I am interested in the evolution of plant structure, development, and physiology during the original colonization of land and subsequent radiations of land plant form with particular emphasis upon the evolution of novel organ and cell types. Plants provide unparalleled advantages for paleobiological study: their organic, cellular preservation and bounded physiology and development uniquely invite the asking of questions with plant fossils that are usually only answerable in living organisms. Furthermore, multiple independent evolutions of most aspects of plant morphology, including roots, leaves, and wood, are available for comparative study. My work has embraced both living and fossil plants and integrated a wide variety of approaches: developmental and physiological investigation, comparative study of morphological diversity, and cell and tissue specific analysis of elemental, isotopic, and organic chemistry. These tools have been applied to three primary areas of ongoing research:
1. The evolution of leaf morphology, development, and physiology, as well as feedbacks between leaf and environment.
2. The evolution of cell wall biochemistry and physiology, as well as its fossil preservation and geochemical importance.
3. Structure and assembly of early terrestrial ecosystems approached largely through constraint of the physiology and phylogenetic affinity of enigmatic components of the biota.
University of Chicago