Dr. Gregory P. Dietl

Gregory P. Dietl
Director of Collections


Paleocology, Conservation Paleobiology

Graduate Fields

Geological Sciences


Ph.D. North Carolina State University


Dr. Dietl serves as the Director of Collections at PRI. He is a paleoecologist and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Cornell University.

Research Focus

Dr. Dietl's research approach is at the interface between ecology and evolutionary paleoecology and is very much interdisciplinary in nature, integrating interests across diverse fields of organismal and theoretical biology. His work contributes to a growing conceptual understanding of the conditions promoting coevolutionary dynamics between species, particularly predator-prey interactions. His ultimate goal is to look to the structure of ecological systems in nature for insights into the consequences of solutions proposed for some of today’s most pressing societal problems.


With this long-term goal in mind, a major focus of his current research program centers on efforts in the rapidly developing field of Conservation Paleobiology—a new subdiscipline in paleontology that applies geohistorical data to the conservation of biological diversity and ecosystem services. A major challenge facing conservation today is the development of practical guidelines on how best to conserve the evolutionary processes (e.g., coevolution) that generate and maintain the web of life across linked spatial and temporal scales. To conserve biological diversity, we also need to understand why the web of life is so dynamic in some respects and so static in other respects. This challenge remains one of the central problems in evolutionary theory. Dr. Dietl started his theoretical research in this area a few years ago by comparing various heuristics developed to explain the conditions of evolutionary conservatism and creative innovation in the fields of systems biology and paleobiology. This effort opened his eyes to a completely new way of thinking about the problem and has suggested testable hypotheses to explain patterns in the history of life. His current efforts attempt to build on these ideas by understanding the role of configurations of processes in the evolution of ecological systems across space and time. He hopes to expand on our conceptual models of adaptive change in evolutionary paleoecology and build the foundation of the theoretical approaches that will ultimately help us avoid foreclosing the adaptive options of species.

Instruction Focus

Topics in Paleoecology (EAS 7650)

Additional Links

Conservation Paleobiology

Honors, Awards, and Appointments

Gaylord Donnelley Environmental Fellow, Yale University

Selected Publications (** = peer-reviewed)

  • Alexander, R. R. and G. P. Dietl. 2003. The fossil record of shell-breaking predation on marine bivalves and gastropods. Pp. 141-176. In: Predator-Prey Interactions in the Fossil Record, Kelley, P.H., Kowalewski, M., and Hansen, T. A. (eds.). Kluwer Academic/ Plenum Publishers. *** [book chapter] [#291]
  • Dietl, G. P.. 2009. Paleobiology and the conservation of the evolving web of life. In G. P. Dietl and K. W. Flessa (eds.) Conservation Paleobiology: Using the Past to Manage for the Future. Paleontological Society Special Publication, Vol. 15, p. 221-244. *** [paper] [#293]
  • Dietl, G. P.. 2008. On the adaptive cycle of transformational change: A proposal for a panarchical expansion of escalation theory. In: From Evolution to Geobiology: Research Questions Driving Paleontology at the Start of a New Century. P. H. Kelley and R. K. Bambach (eds.) Paleontological Society Special Publication, Vol. 14, p. 335-355. *** [book chapter] [#292]
  • Dietl, G. P. and J. Hendricks. 2006. Crab scars reveal survival advantage of left-handed snails. Biology Letters 2(3): 439-442. *** [paper] [#294]
  • Dietl, G. P. and K. W. Flessa. 2011. Conservation paleobiology: putting the dead to work. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 26: 30-36. *** [#261]
  • Dietl, G. P. and K. W. Flessa (eds.). 2009. Conservation Paleobiology: Using the Past to Manage for the Future. Paleontological Society Special Publication, Vol. 15. *** [book] [#299]
  • Dietl, G. P. and P. H. Kelley. 2002. The fossil record of predator-prey arms races: Coevolution and escalation hypotheses. In: The Fossil Record of Predation, Kowalewski, M., and Kelley, P. (eds.). Paleontological Society Special Publication, Vol. 8, p. 353-374. *** [book chapter] [#295]
  • Dietl, G. P., G. S. Herbert and G. J. Vermeij. 2004. Reduced competition and altered feeding behavior among marine snails after a mass extinction. Science, 306: 2229-2231. *** [paper] [#296]
  • Polly, P. D., J. T. Eronen, M. Fred, G. P. Dietl, V. Mosbrugger, C. Scheidegger, D. C. Frank, J. Damuth, N. C. Stenseth and M. Fortelius. 2011. History matters: ecometrics and integrative climate change biology. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences, 278: 1131-1140. *** [paper] [#297]
  • Vermeij, G. J. and G. P. Dietl. 2006. Majority rule: adaptation and the long-term dynamics of species. Paleobiology, 32: 173-178. *** [paper] [#298]