Dena M. Smith

Executive director - steppe

Curator of Invertebrate Paleontology

associate Professor of Geological Sciences


Invertebrate Paleontology


Research Interests

Insects constitute the most diverse group of organisms on the planet and although they have received great attention from researchers who work on modern groups, there are only a few workers in the country who use the fossil record to study the evolution and ecology of insects. To study insect biodiversity, I work at very different spatial and temporal scales; conducting both in depth field-based research at targeted localities and large-scale literature based research across multiple geologic time intervals. I also conduct studies in modern ecosystems and in the lab in order to learn more about the specifics of plant-insect interactions and processes of fossilization.

Current Research Projects

Fossil Insect Collections Digitization Project (NSF-ADBC Funded)

Check out the press release from NSF

Taphonomy of Insects - Actualistic, Comparative and Database Approaches

Evolution of the Coleoptera - A Fossil Perspective (NESCent Funded - Collaboration with Jonathan Marcot)

Eocene Biodiversity - Green River Formation

Insect Response to Climate Change in the Eocene and Oligocene of Colorado (NSF Funded - Collaboration with Cesar Nufio)

Evolution of Insect Ears - A Fossil Perspective (Collaboration with Roy Plotnick)

Teaching Program - Currently on leave from CU-Boulder

I teach several courses through the Department of Geological Sciences and the Museum and Field Studies Program and serve as an advisor to MS and PhD candidates in the Geological Sciences and MS students in the Museum and Field Studies Program. I have served on student committees at both the graduate and undergraduate levels in Anthropology, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Geological Sciences and the Museum and Field Studies Program and I have had the opportunity to work with a diverse group of undergraduate researchers through the RECESS, SMART Program, SURE Program, UROP, Geology Mentorship Program, CU Honors Program, and through independent study projects.