My research focuses on the how the diversity of plant-insect interactions has developed over deep time. Vascular plants and phytophagous insects together constitute about a quarter of all described species, and their interactions are a dominant feature of terrestrial ecosystems. I would like to know the degree to which patterns of diversity, specificity, and geographic distribution of insect herbivory can be detected in the fossil record, especially the extent to which such patterns have been altered by past extinction events and environmental change. I analyze insect damage on fossil leaves, one of the richest sources of evidence available on species interactions of any kind in the distant past. My dissertation specifically encompasses Late Cretaceous leaves of western North America to understand plant-insect associations during a time when angiosperms and their insect hosts were rapidly diversifying.
4140 Plant Science Building Department of Entomology University of Maryland College Park, 20742