Penny Higgins

Penny Higgins

  • Research Associate

PhD, University of Wyoming , 2000

209B Hutchison Hall
(585) 275-0601

Office Hours: By appointment


Curriculum Vitae

Research Overview

Stable isotope geochemistry of biogenic apatite and of carbonate minerals with interpretation of ancient climatic conditions; vertebrate paleontology and biostratigraphy; annual-scale studies of ancient climate and dietary sources of fossil vertebrates using stable isotopes of tooth and bone apatite; annual-scale studies of ancient climate using stable isotopes of fossil mollusk shell aragonite; uranium hydrogeochemistry and its relation to uranium ore deposition and fossil preservation; vertebrate taphonomy; isotopes in biostratigraphy and global correlation; application of GIS to problems in paleontology; the conflict between evolution and creationism (including Intelligent Design).

Research Interests

  • Climate change since the Last Glacial Maximum in North America
  • Terrestrial climate change during the Paleocene Eocene Thermal Maximum in the Western Interior of North America
  • Climate change and faunal turnover at the boundary between the Torrejonian and Tiffanian North American Land Mammal "Ages"
  • Tooth growth rates and mineralization patterns in Notoungulate mammals

Courses Offered (subject to change)

  • EES 207:  Principles of Paleontology

Selected Publications

  • Higgins, P., 2007, Fossils to fertilizer: taphonomic implications of uranium roll-fronts. Palaios, 2007, v. 22, p. 577-582.
  • MacFadden, B. J. and Higgins, P., 2004., Ancient ecology of 15 million-year-old browsing mammals within C3 plant communities from Panama. Oecologia, v.140, p. 169-182.
  •  Higgins P. and MacFadden, B. J., 2004, "Amount Effect" recorded in oxygen isotopes of Late Glacial horse (Equus) and bison (Bison) teeth from the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts, southwestern United States: Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, v. 206, p. 337-353.
  • MacFadden, B. J., Higgins, P., Clementz, M. T., Jones, D. S., 2004, Diets, habitat preferences, and niche differentiation of Cenozoic sirenians from Florida: Evidence from stable isotopes. Paleobiology, v.30, p. 297-324.
  • Higgins, P., 2003, A Wyoming succession of Paleocene mammal-bearing localities bracketing the boundary between the Torrejonian and Tiffanian North American Land Mammal "Ages." Rocky Mountain Geology, v.38, p. 247-280.

Research Opportunities for Graduate Students

I am currently unable to take on graduate students. However, I do regularly take on undergraduates for senior thesis or independent study projects, working on some aspect of the research described above. Occasionally, I will also take an undergraduate out to Wyoming with me as a field assistant. For field assistants, I typically select students that have completed my Principles of Paleontology course.

Furthermore, I regularly take on one or two high school students for summer internships to assist me in completing the laboratory work needed for my research. It is an opportunity for college-bound students to gain some practical science and laboratory experience while learning and working on a specific scientific problem.