Department of Geology

Ellen Currano

Assistant Professor

Ph.D. (2008) Pennsylvania State University
102 Shideler Hall

My research interests center around the effects of climate change on plants and their insect herbivores. I organized three major field expeditions to collect my thesis data and was able to fund the majority of this work, as well as four of my five years in graduate school, with my own fellowships and grants. For my thesis, I used a variety of statistical methods to tie variations in insect damage on fossil angiosperm leaves from the Paleocene through Eocene of the Bighorn Basin, Wyoming, to environmental changes. I also use my fossil floras to estimate local paleo-temperature and precipitation.

Possible thesis/dissertation topics:

  • Responses of terrestrial ecosystems to past environmental perturbations and implications for predicting the impact of modern, anthropogenic change.
  • Paleoecology and evolution of African forest communities
  • Using fossil plants to reconstruct past climate and pCO2.

Current/recent graduate student research:

Melissa Light (M.S. in progress) Early Eocene Palynology of the Wind River Basin, Wyoming.

Erika Gonzalez (EEEB Ph.D. in progress) Reconstructing early Eocene terrestrial ecosystems and climate using fossil leaf floras from the Wind River Basin, Wyoming.

Selected Publications:

Currano, E.D., Labandeira, C.C. and Wilf, P. (2010) Fossil insect folivory tracks paleotemperature for six million years. Ecological Monographs 80:547-568.

Currano, E.D (2010) Green food through time. Palaios 25:547-9.

Parrish, J.T., Fiorillo, A.R., Jacobs, B.F., Currano, E.D., and Wheeler, E.A. (2010) The Ketavick Formation: New stratigraphic unit and its implications for the Paleogene, paleogeography and paleoclimate of southwestern Alaska. Palaeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 295: 348-362.

Wappler, T., Currano, E.D., Wilf, P., Rust, J., and Labandeira, C.C. (2009) No post-Cretaceous ecosystem depression in European forests? Rich insect feeding damage on diverse middle Palaeocene plants at Menat, France. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 275: 4271-4277.

Currano, E.D. (2009) Patchiness and long-term change in early Eocene insect feeding damage. Paleobiology 35: 484-498.

Currano, E.D., Wilf, P., Wing, S.L., Labandeira, C.C., Lovelock, E.C. and Royer, D.L. (2008) Sharply increased insect herbivory during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 105:1960-1964.

External Grants

National Geographic Committee for Research and Exploration 2010-2011
The response of Ethiopian ecosystems to geographic and climatic change across the Paleogene-Neogene bounary (23 million years ago).

National Science Foundation Earth Sciences Postdoctoral Fellowship 2008-2009
Insect herbivory on leaves through the Cenozoic in East Africa: The impact of geologic and climatic change at multiple temporal and spatial scales.

Teaching Interests:

GLG 111 - The Dynamic Earth
GLG 204 - Survival on an Evolving Planet
GLG 474/574 - Paleobotany, Paleoecology, Paleoclimatology

Please click here to access Dr. Currano's professional website..

For complete descriptions of courses please click here.

For information on the Sedimentary Geology Research Group please click here.

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