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Jennifer McElwain



Biology and Environmental Science


Professor Jennifer McElwain’s research interfaces between geological and biological sciences and is mainly focused on exploring macroecological and evolutionary responses of plants to long term climatic and atmospheric change.

Professor McElwain is particularly interested in understanding and documenting plant community responses in the plant fossil record to changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration. Intervals of past global change can serve as import analogs with which we can improve our predictions of how broad-scale ecological interactions and plant communities may respond to future carbon dioxide-induced global warming. She has been working extensively on documenting plant community responses across mass extinction boundaries in the fossil record, including the Triassic-Jurassic mass extinction event (200 million years ago) when over 50% of invertebrate fauna went extinct and the Cenomanian-Turonian oceanic anoxoic event, which was an interval of major climatic and atmospheric upheaval in the Cretaceous period around 90 million years ago. Much of her research has also focused on developing tools with which we can reconstruct past environmental changes, including the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide in ancient atmospheres and paleoelevation (the elevation of past land surfaces) using fossil plants.


Expertise : Evolutionary Biology and Earth System Science

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