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Dr Luke Mander

Professional biography

I am a Lecturer in Earth Sciences in the School of Environment, Earth and Ecosystem Sciences at The Open University (since 2015). I am also a member of the Palaeoenvironmental Change research group here at the OU:
I received a PhD in 2010 from University College Dublin for a thesis that investgated 200 million-year-old fossil plant remains in Jameson Land, East Greenland. My doctoral research was supervised by Jennifer McElwain and Wolfram Kürschner. I then spent two years as a postdoc in Surangi Punyasena's lab in the Department of Plant Biology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, before returning to the UK for a six-month stay at Plymouth University as a Lecturer in Earth Sciences (Fixed Term). I rounded off my scientific training with a two-year EU Marie Curie fellowship in Tim Lenton's Earth System Science group at the University of Exeter.

Research interests

My current research activities are focused on plant morphology. I am interested in quantifying the morphology of plants, investigating the physiological and environmental consequences of morphological variation between individuals and between taxa, and classifying plants on the basis of their morphological characteristics. I work with both living plants and material from the plant fossil record, which represents a vast archive of morphological novelties and natural design solutions that have been produced over the course of evolutionary time. In this context, I am particularly interested in the evolution of tropical rainforests, which are among the most complex ecosytems on Earth. I have worked mostly with pollen grains, which are morphologically fascinating objects with an outstanding fossil record, but I am now also working with the leaves of vascular plants. Recent papers have presented a combinatorial morphospace for angiosperm pollen and algorithmic methods to quantify self-organised vegetation patterns in dryland ecosystems. 
23. Mander L., Dekker S.C., Li M., Mio W., Punyasena S.W. & Lenton T.M. A morphometric analysis of vegetation patterns in dryland ecosystems. Royal Society Open Science. In Press.
22. Mander L. A combinatorial approach to angiosperm pollen morphology. Proceedings of the Royal Society Series B, 283, 20162033.
21. Sivaguru M., Urban M.A., Fried G., Wesseln C.J., Mander L. & Punyasena S.W. Comparative performance of Airyscan and Structured Illumination Super-resolution Microscopy in the study of the surface texture and 3D shape of pollen. Microscopy Research and Technique.
20. Porada P., Lenton T.M., Pohl A., Weber B., Mander L., Donnadieu Y., Beer C., Pöschl U. & Kleidon A. High potential for weathering and climate effects of non-vascular vegetation in the Late Ordovician. Nature Communications, 7, 12113.
19. Mander L. & Punyasena, S.W. Grass pollen surface ornamentation: a review of morphotypes and taxonomic utility. Journal of Micropalaeontology, 35, 121–124.
18. Looy C.V., Stevenson R.A., Van Hoof T.B. & Mander L. Evidence for coal forest refugia in the seasonally dry Pennsylvanian tropical lowlands of the Illinois Basin, USA. PeerJ, 2, e630.
17. Mander L., Rodriguez J., Mueller P.G., Jackson S.T. & Punyasena S.W. Identifying the pollen of an extinct spruce species in the Late Quaternary sediments of the Tunica Hills region, south-eastern United States. Journal of Quaternary Science, 29, 711–721.
16. Mander L. & Punyasena S.W. On the taxonomic resolution of pollen and spore records of Earth’s vegetation. International Journal of Plant Sciences, 175, 931–945.
15. Mander L., Baker S., Belcher C.M., Haselhorst D.S., Rodriguez J., Thorn J.L., Tiwari S., Urrego D.H., Wesseln C.J. & Punyasena S.W. The accuracy and consistency of grass pollen identification by human analysts using electron micrographs of surface ornamentation. Applications in Plant Sciences, 2, 1400031.
14. Kürschner W.M., Mander L. & McElwain J.C. A gymnosperm affinity for Ricciisporites tuberculatus Lundblad: implications for vegetation and environmental reconstructions in the Late Triassic. Palaeobiodiversity and Palaeoenvironments, 94, 295–305.
13. Mander L., Li M., Mio W., Fowlkes C.C. & Punyasena, S.W. Classification of grass pollen through the quantitative analysis of surface ornamentation and texture. Proceedings of the Royal Society Series B, 280, 20131905.
12. Kürschner W.M., Batenburg S.J. & Mander L. Aberrant Classopollis pollen reveals evidence for unreduced (2n) pollen in the conifer family Cheirolepidiaceae during the Triassic–Jurassic transition. Proceedings of the Royal Society Series B, 280, 20131708.
11. Mander L., Kürschner W.M. & McElwain J.C. Palynostratigraphy and vegetation history of the Triassic–Jurassic transition in East Greenland. Journal of the Geological Society, London, 170, 37–46.
10. Mander L., Wesseln C.J., McElwain J.C. & Punyasena S.W. Tracking taphonomic regimes using chemical and mechanical damage of pollen and spores: an example from the Triassic–Jurassic mass extinction. PLoS ONE, 7, e49153.
9. Sivaguru M., Mander L., Fried G. & Punyasena S.W. Capturing the shape and surface texture of pollen: a comparison of microscopy techniques. PLoS ONE, 7, e39129.   
8. Mander L., Collinson M.E., Chaloner W.G., Brain A.P.R. & Long D.G. The ultrastructure and botanical affinity of the problematic mid-Mesozoic palynomorph Ricciisporites tuberculatus Lundblad. International Journal of Plant Sciences, 173, 429–440.
7. Belcher C.M. & Mander L. Catastrophe: Extraterrestrial impacts, massive volcanism and the biosphere. In: A. Henderson-Sellers & K. McGuffie (Eds). The Future of the World’s Climate, pp. 463­–485, Elsevier, Amsterdam, (ISBN 9780123869173).
6. Mander L. Taxonomic resolution of the Triassic–Jurassic sporomorph record in East Greenland. Journal of Micropalaeontology, 30, 107–118.
5. Mander L., Kürschner W.M. & McElwain J.C. An explanation for conflicting records of Triassic–Jurassic plant diversity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, 107, 15351–15356.  
4. Belcher C.M., Mander L., Rein G., Jervis F.X., Haworth M., Hesselbo S.P., Glasspool I.J. & McElwain J.C. Increased fire activity at the Triassic/Jurassic boundary in Greenland due to climate-driven floral change. Nature Geoscience, 3, 426–429.
3. Mander L. & Twitchett R.J. Quality of the Triassic–Jurassic bivalve fossil record in northwest Europe. Palaeontology, 51, 1213–1223.
2. Radley J.D., Twitchett R.J., Mander L. & Cope J.C.W. Discussion on palaeoecology of the Late Triassic extinction event in the SW UK. Journal of the Geological Society, London, 165, 988–992.  
1. Mander L., Twitchett R.J. & Benton M.J. Palaeoecology of the Late Triassic extinction event in the SW UK. Journal of the Geological Society, London, 165, 319–332.

Teaching interests

I currently teach on the following modules here at The Open University:
S309 Earth Processes
On this module I am responsible for the development of independent student projects, materials relating to evolution, and Earth science in society. 
S369 The Geological Record of Environmental Change
I am the Chair of this module. 
S209 Earth Science
On this module I am responsible for materials relating to sedimentology and palaeontology.

External collaborations

A considerable proportion of my work is collaborative, and I am fortunate to have worked with some outstanding  people in the past. Here is a list of my current collaborators, loosely organised by country, together with a couple of notes here and there:

Prof. Timothy M. Lenton (Earth System Science, University of Exeter, UK). Tim was my postdoc advisor when I was a Marie Curie fellow in his Earth System Science group at Exeter ( We are just writing up various strands of the research I undertook as part of my fellowship, which was entitled "Miocene Vegetation of the African Tropics". 

Prof. Richard J. Twitchett (Earth Sciences, Natural History Museum, UK)

Anne-Marie Culhane ( Together with Tim Lenton and Thomas Powell, I co-hosted the Anne-Marie in the Earth System Science group at the University of Exeter. Anne-Marie worked on a residency entitled "Exeter Enquires", which resulted in a collaborative project entitled "Earthwalking" – a two-day walk along the East Devon coast to explore the Earth as a living system through stories of the sea and land, time and change.

Dr Stefan C. Dekker (Geosciences, Utrecht University, The Netherlands)

Prof. Wolfram M. Kürschner (University of Oslo, Norway)

Dr Surangi W. Punyasena (Plant Biology, University of Illinois, USA). I was a postdoc in Surangi's lab at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign ( I undertook research as part of her NSF grant "Biological Shape Spaces, Transforming Shape into Knowledge", which also included Washington Mio and Charless Fowlkes (see below).

Prof. Washington Mio (Mathematics, Florida State University, USA)

Dr Charless C. Fowlkes (Computer Science, University of California, Irvine, USA)

Prof. Stephen T. Jackson (U.S. Geological Survey, USA)

Dr Cindy Looy (Integrative Biology, University of California, Berkeley, USA)

Dr Ivan Sudakov (Physics, University of Dayton, USA)

Prof. Francisca E. Oboh–Ikuenobe (Geology and Geophysics, Missouri University of Science and Technology, USA)

Dr Carlos Jaramillo (Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama)








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