Christopher Schiller

Christopher Schiller
University of Washington Seattle | UW · Department of Biology

Doctor of Philosophy


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I am a paleoecologist who uses fossil pollen to study how ancient vegetation responded to changing climate and disturbance, with a particular focus on how plants were impacted by volcanism. Currently, I am applying similar methods to study the mechanisms of vegetation change—climate change vs. fire vs. volcanic disturbance—in the Middle Miocene of the Pacific Northwest.
Additional affiliations
September 2021 - present
University of Washington Seattle
  • PostDoc Position
January 2016 - November 2020
Montana State University
Field of study
  • Earth Sciences
August 2011 - May 2015


Publications (13)
Hydrothermal explosions are significant potential hazards in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA. The northern Yellowstone Lake area hosts the three largest hydrothermal explosion craters known on Earth empowered by the highest heat flow values in Yellowstone and active seismicity and deformation. Geological and geochemical studies of eighteen...
A composite 11.82 m-long (9876e-67 cal yr BP) sediment record from Yellowstone Lake, Wyoming was analyzed using a robust set of biological and geochemical proxies to investigate the paleoenvironmental evolution of the lake and its catchment in response to long-term climate forcing. Oxygen isotopes from diatom frustules were analyzed to reconstruct...
Full-text available
Changes in climate and fire regime have long been recognized as drivers of the postglacial vegetation history of Yellowstone National Park, but the effects of locally dramatic hydrothermal activity are poorly known. Multi-proxy records from Goose Lake have been used to describe the history of Lower Geyser Basin where modern hydrothermal activity is...
Full-text available
Accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) dating of pollen concentrates is often used in lake sediment records where large, terrestrial plant remains are unavailable. Ages produced from chemically concentrated pollen as well as manually picked Pinaceae grains in Yellowstone Lake (Wyoming) sediments were consistently 1700–4300 cal years older than ages es...
Volcanic and hydrothermal processes produce disturbances by diverse mechanisms and ecological responses are varied. New and published pollen records from the Northern Rocky Mountains and Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem document the response of vegetation to three different types of volcanic and hydrothermal disturbances: (1) Pleistocene rhyolite lava...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Hydrothermal explosions represent a significant potential hazard in Yellowstone and particularly in Yellowstone Lake. The northern part of the lake is an area within the Yellowstone Caldera characterized by high heat flow, recent faulting and seismicity, caldera deformation, landslides, and hundreds of active hydrothermal features, including severa...
The Yellowstone National Park ecosystem is a product of dynamic earth system processes, which have been of interest to scientists and the public since the park's discovery. Here, we outline the history of two successive generations of scientific collaboration in Yellowstone National Park. Early collaboration was spurred by the discovery of an unkno...
Paleoecological and faunal-based paleoenvironmental studies rely on fossil assemblages that have high fidelity to the once-living faunas and to the target environment. However, many sedimentary records contain multiple depositional facies, transported sediments with their associated fossils, and varying degrees of taphonomic alteration, which can c...


Cited By


Project (1)
The mid-Miocene was a dynamic period of climate change and volcanic disturbance in the Pacific Northwest. Using pollen reconstructions of vegetation as the primary tool, we are working to to reconstruct vegetation and disturbance dynamics and test if changes were likely due to climatic oscillations or disturbance.