Doctoral Candidate, Geological Sciences

Photo of Mary Ellen Benson

My primary interest as a geologist is to reconstruct the geometry of sedimentary facies, determine the geologic age of associated units, and interpret the paleoenvironments of such deposits utilizing an integrated approach that includes physical, chemical, and biological evidence. I also seek to understand taphonomic processes and how they affect the paleontological data, as well as diagenesis and how it alters the physical and chemical characteristics of the original lithologic unit.

While I retain strong interests in Paleozoic through Tertiary marine carbonates and their invertebrate fauna, fluvial sand systems of Cretaceous age, and Tertiary lake-basin paleobotany, I have embraced a new subdiscipline of freshwater Tertiary diatoms from paleo-lakes that are influenced by volcanogenic processes.

My research on the diatoms of the Eocene Florissant lake beds of Colorado is multifaceted, as it begins with the taxonomy of some of the earliest modern flora in the fossil record, examines how these taxa fit into the evolutionary continuum, and considers what the diatoms in their sedimentologic and stratigraphic context might suggest about the paleolimnology of the ancient lake. The postulated dependence of leaf and insect fossil preservation upon the presence of diatoms will be tested as well.

Mutually inclusive career goals are university teaching, research, and employment or consulting in the mining, petroleum, and environmental industries.

Mary Ellen's CV

University of Colorado at Boulder

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