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Gary Upchurch, Ph.D.

Gary Upchurch, Ph.D

Gary Upchurch, Ph.D.

Associate Professor
Curriculum Vitae (PDF)

Ph.D., 1981, University of Michigan
M.S., 1978, University of Michigan
B.S., 1975, University of Nebraska



Morphology of Vascular Plants (BIO 4411/5411)
Plant Anatomy (BIO 4412/5412)
History of Vegetation and Climate (BIO 5308/7308)

Research Interests

My research is interdisciplinary and draws from Botany, Geology, and Atmospheric Science and focuses on the history of vegetation and climate, and feedbacks between vegetation and the atmosphere. In particular I am interested in developing 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. 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. 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 an abundant component of the plant fossil record and thus can provide the high sampling intensity needed for studies of paleoecology. Dispersed cuticles provide evidence on leaf physiognomy and atmospheric carbon dioxide. 

Selected Publications

Lee, A.P., Upchurch, G.R., Murchie, E.H., and Lomax, B.H. 2015. Leaf energy balance modelling as a tool to infer habitat preference in the early angiosperms. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, B 282: 3052.

Upchurch, G.R., Kiehl, J., Shields, C., Scherer, J., and Scotese, C. 2015. Latitudinal temperature gradients and high latitude temperatures during the latest Cretaceous: Congruence of geologic data and climate models. Geology 43:683–686.

Lomax, B.H., Hilton, J., Bateman, R.M., Upchurch, G.R., Lake, J.A., Leitch, I.J., Cromwell, A., and Knight, C.A.  2014. Reconstructing relative genome size of vascular plants through geological time. New Phytologist 201:636–644.

Doyle, J.A., and Upchurch, G.R. 2014. Angiosperm clades in the Potomac Group: What have we learned since 1977? Bulletin of the Peabody Museum of Natural History 55:111–134.

Estrada-Ruiz, E., Upchurch, G.R., Wheeler, E.A., and Mack, G.H.  2012. Late Cretaceous angiosperm woods from the Crevasse Canyon and McRae formations, south-central New Mexico, USA: Part 1. International Journal of Plant Sciences 173: 429–440.

Estrada-Ruiz, E., Upchurch, G.R., Wolfe, J.A. and Cevallos-Ferriz, S.R.S. 2011. Comparative morphology of fossil and extant leaves of Nelumbonaceae, including a new genus from the Late Cretaceous of North America. Systematic Botany 36:337–351.

Feild, T.S. Upchurch, G.R., Jr., Chatelet, D.S., Brodribb, T.J., Grubbs, K.C., Samain, M.S., and Wanke, S. 2011. Fossil evidence for low gas exchange capacities for Early Cretaceous angiosperm leaves. Paleobiology 37:195–213.

Feild, T.S., Brodribbb, T.J.,, Iglesias, A., Chatelet, D.S., Baresch, D., Upchurch, G.R., Jr., Gomez, B., Mohr, B.A.R., Coiffard, C., Kvacek, J., and Jaramillo, C., 2011. Fossil evidence for Cretaceous escalation in angiosperm leaf vein evolution. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 108:8363–8366.

Please see faculty member’s CV or website for a complete list of publications and additional information.