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Research Interests

My research is composed of several projects related to the central themes of ichnology, paleopedology, and climate change.  Ichnology is the study of trace fossils and it incorporates the traditional studies of paleontology, sedimentology, paleopedology (study of ancient soils), ethology (study of animal behavior), microbiology, and ecology.  Ichnology offers new insight into the geologic, biologic, hydrologic, and atmospheric influences on the development of ancient and modern ecosystems that other disciplines cannot. 

Trace fossils (i.e., burrows, nests, borings, footprints etc.) preserve the interaction between an organism and a medium (i.e., sediment, soil, wood, rock, bone) that records the organism’s behavior.  In the absence of body fossils, trace fossil represent hidden biodiversity and are important in situ indicators of degree of pedogenesis, paleohydrologic regime, paleoecology, and paleoclimatic setting.  Ichnofossils and paleosols are important for interpreting basin history by providing information on paleotopography, subsidence, and sediment accumulation rates.  They are used also to distinguish between continental and marine paleoenvironments in both outcrop and core, and can identify sequence stratigraphic boundaries as they both represent varying periods of subaerial exposure and depositional hiatus.

Current Research Projects and Publications

Research Related web pages


Trace fossils of the Willwood Formation and the PETM

Morphology and paleoenvironmental implications of adhesive meniscate burrows (AMB), Willwood Formation

Cretaceous Paleoclimate, Gansu Province, China

Curriculum Vitae [PDF]


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Please also visit the web sites of my colleagues:


Stephen T. Hasiotis *  Mary J. Kraus * Brian Platt *  Luis Gonzalez* Greg Ludvigson * Hai-lu You  * Daniel Hembree



Homepage of Jon Jay Smith
This page last updated 9/2/11