Understanding the terrestrial ecosystem and its response to global climate change is critical for assessing the impacts of current and future climate change. However, we still know relatively little about the way terrestrial ecosystems actually respond to climate change. Research in the Peppe Research Group is focused on understanding how environmental change drives evolutionary processes in plants and animals. Specifically, our lab’s research is focused on reconstructing ancient climates and ecosystems through time in North America and East Africa, and on developing better and more accurate paleoclimate and paleoecological proxies. To do this we integrate methods in paleobotany, ecology, paleoclimatology, sedimentology, stratigraphy, and paleomagnetism. Results from this research address a broad spectrum of questions aimed at understanding the underlying dynamics of environmental, biotic, and climatic change through time.


    Through research in our lab, we aim to answer questions about how ancient terrestrial ecosystems have been influenced by large scale environmental perturbations, such as long and short term climate change events and mass extinctions. We rely on field based research and the integration of diverse methodologies to approach these questions. We use paleobotanical and ecological methods to reconstruct ancient paleoenvironments and paleoclimates and to develop paleoclimate and paleoecological proxies. We also utilize aspects of stratigraphy, sedimentology, and paleomagnetism as correlation tools, and to reconstruct the sedimentary record of terrestrial basins. Through the integration of these complimentary methods it is possible to study terrestrial ecosystems and make regional and global correlations to synchronous ecosystems. Using these correlations, we can test local, regional, and global hypotheses about evolution, paleoenvironment, paleoecology, and paleoclimate.


    We have three major current and future research initiatives focused on answering questions about the evolutionary history and paleoecology of terrestrial ecosystems and the paleoclimatic record of the Cretaceous and Cenozoic:


(1) Developing proxies for paleoclimate and paleoecological variables using modern leaf traits.

(2) Reconstructing paleonvironments during the Neogene in East Africa to identify the influence of changing environments on the evolution of hominids.

(3) Studying Paleocene plant communities across North America to understand how terrestrial ecosystems respond to mass extinction and long term climate change.


Click here for more details about each of these major research initiatives and details about active research projects.