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Dr. Carla Harper

Assistant Professor (Botany)


Carla is a paleobotanist with a specialization in paleomycology, the study of fossil fungi. She has always been fascinated with all things paleontology and has a strong background in illustration, art, and graphic design. During her undergraduate, she completed a double degree at Purdue University in Botany and Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics; her favorite modules were in plant anatomy and plant pathology. In graduate school, combining all of these interests and adding in a passion for mycology, she completed her Ph.D. at the University of Kansas on studying the diversity of Permian and Triassic fungi from Antarctica. After graduate school, she received an Alexander von Humboldt Postdoctoral Research Fellowship to work in Munich, Germany at the Bavarian State Collection for Paleontology and Geology (BSPG) to study fungi from late Paleozoic ecosystems, including the world famous Rhynie chert from Scotland. Carla then had three postdoctoral positions with the US National Science Foundation (NSF) ZyGoLife, NSF Office of Polar Research Antarctica, and the German Research Foundation (DFG) at the BSPG, all focused on studying fossil fungi. Her research has permitted her to conduct fieldwork all over the world, including Antarctica. In March 2020, Carla joined the Trinity College Dublin Botany Department as an Assistant Professor of Environmental Science. She continues her research on the biology and ecology of microorganisms and biotas in Permian (~270 Ma), Triassic (~240 Ma), and Jurassic (~180 Ma) ecosystems of Antarctica and late Paleozoic of Europe (~400 Ma and 330 Ma); symbiotic systems through time, as well as the biology, geochemistry, and evolution of fossil microbes (with an emphasis on interactions, interrelatedness, and nutritional modes). She is also excited to expand her research to study the late Palaeozoic floras of Ireland. In addition, she is keen to document the modern biodiversity of fungi, principally mycorrhizal fungi and tree pathogens, to use as modern analogs to compare to ancient fungi. As co-editor of the book, Transformative Paleobotany, Carla is especially interested in new approaches to studying and visualizing fossil fungi such as analytical techniques, advanced microscopy, and geochemical approaches. She is the most excited at breaking down and understanding complex interactions and pathways between ancient plants and fungi, and how fungi played a role in the early evolution of plants. Combining her passions for art and paleontology, her microscopy imagery (Triarch botanical image award) and research (IW Bailey Award, Isabell Cookson Award) have received international accolades. Carla has won several teaching and mentoring awards, and she is the Inclusive Curriculum champion for the School of Natural Science, a member of the TCD Nature+ as an advocate for research on fungal biodiversity, and a co-editor of the 2021 International Journal of Plant Sciences, all-women first-author, special volume Women in Paleobotany - A Tribute to Edith L. Taylor.
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Details Date From Date To
University of Kansas Biodiversity Institute and Natural History Museum Research Associate 2016 present
Bayerische Staatssammlung für Paläontologie und Geologie Museum Research Associate 2017 present
Botanical Society of America - Paleobotany Section 2010 present
British Mycological Society 2021 present
Decombeix, A.L., Harper, C.J., Prestianni, C., Durieux, T., Ramel, M. Krings, M., Oldest fossil evidence of tylosis formation in plants., Nature Plants, 9, 2023, p695 - 698, Journal Article, PUBLISHED
Krings, M., Harper, C.J., A fungal mycelium containing abundant endoconidia from the Lower Devonian Rhynie chert of Scotland., Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology, 313, 2023, p104891-, Journal Article, PUBLISHED
Toumoulin, A., Decombeix, A.L., Harper, C.J., Serbet, R., Early Jurassic silicified woods from Carapace Nunatak, South Victoria Land, Antarctica, Fossil Record, 26, (1), 2023, p103 - 115, Journal Article, PUBLISHED
Durieux, T., Decombeix, A.-L., Harper, C.J., Galtier, J., Re-investigation of Stauroxylon beckii, a possible aneurophytalean progymnosperm from the Mississippian of France., International Journal of Plant Sciences, 2023, Journal Article, SUBMITTED
Decombeix, A.L., Harper, C.J., Galtier, J., Meyer-Berthaud B., Krings M., Tyloses in fossil plants: New data from an early Carboniferous tree, with a review of previous records, Botany Letters , 168, 2022, p510 - 526, Journal Article, PUBLISHED
Fungi as parasites: A conspectus of the fossil record in, editor(s)De Baets, K., Huntley, J.W. , The Evolution and Fossil Record of Parasitism: Identification and Macroevolution of Parasites. Topics in Geobiology, vol 49., Charm. Switzerland, Springer, 2021, pp69 - 108, [Harper, C.J., Krings, M.], Book Chapter, PUBLISHED  TARA - Full Text  DOI  URL
Walker, C., Harper, C.J., Brundrett, M., Krings, M., The Early Devonian fungus Mycokidstonia sphaerialoides from the Rhynie chert is a member of the Ambisporaceae (Glomeromycota, Archaeosporales), not an ascomycete., Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology, 287, 2021, p104384 , Journal Article, PUBLISHED  DOI  URL
Krings, M., Serbet, S., Harper, C.J., Rhizophydites matryoshkae gen. et sp. nov. (fossil Chytridiomycota) on spores of the early land plant Horneophyton lignieri from the Lower Devonian Rhynie chert., International Journal of Plant Sciences, 182, (2), 2021, p109 - 122, Journal Article, PUBLISHED  TARA - Full Text  DOI  URL
Harper, C.J., Walker, C., Schwendemann, A.B., Kerp, H., Krings, M., Archaeosporites rhyniensis gen. et sp. nov. (Glomeromycota, Archaeosporaceae), from the Lower Devonian Rhynie chert - a fungal lineage morphologically unchanged from more than 400 million years., Annals of Botany, 126, (5), 2020, p915 - 928, Journal Article, PUBLISHED  TARA - Full Text  DOI  URL
Harper, C.J., Taylor, E.L., Krings, M., Filamentous cyanobacteria preserved in masses of fungal hyphae from the Triassic of Antarctica, Peer J., 8, 2020, pe8660 , Journal Article, PUBLISHED  TARA - Full Text  DOI  URL

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Bea Jackson, Tcd masters Thesis chapter 3 and 4 data, tcd thesis , 2023, Dataset, PRESENTED
Bea Jackson, Thesis Chapter 2 - stomatal measurements CO2 dataset , TCD masters thesis, 2023, Notes: [Submitted for Research Masters Degree], Dataset, PRESENTED
Bea Jackson, Data for chapter 3 and 4 of masters thesis, Tcd thesis dataset, 2023, Dataset, PRESENTED
Ryberg, P.E., Harper, C.J., Decombeix, A.L. , Celebrating women in paleobotany: A tribute to Edith L. Taylor, International Journal of Plant Sciences, 186, (6), 2021, p000 - 000, Journal Article, PUBLISHED
Rothwell, G.W., Krings, M., Harper, C.J., Thomas N. Taylor - Pioneering palaeomycologist (1937-2016), IMA Fungus , 8, 2017, p59 - 60, Journal Article, PUBLISHED
Harper, C.J., Fossil Fungi, Review of Fossil Fungi, by Taylor, T.N., Krings, M., , Ameghiniana, 53, (2), 2016, p238-240 , Review, PUBLISHED


Award Date
Fossil des Monats [Fossil of the month]. Rätselhaftes Farnstämmchen [Enigmatic fern stem]. Study and specimen were selected as fossil of the month exhibit in BSPG, Munich, Germany. 2018
I.W. Bailey Award. Award for best manuscript submitted to the IAWA (International Association for Wood Anatomists) Journal by an early career wood anatomist. 2016
Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellowship for Postdoctoral Researchers (3.1-USA/1160852 STP) 2015-2017
Isabell Cookson Award. Paleobotany Section Botanical Society of America - Best student oral presentation. 2015
University of Kansas Undergraduate Research Mentor Award. (University-wide award). 2015
Kenneth B. Armitage Award for Excellence in Teaching, Principles of Biology Laboratory (Student Nominated Award). 2014
Sally K. Frost Mason and Kenneth A. Mason Award for Excellence in Teaching Undergraduate Biology Core Laboratory (Student Nominated Award). 2013