Susan Butts

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.

Batt, L. S., Montanez, I. P., Isaacson, P.E., Pope, M. C., Butts, S. H., and Abplanalp, J.  2007. Multi-carbonate component reconstruction of mid-Carboniferous (Chesterian) seawater δ13C. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 256:298–318.

Butts, S. H. 2014. Silicification, p. 15-33. In: Reading and Writing of the Fossil Record: Preservational pathways to exceptional fossilization. The Paleontological Society Papers, Volume 20, Laflamme, M., Schiffbauer, J. D., and Darroch, S. A. F. (eds.). The Paleontological Society Short Course, October 18, 2014.

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

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

Butts, S.H., Bazeley, J.A., and Briggs, D.E.G. 2010. A curatorial assessment for stratigraphic collections to determine suitability for incorporation into a systematic collection. Collection Forum, 24(1-2):46-51.

Butts, S.H. and Briggs, D.E.G. 2011. Silicification through time, in Allison, P. and Bottjer, D.J. (eds.) Taphonomy: Process and bias through time, 411-434. Springer.

Isaacson,  P. E., Grader, G.W., Batt, L.S., Abplanalp, J., Butts, S.H, Pope, M. C., and Montanez, I. P. 2008. Silurian–Carboniferous passive to foreland buildup-rich carbonates in Idaho: significant subsidence and eustasy events, The Mountain Geologist, 44(3):119-140.

Karim, T. S., Burkhalter, R., Farrell, Ú. C., Molineux, A., Nelson, G., Utrup, J., Butts, S. H. 2016. Digitization workflows for paleontology collections, Palaeontologia Electronica.

Norris, C. and Butts, S.H. 2014. Let your data run free? The challenge of data redaction in paleontological collections. Collections Forum, 28(1-2):113-118.

Seilacher, A., Oliviero, E. W., Butts, S. H., and Jager Manfred. 2008. Soft Bottom Serupulids: From Irregular to Programmed Growth. Lethaia, 41(4):349-365.

Zuykov, M., and Butts, S. H. 2009. Glyptorthis (Foerste, 1914) and Bassettella, new genus from the Late Ordovician of the East Baltic. Journal of Paleontology.


Paleontological Society Editor

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

Starratt, S. W (Ed.). 2007. Pond Scum to Carbon Sink: Geological and Environmental Applications of the Diatoms, The Paleontological Society Papers, Vol. 13, 210 p. (Butts, Special Publications Editor)

Kelley, P. H. and Bambach, R. K. 2008. From Evolution to Geobiology: Research Questions Driving Paleontology at the Start of a New Century, Vol. 14, 355 p. (Butts, Special Publications Editor)


Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections Managing Editor

Hawks, C., McCann, M., Makos, K., Goldberg, L., Hinkamp, D. Ertel, D. Jr., and Silence, P. (eds). 2010. Health and Safety for Museum Professionals, Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections, 647 p. (Butts, Managing Editor).

Susan Butts Director of Collections & Research,
Collections / Research / Registrar
Director of Collections & Research