My Research

My main interest is in the deep past of New Zealand- how its vegetation, landscape and climate changed over some 200 million years. I’m primarily a paleobotanist, but with some competence in sedimentology. When I started my research, looking at fossil leaf cuticle was barely known in New Zealand. After realising that it was ‘unknown territory’ I stated a programme of sampling all known carbonaceous sediments in New Zealand and sieving them to see what they contained. The answer has been a wide range of cuticle fragments, and much else besides. To identify these, I’ve had to create a database of extant plant cuticle – and this is now one of the most extensive anywhere.

As well as my New Zealand-wide survey. my key research themes are:

  • Central Otago prehistory
  • Manuherikia Group – Gore Lignite Measures (Miocene) ecology and stratigraphy
  • Cretaceous floristics
  • Jurassic paleobotany, sedimentology and stratigraphy of the Catlins Coast

Starting with first-year University, when no-one seemed to work out if I was a botanist or a geologist, I’ve tried to be both. Anyone doing paleobotany should look at real vegetation as much as they can. So far I’ve traveled to over 76 countries, and tried to see their characteristic vegetation. A little sub-theme here has been seeing how many WWF ‘ecoregions’ I can get to.

My research has been published in over 80 papers and you can get pdfs of most of them on this page.

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