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Academic Staff

Dr Chris Berry

Chris studied Natural Sciences at Cambridge University, concentrating on Geology and Palaeontology. He arrived in Cardiff with little knowledge of botany, but threw himself into the study of Middle Devonian plants from Venezuela, supervised by Dianne Edwards.

He was lucky enough to be given a plant assemblage to study which was incredibly diverse and well preserved, and the first decent collection of plant fossils of Devonian age from the whole of South America. He had an exciting field season in Venezuela, camping in the forest on the slopes of the northernmost Andes on the Venezuela/Colombia border. In his PhD work he made a particular study of the clubmosses which are particularly abundant at the Venezuelan localities.

Since then Chris has concentrated his research on the diversification of non-clubmoss plants in the Middle Devonian (about 390 million years ago). During this time all the major plant groups became established with the exception of flowering plants. He is particularly interested in the origins of the horsetail and ferns. His approach to this study is that he believes a phylogenetic tree for such plants can only be established when the Middle Devonian plants concerned have been understood in terms of both their morphology and anatomy, and concepts of the fossils as living and growing plants have been developed.

Chris’s research has more recently focussed on the oldest forests and trees, with significant collaborations on the ‘Earth’s Oldest Forest’, from Gilboa, New York State. He is also studying the evolution and reconstruction of the olderst forest trees; pseudosporochnalean cladoxylopsids, Archaeopteris and clubmosses.

Such studies will contribute to the understanding of the global environmental changes, particularly with respect to the atmosphere and soils, which occurred with the evolution of forests. Chris was a co-author of a paper about the oldest fossil tree, which was publicised worldwide. This culminated in a BBC R4 Frontiers broadcast.

A demanding fieldwork schedule means that Chris has worked in many exciting places, including north east Greenland, Svalbard, Siberia, Colombia, Argentina, China, Venezuela and New York State.

When not working on fossils or teaching, Chris can be found playing the famous Hill organ in St. Augustine’s church, Penarth where he is assistant organist. He was a council member of the British Institute of Organ Studies, and has edited the Journal of the British Institute of Organ Studies.