PhD Student, University of Maryland College Park
MY BOTANICAL STORY (so far)
My interest in science was encouraged by my family from an early age, but it wasn't until my senior year of high school that an influential teacher piqued my interest in the biology of plants and their evolutionary history. As an undergraduate at Ohio University, I had the opportunity to work in the Paleobotanical Herbarium. I began by cleaning out drawers and filing papers, but every drawer was full of fossils that offered a glimpse into the history, which was enough to keep me going until I began my first research project.
My first research project involved describing a fossil fern and interpreting its significance. I received a grant from an Ohio University undergraduate research fund to present my results in Chicago, Illinois for the Botanical Society of America’s Botany 2007 meeting. There, I had the opportunity to meet other botany students and researchers during the various presentations and field trips. That experience helped me understand that I really could have a career in as unique a field as paleobotany. During my senior year I took on a second research project, and in 2008 I traveled to the Cretaceous deposits of Vancouver Island, British Columbia to visit the site where the objects of my research were collected, and to make new collections.
In 2008, I began my graduate studies at the University of Maryland, College Park, working with Adjunct faculty in the Smithsonian's department of Paleobiology. My research focuses on the geologically recent transition from a world without flowering plants to a world in which most of the diversity and biomass of land plants is made up by angiosperms.Attacking such a broad question requires a variety of approaches, including functional morphology, phylogenetic inference, characterizing the geological context of plant fossils, and reconstructing broad temporal and spatial patterns of flowering plant diversity. It is this variety of inquiry and the challenge of finding and collecting new fossils that makes paleobotany so much fun. The field portion of my work is currently based in the Bighorn Basin, Wyoming where I have been collecting plant fossils from the Lower Cretaceous Cloverly Formation since 2010.