Curriculum Vitae




(734) 647-2585

Robyn J. Burnham

Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

 and Museum of Paleontology

University of Michigan

FAX: 734-936-1380

PROFESSIONAL POSITION: Associate Curator of Paleontology and Associate Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Michigan

ADJUNCT POSITIONS: Research Associate, Smithsonian Institution; Research Associate, Missouri Botanical Garden; Associate Professor, Geological Sciences, Univ. of Michigan; Associate Curator, Herbarium, Univ. of Michigan


            Conservation status of neotropical lianas; use of corridors, preserves as biodiversity banks; population genetic structure of dominant lianas in forested ecosytems

            Diversification, biogeography, and systematics of neotropical lianas

            Angiosperm migration, radiation and evolution in northern South America

            Ecosystem structure at the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary


Aldo Leopold Leadership Fellowship (Ecological Society of America) 2001

Ph.D., Botany, University of Washington 1987

M.S., Botany, University of Washington 1983

B.S., Botany, University of California, Berkeley 1980


Burnham, R.J. 2008 Hide and Go Seek: What does presence mean in the fossil record? Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden. 95(1):51-71.

Gerwing,J.J., S.A. Schnitzer, R.J. Burnham, F. Bongers, J. Chave, S.J. DeWalt, C. E.N. Ewango, R.B. Foster, David Kenfack, M. Martinez-Ramos, M. Parren, N. Parthasarathy, D.R. PŽrez-Salicrup, F. E. Putz, and D.W. Thomas. 2006 A Standard Protocol for Liana Censuses. Biotropica 38(2): 256-261.

Burnham, R.J., K. R. Johnson, and B. Ellis. 2005 Modern tropical forest taphonomy: Does high biodiversity affect paleoclimatic interpretations?  Palaios 20:439-451.

Burnham, R.J. and Carranco, N.L. 2004. Miocene winged fruits of Loxopterygium (Anacardiaceae) from the Ecuadorian Andes. American Journal of Botany 91(11): 1767-1773.

Burnham, R.J. and Johnson K.R. 2004. South American paleobotany and the origins of neotropical rainforests. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, series B. 359:1595-1610.

Burnham, R.J. 2004. Alpha and Beta Diversity of Lianas in Yasun’ National Park, Ecuador. Forest Ecology and Management 190:43-55.

Burnham, R.J. 2002. Dominance, diversity and distribution of lianas in Yasun’, Ecuador: who is on top? Journal of Tropical Ecology 18:845-864.

Burnham, R.J., 2002. Climbers of Yasun’ National Park, Ecuador and their importance in tropical forests.  Memorias del Tercer Congreso Botanico del Ecuador. Editores; A. Freire-Fiero y D. Neill. Pp.181-210.

Burnham, R.J. 2001. Is Conservation Biology a Paleontological Pursuit? Palaios16(5):423-424.

Burnham, R.J., Nigel C. A. Pitman, Kirk R. Johnson and Peter Wilf, 2001. Habitat-related error in estimating temperatures from leaf margins in a humid tropical forest. American Journal of Botany. Volume 88(6):1096-1102.

Sanchez-Villagra, M.R., R. J. Burnham, D. Campbell, R. M. Feldmann, E. S. Gaffney, R. F. Kay, R. Lozsan, R. Purdy, and J. G. M. Thewissen, 2000. The Fauna and Flora from a new near-shore marine assemblage of early Neogene age from northwestern Venezuela. Journal of Paleontology 74(5):957-968.

Burnham, R.J. 2000. Plants (Adaptive Strategies). In R. Singer, ed. Encyclopedia of Paleontology. Fitroy Dearborn Publishers.

Burnham, R.J. and A. Graham 1999. The History of Neotropical vegetation: new developments and status. Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 86:546-589.

Mirle, C. and Burnham, R.J. 1999. A Key to Asymmetrically Winged Fruits from the Western Hemisphere. Brittonia 51:1-14.

Burnham, R.J. 1997. Stand characteristics and leaf litter species composition of a dry forest hectare in Santa Rosa National Park, Costa Rica. Biotropica 29(4): 384-395.

Burnham, R.J. 1997. Diversity of Tropical Forest Leaf Litter at Pakitsa, Peru. Pp127-140, in D.E. Wilson and A. Sandoval, eds. Manu: La Biodiversidad del Sureste del Perś. Smithsonian Institution Press: Washington.

Burnham, R.J. 1996. Republic leaf deposits and Eocene ecology. Washington Geology 24(2):19.

Burnham, R.J. 1995. A new species of winged fruit from the Miocene of Ecuador: Tipuana ecuatoriana (Leguminosae). American Journal of Botany 82(12):1599-1607.


Burnham, R. J., 2004. Review of P. Karieva and S. Levin, The Importance of Species: Perspectives on Expendability and Triage. Princeton University Press.  Plant Systematics and Evolution. 248: 243-244.

Burnham, R. J. 2003. Review of: Chazdon, R.L. & T.C. Whitmore (eds.) 2002. Foundations of Tropical Biology, 862p. University of Chicago Press. Plant Systematics and Evolution.

Burnham, R. J. 2003. Review of: D. J. Beerling & F. I. Woodward Vegetation and the Terrestrial Carbon Cycle: Modelling the First 400 Million Years. Quarterly Review of Biology.

Burnham, R.J. 2000. Review: Graham, A. 1999. Late Cretaceous and Cenozoic History of North American Vegetation. 350p. Oxford University Press. Quarterly Rev. of Biology 75(4):477-478.

Burnham, R.J. 2000. Review: Morley, R. J. 1999, Origin and Evolution of Tropical Rainforests. 362p. John Wiley & Sons. Palaios 15(6):580-581.


Burnham, R.J. and R.B. Foster (2000) Guia Fotografica de las lianas comunes del Parque Nacional Manu, Peru. Patrocinado por Andrew Mellon Foundation y Environmental and Conservations Programs, Field Museum.

Burnham, R.J. (1999) Guia Fotografica de las lianas comunes del Parque Nacional Yasun’, Ecuador. Patrocinado por Andrew Mellon Foundation y Environmental and Conservations Programs, Field Museum, Chicago.

Burnham, R.J. (1999) Guia Practica para las Lianas del Parque Nacional Manu. Patrocinado por Andrew Mellon Foundation y Environmental and Conservations Programs, Field Museum, Chicago.

Burnham, R.J. and E.J. Lott (1999) Guia Practica para las Plantas Trepadoras del Bahia de Chamela. Patrocinado por Andrew Mellon Foundation y Environmental and Conservations Programs, Field Museum, Chicago y National Science Foundation.

Burnham, R.J. (1998) Guia Practica para las Lianas y Epifitas de Parque Nacional Yasun’, (emphasis on Tiputini Biodiversity Station and Estacion Cientifica Yasun’). Patrocinado por Andrew Mellon Foundation y Environmental and Conservations Programs, Field Museum, Chicago.




Tropical Plant Identification (EEB 463) Fall Term, 2007 web page here later

We introduce students to generic-level organization of about 25 neotropical plant families. Families covered are 1) ecologically widespread and abundant in the neotropics or 2) of taxonomic or economic significance. Meetings include lectures on comparative morphology, anatomy, and ecological/economic significance of families and their included genera and a laboratory during which students examine dried specimens. Live specimens as available from Matthei Gardens are shown in lectures. A field trip to Missouri Botanical Garden is included.

Plant Diversity (of Michigan: Biology 255) Spring Term, 2007 email for more info

Plant Diversity is a field-oriented course in which students learn to identify native and introduced plants using field guides and taxonomic keys.  Plants are treated in a phylogenetic and evolutionary context, with occasional examples of evolutionary processes as exemplified by plants. Lectures cover plant form, phylogeny, families, and terminology.  Labs and field trips allow hands-on practice in identifying flowering and non-flowering groups (mosses, ferns, conifers).  Two independent projects allow individual species to be studied in-depth over the course of the term. We focus on ~ 35 plant families that are common in Michigan and teach sight identification of families and how to use the local floras for identification of plants to genus and species. The real reason to take this class is that we take a field trip every week to a local natural area. We spend about 3 hours putting identification and keying tools to work and basically have a great time with nature. Along the way, observation abilities improve and by the end of the class you suddenly are seeing details in nature you never would have imagined possible.

Topics - Plant Morphology (EEB 800 substituting for Bio 461 at rest)

We took an organographic approach to plant morphology so that we could delve at greater depth into angiosperm morphology. Each participant presented at least once during the term, with lectures by Robyn Burnham every other week as background and foundation. Our final project centered on mapping morphological features of angiosperms onto the Soltis et al., angiosperm phylogeny.

Our overall goals were:

1) familiarize participants with the breadth of morphology in vascular plants
2) provide in-depth explorations of each lineage, including methods of analysis
3) determine the basic lay-out of the angiosperm plant body via an organographic approach.
4) explore the variations in morphology of organs of angiosperms as a means of understanding their remarkable success.