Gary Upchurch, Ph.D.
Paleobotany & Global Change
Department of Biology
BIO 1320, Modern Biology I (non-majors)
BIO 1421,Modern Biology II (non-majors)
BIO 4411/5411,Morphology of Vascular Plants
BIO 4412/5412, Plant Anatomy
BIO 5110E, Mass Extinction Seminar
BIO 5308/7308, History of Vegetation and Climate
My formal academic training is in Botany with extensive postdoctoral experience in Earth Science. My research is interdisciplinary and draws from Botany, Geology, and Atmospheric Science. I focus on the history of vegetation and climate, and feedbacks between vegetation and the atmosphere. My long-term goal is to develop a comprehensive history of floras and their environment during the rise of angiosperms and the end-Cretaceous mass extinction, and to identify plant-atmosphere feedbacks that helped shape this history.
I believe that paleobotany has much untapped potential for deciphering the causes of past global change. Plants provide forensic evidence for climatic change and mass mortality because they are sensitive indicators of environment. Plants help regulate climate because they strongly affect the fluxes of energy, water vapor, and carbon dioxide between the land surface and the atmosphere. Plants serve as both environmental indicators and regulators of environmental change. This means that paleobotany can provide important data for climatic reconstruction and important input parameters for Earth System Models.
My empirical studies focus on fossil angiosperm leaves, and in particular leaf megafossils and dispersed leaf cuticles. Leaf megafossils provide a large suite of characters for systematics, yet another suite of characters for environmental reconstruction. Dispersed plant cuticles are the most abundant component of the plant fossil record next to pollen and spores, which means that dispersed cuticles can provide the high sampling intensity needed for studies of paleoecology and floral turnover. Dispersed cuticles form an important complement to palynomorphs because they provide direct evidence on leaf physiognomy and atmospheric CO2 and have different taphonomic histories and sampling biases.
Current and Future Research Projects
The Cretaceous-Tertiary (K-T) boundary serves as the archetypal example of extinction by a bolide impact. Paleobotany provides important forensic evidence for mass mortality associated with impact, rapid extinction of taxa at the K-T boundary, and possible long-term changes in temperature, precipitation, and CO2. Poorly understood are the exact pattern of long-term environmental change and its link to floral turnover, and the three-dimensional response of the climate system to a bolide impact.
Beerling, D.J., Lomax, B.H., Royer, D.L., Upchurch Jr., G.R., and Kump, L.R., 2002 An atmospheric pCO2 reconstruction across the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary from leaf megafossils. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 99: 7836-7840.
Upchurch, G.R., Jr., 2001. Paleoclimate modelling using fossil plants. In Briggs, D.E.G., and Crowther, P.R., eds., Palaeobiology II. Oxford, Blackwell Science Ltd, p. 487?489.
Beerling, D.J., Lomax, B.H., Upchurch, G.R., Jr., Nichols, D.J., Pillmore, C.L., Handley, L., and Scrimgeour, C.M., 2001. Evidence for recovery of terrestrial ecosystems ahead of marine primary production following a biotic crisis at the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary. Journal of the Geological Society of London 158: 737-740.
Lomax, B.H., Beerling, D.J., Upchurch, G.R., Jr., and Otto-Bliesner, B.L, 2001. Rapid (10-yr) recovery of terrestrial productivity in a simulation study of the terminal Cretaceous impact event. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 192: 137-144.
Lomax, B.H., Beerling, D.J., Upchurch, G.R., Jr., and Otto-Bliesner, B.L, 2000. Terrestrial ecosystem responses to global environmental change across the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary. Geophysical Research Letters 27: 2149?2152.
Scott, A.C., Lomax, B.H., Collinson, M.E., Upchurch, G.R., and Beerling, D.J., 2000. Fire across the K/T boundary: initial results from the Sugarite Coal, New Mexico, USA. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 164: 381?395. (Special issue entitled, ?Fire and the Palaeoenvironment?, edited by A.C. Scott, J. Moore, and B. Brayshay).
Knaus, M.J., Upchurch, G.R., Jr., and Gillespie, W.H., 2000. Charbeckia macrophylla gen. et sp. nov. from the Price (Pocono) Formation of southeastern West Virginia. Review of Paleobotany and Palynology 111: 71?92.
Upchurch, G.R., Jr., Otto-Bliesner, B.L, and Scotese, C.R., 1999, Terrestrial vegetation and its effects on climate during the latest Cretaceous. In Barrera, E., and Johnson, C.C., eds., The evolution of Cretaceous ocean/climate systems. Geological Society of America Special Paper 332: 407-435.
Upchurch, G.R., Jr., Otto-Bliesner, B.L, and Scotese, C.R., 1998, Vegetation-atmosphere interactions and their role in global warming during the latest Cretaceous. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Biological Sciences Series, 353: 97-112.
Otto-Bliesner, B.L., and Upchurch, G.R., Jr., 1997, Vegetation-induced warming of high-latitude regions during the Late Cretaceous period. Nature 385: 304-307.
Dunn, K.A., McLean, R.J.C., Upchurch, G.R., Jr., and Folk, R.L., 1997, Enhancement of leaf fossilization potential by bacterial biofilms. Geology 25: 1119-1122.
Upchurch, G.R., Jr., 1995, Dispersed angiosperm cuticles: Their history, preparation, and application to the rise of angiosperms in Cretaceous to Paleocene coals, southern Western Interior of North America. International Journal of Coal Geology 28: 161-227.
Upchurch, G.R., Jr., Crane, P.R., and Drinnan, A.N., 1994, The megaflora from the Quantico locality (Middle to Upper Albian), Lower Cretaceous Potomac Group of Virginia. Virginia Museum of Natural History Memoir 4: 58p.
Upchurch, G.R., Jr., and Wolfe, J.A., 1993, Cretaceous vegetation of the Western Interior and adjacent regions of North America. In Kauffman, E.G., and Caldwell, W.G.E., eds., Cretaceous evolution of the Western Interior Basin. Geological Association of Canada Special Paper 39: 243-281.
Upchurch, G.R., Jr., and Dilcher, D.L.,1990, Cenomanian angiosperm leaf megafossils, Dakota Formation, Rose Creek locality, Jefferson County, southeastern Nebraska. U.S. Geological Survey Bulletin 1915, 55 p. + 31 pls.
Upchurch, G.R., Jr., 1989, Terrestrial environmental changes and extinction patterns at the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary, North America. In Donovan, S.K., ed., Mass Extinction: Processes and Evidence. London, Belhaven Press, p. 195-216; printed in the United States by Columbia University Press.
Upchurch, G.R., Jr., and Wolfe, J.A., 1987,Mid-Cretaceous to Early Tertiary vegetation and climate: Evidence from fossil leaves and wood. In Friis, E.M., W.G. Chaloner, and P.R. Crane, eds., The origins of angiosperms and their biological consequences. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, p. 75-105.
Wolfe, J.A., and Upchurch, G.R., Jr., 1987a, Leaf assemblages across the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary in the Raton Basin, New Mexico and Colorado. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 84: 5096-5100.
Wolfe, J.A., and Upchurch, G.R., Jr., 1987b, North American non-marine climates and vegetation during the Late Cretaceous. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 61: 33-77.
Crane, P.R., and Upchurch, G.R., Jr., 1987, Drewria potomacensis gen. et sp. nov., an Early Cretaceous member of Gnetales from the Potomac Group of Virginia. American Journal of Botany 74: 1723-1738.
Wolfe, J.A., and Upchurch, G.R., Jr., 1986,Vegetation, climatic and floral changes at the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary. Nature 324: 148-152.
Upchurch, G.R., Jr., 1984, The cuticular anatomy of early angiosperm leaves from the Lower Cretaceous Potomac Group of Virginia and Maryland, Part 1, Zone 1 leaves. American Journal of Botany 71: 192-202.
Upchurch, G.R., Jr., 1984, Cuticular evolution in Early Cretaceous angiosperms from the Potomac Group of Virginia and Maryland. Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 71: 518-546.
Upchurch, G.R., Jr., and Doyle, J.A., 1981,Paleoecology of the conifers Frenelopsis and Pseudofrenelopsis (Cheirolepidiaceae) from the Cretaceous Potomac Group of Maryland and Virginia. In Romans, R.C., ed. Geobotany II. NewYork, Plenum Press, p. 167-202.
· Dunn, K.R., 1995, Biofilm Enhancement of Leaf Fossilization Potential. Biology Honors Thesis, Texas State University.
· Cowie, R., 1999, Gas Exchange Characteristics of an Early Cretaceous Conifer, Pseudofrenelopsis varians (Cheirolepidiaceae), and its Inferred Paleoecology. Biology MS Thesis, Texas State University.
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- Brian Axsmith, University of South Alabama. Pseudofrenelopsis from the Early Cretaceous of North America.
- Greg Mack, New Mexico State University; and Elisabeth Wheeler, North Carolina State University. Late Cretaceous fossil forests from southern New Mexico.
- Christopher Scotese, University of Texas at Arlington, Arne Micheels, University of TÃbingen, Germany, and Jack Wolfe, University of Arizona. Global paleogeography and climate of the late Miocene.
- Jack Wolfe, University of Arizona. Cretaceous and Early Tertiary eudicots from North America.