grasses evolved in the Late Cretaceous, in parallel with the break-up of Gondwana. It is less clear how this species-rich and ecologically important group reached its current global distribution and what the earliest interactions with herbivores were. My research on grass phytoliths preserved in coprolites from the Late Cretaceous of India with colleagues at the Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeobotany, Lucknow and the Panjab University, Chandigarh attempts to address these questions.
3. Ecology of Late Cretaceous angiosperms
Angiosperms had reached high taxonomic diversity by the Late Cretaceous, but were still marginal in terms of relative abundance in mid-high latitude vegetation in North America. Together with Scott Wing (National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution) and colleagues, I investigate vegetation structure and the ecological role(s) that angiosperms played in the Late Cretaceous, using an exceptionally preserved fossil flora at the Big Cedar Ridge. central Wyoming.
2007 Postdoctoral Fellow, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC
2004-2006 Postdoctoral Fellow, Swedish Museum of Natural History, Stockholm, Sweden
2003 Ph.D., Department of Integrative Biology, University of California, Berkeley
1997 B.A., M.Sc., Department of Geology, Lund University, Sweden