Susan Butts
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Senior Collections Manager

Ph.D., University of Idaho

Division of Invertebrate Paleontology



2003–2004 Postdoctoral Associate, Yale University
2003 Ph.D., University of Idaho
1995 B.A., Hobart and William Smith Colleges



My main interest is in Carboniferous brachiopods and brachiopod paleocommunities. Brachiopod paleocommunities are fascinating for what they tell us about ancient marine environments and about global climate change throughout geologic history. Carboniferous brachiopods and associated taxa in the western United States are found as both in situ communities and as biostratinomic accumulations (transported shell beds). Factors such as quantitative community analysis, functional morphology and taphonomic features provide the basis for water depth interpretation. Using paleocommunities and rock types as indicators of paleodepth, a detailed record of significant sea level changes can be compiled for measured stratigraphic sections. In “icehouse” worlds, characterized by major glaciation, sea level fluctuates drastically as water is taken up into glaciers and returned to the ocean when glaciers melt. “Greenhouse” worlds lack major glaciers and sea level remains relatively stable.

I am also working with Derek Briggs to determine the influence of both sedimentological and biological factors on silica replacement of shell fossils. Selective silicification may influence the data available for paleoecological analysis of fossil communities. The results will provide criteria for the identification and interpretation of biases in the shelly fossil record, with wider implications for the nature and quality of this record, the importance of silicification as major biases on the record of biodiversity through time, and for the fidelity of analyses of community structure and regional biodiversity. Controls on dissolution and silicification may also operate on a global scale by climatic factors such as changes in ocean chemistry in greenhouse and icehouse worlds.


Recent Publications

Batt, L. S., Montanez, I. P., Isaacson, P.E., Pope, M. C., Butts, S. H., and Abplanalp, J.  (accepted, Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology)  Multi-carbonate component reconstruction of mid-Carboniferous (Chesterian) seawater δ 13C. 

Butts, S. H.  2005.  Latest Chesterian (Carboniferous) initiation of Gondwanan glaciation recorded in facies stacking patterns and brachiopod communities of the Antler foreland basin, Idaho. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 223(3-4): 275-289.

Butts, S. H.  2007. Silicified Carboniferous (Chesterian) brachiopoda of the Arco Hills Formation, Idaho.Journal of Paleontology, 81(1):48-63.

Butts, S. H. 2003.  Taxonomy, taphonomy, and paleoecology of the Arco Hills Formation (Chesterian), east-central Idaho.  Ph.D. dissertation, University of Idaho, Moscow, 215 p.

Isaacson,  P. E., Grader, G.W., Batt, L.S., Abplanalp, J., Butts, S.H, Pope, M. C., and Montanez, I. P. (in press, Mountain Geologist) Silurian–Carboniferous passive to foreland buildup-rich carbonates in Idaho: significant subsidence and eustasy events.

Isaacson, P. E., Grader, G. W., and Butts-Matheson, S. H., 2001, Devonian, Mississippian, and Pennsylvanian–Permian buildups and carbonate stacking patterns, south-central Idaho, ExxonMobil Exploration Field Trip Guide Book, August, 2001, 67 p. (published privately for ExxonMobil).

Olszewski, Thomas D. (Editor). 2006. Geochronology: Emerging Opportunities, The Paleontological Society Papers, Vol. 12, 180 p. (Butts, Special Publications Editor)

Zuykov, M., and Butts, S. H. (accepted, Journal of Paleontology), Glyptorthis (Foerste, 1914) and Bassettella, new genus from the Late Ordovician of the East Baltic.