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Karen Bacon (

Bacon photoFunding body: SFI

Karen studied geology and botany in University College Dublin and graduated with a first class honours degree in Botany in 2005. She then spent two years as a scientific/medical abstractor with HW Wilson before returning to UCD to undertake her PhD in palaeobotany, “Tracking and interpreting leaf physiognomy and stable carbon isotopic composition across the Triassic–Jurassic boundary”. Karen studied the responses of plant leaf physiognomy (size and shape) to changing atmospheric composition in the PÉAC facility and used these experiments to interpret physiognomic changes recorded in the fossil flora of East Greenland across a period of major climatic upheaval 200 million years ago,  the Triassic–Jurassic boundary.  She also conducted a high-resolution study of fossil leaf stable carbon isotope composition across the same boundary to determine if changes in carbon isotope composition of leaf material were due to a change in species composition or to a change in the source of atmospheric carbon. Karen held a one-year maternity cover lectureship in the Department of Geography, King’s College London in 2010/2011 and also currently acts as a guest lecturer for Botany and Plant Sciences in the National University of Ireland, Galway where she teaches phytosociology, palaeobotany, palaeoecology and plant evolution to undergraduate students.

Karen’s current work is focused on the interactions between plants and atmospheric composition.  Working with colleagues in the PÉAC facility, the UK and Italy, she is currently investigating the effects of atmospheric composition on leaf physiognomy, leaf functioning and leaf development in an evolutionarily diverse group of plants. She is also interested in the effects of temperature and pollutants on leaf development and physiognomy and on the response of water use efficiency and leaf morphology to light availability and quality.


UCD Plant Palaeoecology and Palaeobiology Group Updated: July 2013
Professor J.C. McElwain