Paleobiologist and Curator of Fossil Plants

Paleobologist Dr. Bill DiMichele in white shirt and light helmet in a coal mine looking at a extinct seed-fern on the ceiling
Dr. Bill DiMichele in an underground coal mine in Indiana looking at 9-foot long stem of an extinct seed-fern (Medullosa sp.). Image courtesy of Scott Elrick, Illinois State Geological Survey

Dr. Bill DiMichele is a research paleontologist at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution. He specializes in the study of late Paleozoic and early Mesozoic plants, those living between about 230 and 350 million years ago. His work mainly examines the morphological evolution of these plants, their ecologies, and evolutionary relationships. Much of his work is about how tropical ecosystems of these ancient times responded to major climatic changes experienced by the Earth. DiMichele grew up in southern New Jersey, on the Atlantic coastal plain, and never saw (or remembers seeing) an actual fossil until graduate school. Inspired by professors at his undergrad institution, Drexel University, in Philadelphia, he pursued graduate studies in the paleobotany of coal-forming environments at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, finishing his Ph.D. in 1979.

Bill joined the faculty of the Botany Department at the University of Washington and then came to the the Smithsonian in 1985. Working with scientists at many other institutions throughout the world, DiMichele’s studies have taken him to many parts of the United States and Europe for fieldwork and to examine collections in other museums.