Peter Wilf

2005 Fellow

Current Institution: Pennsylvania State University


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About Peter Wilf's Work

Fossil plants are extremely sensitive indicators of past climates, plant-insect interactions, biodiversity, and the effects of major environmental disturbances. These data provide deep-time analogs that uniquely illuminate modern ecosystems and their possible responses to anthropogenic change. I am a paleobotanist who studies the latest Cretaceous through middle Eocene, 67-45 million years ago (Ma), an interval characterized by global disturbances that are closely spaced in geologic time. These include latest Cretaceous warming and cooling (68-66 Ma), the end-Cretaceous mass extinction (66 Ma) and ensuing recovery during the Paleocene (66-56 Ma), and both abrupt and long-term warming across the Paleocene-Eocene boundary (56 Ma). My research involves extensive field work in the Western Interior of the USA and Patagonia, Argentina, where I am studying the origins of Southern Hemisphere plant and insect diversity using outstandingly preserved fossil floras.

Awards and Achievements

Fellow, Paleontological Society (2017)

Fellow, Geological Society of America (2016)

Paul F. Robertson Research Breakthrough of the Year Award, Penn State College of Earth & Mineral Sciences (2016)

Distinguished Member, National Society of Collegiate Scholars (2014)

George W. Atherton Award for Excellence in Teaching, Pennsylvania State University (2013)

Kavli Fellow (2011)

Distinguished Lecturer, The Paleontological Society (2009-2012)

John T. Ryan Jr. Faculty Fellow, Penn State College of Earth and Mineral Sciences (2005)

Michigan Fellow, University of Michigan (1999-2002)

In the News

Leaf mysteries revealed through the computer's eye
Penn State News

A Computer With a Great Eye Is About to Transform Botany

Computer vision cracks the leaf code
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences