The members of the Dietl Lab at PRI all share a common research interest: conservation paleobiology.

What is Conservation Paleobiology?

Conservation Paleobiology (CPB) is an approach that applies geohistorical data and methods in novel ways to preserve biodiversity, conserve habitats, and sustain the services they provide.
CPB utilizes data from geological records to provide an otherwise unobtainable long-term perspective on modern conservation and restoration issues. These records include sediment cores, ice cores, tree ring series, fossils, and other natural archives that provide environmental or biological information about the past.
Whereas conservation decisions have traditionally been based on data from models, observations, and experiments in modern biological systems, the potential of geohistorical data has yet to be realized. Ideally, conservation decision making would make use of all available data to make the best possible decisions.

Why Conservation Paleobiology?

Given the host of environmental problems we face today, there are many challenges that we must meet. Ecosystems that we depend on for our well-being are currently threatened by climate change, habitat change, overexploitation, pollution, and invasive species.
Healthy ecosystems provide us with an array of benefits, such as clean water, food, nutrient cycling, coastal protection, and climate regulation. Many of the processes controlling these critical services play out on long timescales—well beyond the span of a single human lifetime―and require data on equally long timescales for effective restoration and conservation.

Lab Members:

Jansen Smith

Stephen Durham

Selected Publications

Dietl, G. P., Smith, J.A., & Durham, S.R. 2019. Discounting the past: the undervaluing of paleontological data in conservation science. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 7:108 doi: 10.3389/fevo.2019.00108

Kelley, P. H., Dietl, G. P. & Visaggi, C.C. 2019. Model for improved undergraduate training in translational conservation science. Conservation Science and Practice 1:e5,

Dietl, G. P. & Flessa, K.W. 2018. Should conservation paleobiologists save the world on their own time? Pp. 11-22, In C.L. Tyler & C.L. Schneider (eds.), Marine Conservation Paleobiology. Topics in Geobiology 47, Springer Nature, Cham.

Kelley, P.H., Dietl, G.P. & Visaggi, C. 2018. Training tomorrow’s conservation paleobiologists. Pp. 209-225, In C.L. Tyler & C.L. Schneider (eds.), Marine Conservation Paleobiology. Topics in Geobiology 47, Springer Nature, Cham.

Smith, J.A., Durham, & S.R., Dietl, G.P. 2018. Conceptions of long-term data among marine conservation biologists and what conservation paleobiologists need to know. Pp. 23-54, In C.L. Tyler & C.L. Schneider (eds.), Marine Conservation Paleobiology. Topics in Geobiology 47, Springer Nature, Cham.

Dietl, G.P., and Flessa, K.W., 2017, Conservation paleobiology: science and practice: Chicago, The University of Chicago Press.

Dietl, G.P., 2016, Brave New World of Conservation Paleobiology. Frontiers in Ecology and Evoution, v. 4.

Dietl, G.P., Kidwell, S.M., Brenner, M., Burney, D.A., Flessa, K.W., Jackson, S.T., and Koch, P.L., 2015, Conservation paleobiology: Leveraging knowledge of the past to inform conservation and restoration: Annual review of earth and planetary sciences, v. 43, p. 79-103,

Dietl, G.P. and Flessa, K. W., 2011, Conservation paleobiology: putting the dead to work: Trends in Ecology & Evolution, v. 26, p. 30–37,

Conservation Paleobiology: Opportunities for the Earth Sciences: Report of an NSF-Funded Workshop held at the Paleontological Research Institution, Ithaca, New York, June 3-5, 2011.