Students & Volunteers


Sarah Allen, paleobotany jpgSarah Allen

Ph.D., 2017
Department of Biology
Florida Museum of Natural History
Advisor: Dr. Steven R. Manchester

At UF, I am studying a fossil flora from the Blue Rim escarpment of the Eocene Bridger Formation in southwestern Wyoming. This flora contains leaves, wood, and reproductive structures from multiple horizons. In contrast to the nearby Green River Formation, little paleobotanical work has been done in the Bridger Formation even though it is well known for its vertebrate fossils. The Blue Rim flora allows for research opportunities in systematics, paleoclimate, and paleoecology. In addition, temporal and geographic comparisons both within the stratigraphic section and throughout the Greater Green River Basin can be made.

Read my blog about my research on Blue Rim!

Formerly, as an undergraduate at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, I completed a project on a Late Cretaceous macrofossil florule from the Hell Creek Formation in Montana. My work included both systematic and paleoclimate analyses. I presented this work in Cincinnati, OH at NAPC in 2009 and a manuscript, co-authored by my undergraduate advisor, Dr. Nan C. Arens, was published in 2014 (Geological Society of America Special Paper 503, p.173-207).   

Meng Han, paleobotany jpgMeng Han

Ph.D. Student; Visiting Scholar (8/2016–8/2017)
Sun Yat-sen University; Florida Museum of Natural History
Advisors: Dr. Steven R. Manchester and Dr. Jianhua Jin

My research focuses on fossil leaves and fruits from the Cenozoic of East Asia. Previously, I studied the fossil specimens of Paliurus (Rhamnaceae) in detail, and involved in parts of the work about Machilus (Lauraceae), Cyclosorus (Thelypteridaceae) and participated in a research related to paleo-CO2. My current interests center on the family of Burseraceae from the Oligocene and Miocene of Guangxi Province, South China. I took CT scan experiment for Burseraceae fossil fruits and compared them with the modern samples as well as other fossil records reported before to understand the linkages between them. I hope to gain a better understanding of the phylogeny and biogeographic history of this family. Next, I will also spend time on the fruits of Menispermaceae. The related fossils are also collected from Guangxi Province, and they are mummified, which can uniquely provide us a far more detailed identification feature of the plants. I am also interested in the fossil floras from North America. Then I can compare them with the fossils from East Asia to understand the implications of these macrofossils on their paleogeographic history, paleoenvironment and paleoclimate.

Rebecca Koll, paleobotany jpgRebecca Koll

Ph.D. candidate
Department of Biology
Florida Museum of Natural History
Advisor: Dr. Steve Manchester

I am a new PhD student working with Dr. William DiMichele (National Museum of Natural History) and Dr. Steven Manchester (Florida Museum of Natural History). I come to the University of Florida with an undergraduate background in tropical horticulture and a Master of Science in Geography. My research interests center on the biogeographic connection of paleobotanical and palynological evidence with changing climate and migratory pathways during the Paleozoic. I hope to gain a better understanding of the historical processes influencing the community structure and radiation patterns present in the Permian landscape of North America. Major themes of this research include the evolutionary relationships of plant communities as well as the influence these communities have on the environment and what this indicates for future climate. My current research is focused on temporal and spatial distribution of the Permian Period Gigantopterids through examination of their biogeography, stratigraphy, and systematics.


Long Li, paleobotany jpgLong Li

Ph.D. Student; Visiting Scholar (8/2016–8/2017)
Sun Yat-sen University; Florida Museum of Natural History
Advisors: Dr. Steven R. Manchester and Dr. Jianhua Jin

I mainly study Cenozoic fossil woods including comparative anatomy, systematic, ecological and their paleoenvironmental implication. Before i come to Florida Museum of Natural History , I studied petrified woods from south China and have completed some researches on Gymnosperm fossil woods of Podocarpaceae, involved in collection and identification of mummified fruits, leaves, pollen and woods from Guangxi, south China.

My current work focuses on Cenozoic petrified woods from Northwest US (Wyoming, Montana and North Dakota) and have identified some taxa of Cupressaceae, Euphorbiaceae, and Violaceae. These taxa are similar to fossil woods from south China. After finishing classification of petrified woods from Northwest US, relationship of Palaeogene flora between North America and East Asia will be discussed according to fossil woods together with other fossil remains, and study the origin, migration, evolution and phytogeography of the recognized species. I am also interested in reconstructing paleoclimate by using growth ring and coexistence approach.

Bob Spielbauer, paleobotany jpgBob Spielbauer

Ph.D. Student
Advisor: Dr. Steven R. Manchester

I am a new PhD student working under Dr. Steven Manchester. Before attending the University of Florida, I received undergraduate degrees in Earth Science, Environmental Science: Geology, and Biology: Ecology & Evolution as well as a minor in Geology from the University of Northern Iowa. For my dissertation, I am interested in researching the evolutionary history of an angiosperm lineage (to be determined) by incorporating the morphological data from fossil and modern taxa into molecular phylogenetic analyses of the modern taxa. From this, I hope to build a more accurate phylogeny with improved divergence date estimates. I am also interested in studying the historical biogeography and diversity of my angiosperm lineage to better understand how its global distribution has changed throughout time. My initial research has been on the family Platanaceae, which has an excellent fossil record and only one extant genus, Platanus. However, the low number of extant species (11) does not support the phylogenetic aspect of my research interests, so I am currently determining which angiosperm lineage would best suit my goals.

Greg Stull, paleobotany jpgGregory W. Stull

Department of Biology
Florida Museum of Natural History
Advisors: Dr. Steven R. Manchester and Dr. Pamela S. Soltis
Email: or

I study the evolutionary history of angiosperms, using data from both fossil and modern plants (morphology, DNA sequences) to understand phylogeny, character evolution, and temporal and geographic patterns of diversification.

For my dissertation, I am studying the fossil record, phylogeny, and biogeographic history of the pantropical angiosperm family Icacinaceae. The Icacinaceae are unique among tropical groups in that they have an extensive fossil record, particularly in the Paleogene, consisting primarily of distinctive endocarp remains. For the paleobotanical component of my dissertation (supervised by Dr. Manchester), I am surveying new and previously described fossils of Icacinaceae from North and South America, Europe, Asia, and Africa, with close reference to modern endocarp morphology across the family. This will allow me to document the ages and former distributions of both extinct and extant lineages of Icacinaceae, which appear to have been important constituents of thermophilic Paleogene floras, particularly in Europe and North America.

My phylogenetic work on Icacinaceae (supervised by Dr. P. Soltis) will include a broader investigation of basal lamiid phylogeny (which will be necessary to determine the precise placement and circumscription of the family), as well as a relatively comprehensive examination of genus- and species-level relationships within the family. For both phylogenetic parts, I am sequencing complete plastid genomes using next-generation sequencing technologies. Ultimately, I will synthesize the phylogenetic and paleobotanical components for dating, biogeographic, and diversification analyses, resulting in a comprehensive picture of the evolutionary history of Icacinaceae.


Jane Blanchard, paleobotany jpgJane Blanchard

Jane has been volunteering at the McGuire Center's butterfly collection and the Paleobotany and Palynology division in Dickinson Hall since December 6, 2007.

Jane has been helping to curate the McGuire Center's Neotropical (North and South America) butterfly collection since January 2008, and since then has made an extraordinary contribution. Jane has been helping to merge the collections together into a single, well-curated and labeled collection

At the same time, Jane also serves at the Paleobotany and Palynology division in Dickinson Hall, utilizing her strong botany background and experiences in research labs to help curate the fossil plant collection. With Jane’s help, two monographs documenting the flowering plant diversity based on fossil flowers, fruits, and seeds preserved in rocks collected from localities from northern Mississippi and western Tennessee have been published, and three projects are in progress.  

In 2011, Jane won the James Pope Cheney Volunteer of the Year Award, presented annually to recognize the Florida Museum of Natural History volunteers who have demonstrated exceptional interest in the collections of the Museum, sincere and extraordinary interest in the educational advancement of children; and enthusiastic support for our community of volunteers.