Roy E. Plotnick

Grand Canyon

A.B. Columbia University, 1976
M.S. University of Rochester, 1978
Ph.D. University of Chicago, 1983

Paleontological Society Distinguished Lecturer, 2005-2008
Paleontological Society Fellow, 2012
Geological Society of America Fellow, 2013
Edward P Bass Distinguished Environmental Visiting Scholar, Yale Department of  Geology and Geophysics, 2017

General Research Interests: ECLECTIC!

Invertebrate paleobiology; paleoecology; mathematical methods and models; fossil preservation; paleobiomechanics; science education

Current Research Projects


Arthropod Paleobiology
Plotnick, R. and D. Elliott. 1995. A new eurypterid from the Devonian of the Canadian Arctic. J. Paleontology 69:399-401.
Plotnick, R. 1999. Llandoverian-Lochkovian eurypterid communities. P. 106-131. IN:  Boucot, A. and J. Lawson (ed.) Paleocommunities: A Case Study from the Silurian and Lower Devonian. Cambridge University Press
Lofgren, A. S., R. Plotnick, and P. Wagner, 2003. Morphological diversity of Carboniferous arthropods and insights on disparity patterns through the Phanerozoic Paleobiology 29(3):350-369
Plotnick, R.E. and D. M. Smith 2012. Exceptionally preserved fossil insect ears from the Eocene Green River formation of Colorado. Journal of Paleontology 86:1039-1044. pdf
Stigall, A., R.E. Plotnick, and L.E. Park. 2017. The first Cenozoic spinicaudatans from North America. Journal of Paleontology. in press.

Functional Morphology

Plotnick, R. and T. Baumiller, 1988. The pterygotid telson as a biological rudder. Lethaia, 21:13-27.
Plotnick, R. and  T. Baumiller. 2000. Invention by evolution: functional analysis in paleobiology. Pp. 305-323 In: Erwin, D.H. and S. L. Wing, eds. Deep Time: Paleobiology’s Perspective. (Supplement to vol. 26(4) of Paleobiology). Paleontological Society.
Plotnick, R., B. F. Dattilo, D. Piquard, J. Bauer, and J. Corrie. 2013. The orientation of strophomenid brachiopods on soft substrates. Journal of Paleontology
87(5):818-825.(click for pdf). Online publication of this article made possible by  financial support  from the  Research Open Access Publishing (ROAAP) Fund of the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Plotnick, R. E., and J. Bauer. 2014. Crinoids aweigh: experimental biomechanics of Ancyrocrinus holdfasts. . Pp. 1-18. In D. I. Hembree, B. F. Platt, and J. J. Smith, eds. Experimental Approaches to Understanding Fossil Organisms. Springer, Dordrecht.
Plotnick, R. E., C. M. Ebey, and A. Zinga. 2016. A radicle solution: morphology and biomechanics of the Eucalyptocrinites ‘root’ system. Lethaia 49(1):130-144.

Plotnick, R., 1986. Taphonomy of a modern shrimp: implications for the arthropod fossil record. PALAIOS 1:286-293.
Plotnick, R., Baumiller, T., and Wetmore, K., 1988. Fossilization potential of the mud crab Panopeus (Brachyura: Xanthidae) and time dependence in crustacean taphonomy. Paleogeography, Paleoclimatology, Paleoecology, 63:27-43.
Behrensmeyer, A. K., F. T. Fürsich, R. A. Gastaldo, S. M. Kidwell, M. A. Kosnik, M. Kowalewski, R. E. Plotnick, R, R. Rogers, J. Alroy 2005. Are the most durable taxa also the most common in the fossil record? Paleobiology  31: 591-606
Kosnik, M.A., A.K. Behrensmeyer, F.T. Fürsich, R.A. Gastaldo, S.M. Kidwell, M. Kowalewski, R.E. Plotnick, R.R. Rogers, P.J. Wagner and J. Alroy. 2011. Changes in the shell durability of common marine taxa through the Phanerozoic: evidence for biological rather than taphonomic drivers. Paleobiology 37(2):303-331.
Cody, G. D., N. S. Gupta, D. E. G. Briggs, A. L. D. Kilcoyne,  R. E. Summons,  F. Kenig, R. E. Plotnick,  A. C. Scott. 2011. A Molecular Signature of Chitin-protein complex in Paleozoic arthropods. Geology 39( 3): 255–258
Fraser, W. T., A. C. Scott, A. E. S. Forbes, I. J. Glasspool, R. E. Plotnick, F. Kenig, and B. H. Lomax. 2012. Evolutionary stasis of sporopollenin biochemistry revealed by unaltered Pennsylvanian spores. New Phytologist 196(2):397-401.

Limulus                                                                         cricket ear

Trace Fossils  and the Evolution of  Sensory Behavior
Plotnick, R.  2003.  Ecological and L-system based simulations of trace fossils. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 192: 45-58
Honeycutt, C. and Plotnick R. 2005. Mathematical analysis of Paleodictyon: a graph theory approach. Lethaia 38:345-350 
Koy, K. and R. Plotnick 2007. Theoretical and experimental ichnology of mobile foraging. in . Miller III, W. Trace Fossils: Concepts, Problems and Prospects  Elsevier. 
Plotnick, R. 2007. Chemoreception, odor landscapes, and foraging in ancient marine landscapes. Palaeontologia Electronica, 10, (1); 1A:11p, 1.48MB;
Honeycutt, C. E., and R. Plotnick. 2008. Image analysis techniques and gray-level co-occurrence matrices (GLCM) for calculating bioturbation indices and characterizing biogenic sedimentary structures. Computers & Geosciences 34(11):1461-1472.
Koy, K. and R. Plotnick 2009 Effect of the odorant of the predatory flatworm Dugesia gonocephala on the foraging behavior of Caenorhabditis elegans Journal of Nematology.40(4): 286-289
Plotnick, R., S. Q. Dornbos, and J. Chen. 2010. Information landscapes and sensory ecology of the Cambrian Radiation. Paleobiology 36(2):303-317.  pdf
Koy, K., and R. E. Plotnick. 2010. Ichnofossil morphology as a response to resource distribution: insights from modern invertebrate foraging. Palaeogeography Palaeoclimatology Palaeoecology 292:272–281
Plotnick, R. 2012. Behavioral biology of trace fossils. Paleobiology. 38(3): 459–473. (click for pdf) Online publication of this article made possible by  financial support  from the  Research Open Access Publishing (ROAAP) Fund of the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Fractals and Numerical Methods
Plotnick, R. 1986. A fractal model for the distribution of stratigraphic hiatuses. J. Geol. 94:885-890
Plotnick, R., 1989. Application of bootstrap methods to reduced major axis line fitting. Systematic Zoology, 38:144-153.
Plotnick, R. and Prestegaard, K.L. 1993. Fractal analysis of geologic time series. p. 207-224 IN Lam, N. and DeCola, L. eds. Fractals in Geography.
Plotnick, R., R . Gardner, W. Hargrove, M. Perlmutter, and K. Prestegaard. 1996. Lacunarity analysis: a general technique for the analysis of spatial patterns. Physical Review E, 53:5461-5468.
Jiang, J. and R. Plotnick.  1998. Fractal analysis of the coastlines of the United States.  Mathematical Geology, 30: 535-546
Honeycutt, C. E., R. E. Plotnick, and F. Kenig. 2014. Breaking free from the matrix: Segmentation of fossil images. Palaeontologia Electronica 17(3):1-18.
Plotnick, R. E. 2017. Recurrent hierarchical patterns and the fractal distribution of fossil localities. Geology 45(4):295-298.

Plotnick, R. and M. McKinney. 1993. Ecosystem organization and extinction dynamics. PALAIOS, 8:202-212.
Aaronson, R. and  R. Plotnick. 1998. Coordinated stasis and community integration: a scale-independent interpretation of macroevolutionary dynamics.  P. 430-450 IN McKinney, M. & J. Drake (ed.). Biodiversity Dynamics . Columbia.
Plotnick. R. and J.J. Sepkoski, Jr. 2001. A multifractal model for originations and extinctions . Paleobiology, 27:126-139.
Plotnick, R. and P. Wagner, 2006. Round up the usual suspects: common genera in the fossil record and the nature of wastebasket taxa. Paleobiology 32(1):126-146.
Plotnick, R. E., F. A. Smith, and S. K. Lyons. 2016. Fossil record of the Sixth Extinction. Ecology Letters. 19(5): 546-553.

Landscape Ecology
Plotnick, R. and R. Gardner. 1993. Lattices and landscapes. pp. 129-162 IN Gardner, R., ed. Some Mathematical Questions in Biology: Predicting Spatial Effects in Ecological Systems. American Mathematical Society.
Plotnick, R., G. Gardner, and R. V. O'Neill 1993. Lacunarity indices as measures of landscape texture. Landscape Ecology, 8:201-211.
Plotnick, R.  and R. Gardner. 2002. A general model for simulating the effects of landscape heterogeneity and disturbance on community patterns.   Ecological Modeling,  147: 171-197
Gardner, R., J  Forester and R. Plotnick 2007. Determining pattern-process relationship in heterogeneous landscapes. IN: J. Wu and R. Hobbs, eds. Key Topics in Landscape Ecology.  Cambridge Studies in Landscape Ecology

Quantitative Stratigraphy
Plotnick, R. 1999.  Landscape ecology and quantitative stratigraphy: parallel perspectives on spatial heterogeneity. Pp.271-278 IN: Harbaugh, et al., eds. Numerical Experiments in Stratigraphy, SEPM Special  Publications,  no. 62
Perlmutter, M.A. and R.E. Plotnick, 2003. Hemispheric asymmetry of the stratigraphic record: conceptual proof of unipolar glaciation, in C.B Cecil and N. T. Edgar (ed.), Climate Controls on Stratigraphy, SEPM Spec. Pub. 77: 51-68
Zhang, T. and R. Plotnick. 2006. Graphic correlation using genetic algorithms. Mathematical Geology: 38(7): 781-800
Plotnick, R. E. 2016. Lattice models in ecology, paleontology, and geology. IN:  Autogenic Dynamics and Self-Organization in Sedimentary Systems. SEPM Special Publication 106.: 83-94.

Glasspool, I.J., Collinson,M.E. Scott, A.C. Brain, A.T. Plotnick, R.E. and  Kenig F. 2009. An ultrastructural investigation of early Middle Pennsylvanian megaspores from the Illinois Basin, USA..Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology 156:62–78
Plotnick,  R. E., F. Kenig, A. C. Scott, I. J. Glasspool, C. F. Eble, and W.J. Lang 2009.  Pennsylvanian paleokarst and fills from northern Illinois, U.S.A.: a window into Late Carboniferous environments and landscapes. PALAIOS 24:627-637.
Scott, A. C.,  F. Kenig, Plotnick,  R. E., I. J. Glasspool, W. Chaloner,  C. F. Eble 2010. Evidence of multiple Late Bashkirian to Early Moscovian (Pennsylvanian) fire events  preserved in contemporaneous cave fills.  Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology.  291:72–84
Plotnick, R. E., F. Kenig, and A. C. Scott. 2015. Using the voids to fill the gaps: Caves, time, and stratigraphy. Pp. 233-250. In D. G. Smith, R. J. Bailey, P. M. Burgess, and A. J. Fraser, eds. Strata and Time: Probing the Gaps in Our Understanding. Geological Society, London, Special Publications, 404.

Science Education and Outreach
Varelas, M. Plotnick, R.  Wink,  D.,  Fan, Q.  Harris, Y.  2008. Inquiry and connections in integrated science content courses for elementary education majors. J. College Science Teaching. 37(5):40-47.
Plotnick, R., Varelas, M. and  Fan, Q. 2009. Physical World: an integrated earth science, astronomy and physics course for elementary education majors. Journal of Geoscience Education, 57(2):152-158.   pdf
                - Join the National Association of Geoscience Teachers!-
Plotnick, R. E., A. L. Stigall, and I. Stefanescu. 2014. Evolution of Paleontology: Long-term gender trends in an earth-science discipline   GSA Today 24(11):44-45.
Plotnick, R., J. Theodor, and T. Holtz. 2015. Jurassic Pork: What Could a Jewish Time Traveler Eat? Evolution: Education and Outreach 8(1):17.

Opinion (and you're welcome to mine)

I'm Sorry I Missed Your Talk!
Plotnick, R. 2007.  SWOTTing at Paleontology.  American Paleontologist, 15(4): 21-23. Posted with permission of Paleontological Research Institution.
Plotnick, R. 2008.  A somewhat fuzzy snapshot of  employment in paleontology in the United States.  Palaeontologica Electronica, 11(1)
Plotnick, R. 2009.  Out of the mainstream: U.S. science redux. Palaeontologica Electronica, 12(1)
Plotnick, R. 2010.  Out of the mainstream: the World of Paleontology. Palaeontologica Electronica, 13(1)
Plotnick, R. 2011.  Out of the mainstream: Fossil collecting in the 21st century. Palaeontologica Electronica, 14(1)

Middleton, G., R. Plotnick, and D. Rubin. 1995. Nonlinear Dynamics and Fractals: New Numerical Techniques for Sedimentary Data. SEPM Short Course 36.


Stratistics:  A toolkit for spatial statistics in earth sciences and ecology.  An executable copy is available on request.
TraceFossil:  An individual based movement model to simulate foraging in heterogeneous enviroments.  This program is under continuous development, I will place a current version here.    For more information see Plotnick and Koy (2005).  A user's guide is under development.
CAPS : TraceFossil is based on the CAPS, a spatially explicit neutral model for community development (Plotnick and Gardner 2002), developed in conjunction with  Robert Gardner of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Sciences.  The current version of CAPS can be downloaded from:


EaES 101 The Earth's Dynamic Surface
EaES 360 Introduction to Paleontology
EaES 460  Earth System History
EaES 480 Statistical Methods in the Earth and Environmental Sciences

Other interests

Amateur astronomy; Children's literature, including a history of  The Little Engine that Could ;  American Flyer toy trains (just a big kid); guitar
And see:  Plotnick, R. E. (2012). "In Search of Watty Piper: The History of the "Little Engine" Story." New Review of Children's Literature and Librarianship 18(1): 11-26.


More about this exhibit and me!


Roy E. Plotnick
Earth and Environmental Sciences
University of Illinois at Chicago
845 W. Taylor St.
Chicago,IL 60607
phone: 312-996-2111
Fax: 312-413-2279

UIC EaEs Homepage