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Steven Holland

Walker Lake, Nevada
Stratigraphic Paleobiology

Current Research Interests

I am a paleontologist and a stratigrapher, and I’m interested in the long-term response of ecological communities and sedimentary environments to climate and sea-level change. I use a combination of field work and computer simulation in my research. In my field work, I've used extraordinarily fossiliferous deposits to test a wide range of hypotheses about the controls on the diversity and structure of ecological communities. My research applies modern principles of sequence stratigraphy to understand how the fossil record is constructed and therefore how it can be interpreted. Following on two decades of research into marine systems, I am currently focusing on nonmarine systems.

  • B.S., University of Cincinnati, 1985
  • Ph.D., University of Chicago, 1990
Research Interests:

In the Stratigraphy Lab, we are currently focusing on the stratigraphic paleobiology of nonmarine systems. Specifically, we apply the most recent understanding of the sequence-stratigraphic architecture of nonmarine systems (rivers, lakes) to the interpretation of the fossil record of terrestrial and aquatic plants and animals. This research starts with numerical simulations of the continental stratigraphic and fossil record, which allows us to pose hypotheses that we can test through field work. What our research demonstrates is how nonmarine fossil occurrences are controlled by stratigraphic architecture, which means that any study of ancient events such as mass extinctions or biotic invasions must control for stratigraphic architecture.

Current and recent projects have examined the strata and fossils of the Neogene Stewart Valley Group of Nevada, the Triassic Chugwater Formation of central Wyoming, the Jurassic Gypsum Spring and Sundance formations of north-central Wyoming, the Cretaceous Cloverly Formation of north-central Wyoming, the Cretaceous Judith River Formation of central Montana, the Cretaceous Hell Creek Formation of North Dakota and Wyoming, and the Pennsylvanian Breathitt Group of eastern Kentucky. All of my graduate students do field-based projects, and in considering applicants to the Stratigraphy Lab, I focus on an applicant's field experience and research experience (such as a senior thesis or a master's degree).

Selected Publications:

• Holland, S.M., M.E. Patzkowsky, and K.M. Loughney, 2024. Stratigraphic paleobiology. 50th anniversary issue of Paleobiology. 1–18. https://doi:10.1017/pab.2024.2.

• Loughney, K.M., and S.M. Holland, 2023. The eight architectural zones of nonmarine basins. Geosphere: 19. doi:

• Holland, S.M., 2023. The contrasting controls on the occurrence of fossils in marine and nonmarine systems. Bollettino della Società Paleontologica Italiana 62:1–25.

• Holland, S.M., K.M. Loughney, and M. Cone, 2023. Preferential preservation of low-elevation biotas in the nonmarine fossil record. Geology 51:111–114.

• Holland, S.M., 2022. The structure of the nonmarine fossil record: predictions from a coupled stratigraphic-paleoecological model of a coastal basin. Paleobiology 48: 372–396.

• Regan, A.K., R.R. Rogers, and S.M. Holland, 2022, Quantifying controls on the occurrence of nonmarine fossils. Geology. doi:10.1130/G50254.1

• Holland, S.M., and A.K. Regan, 2020. A new, more accurate, and easier to use Jacob’s Staff. Journal of Sedimentary Research 90: 669–672.

• Holland, S.M., and S.N. Wright, 2020. The unconformity that isn’t: a sequence-stratigraphic reinterpretation of the J-5 unconformity and the Redwater–Windy Hill–Morrison transition in Wyoming, U.S.A. Journal of Geology 128: 247–274.

• Holland, S.M., 2020. The stratigraphy of mass extinctions and recoveries. Annual Reviews of Earth and Planetary Sciences 48: 75–97.

• Holland, S.M., and K.M. Loughney, 2021. The stratigraphic paleobiology of nonmarine systems. Elements of Paleontology. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 80 p.

• Holland, S.M., 2019. Estimation, not significance. Paleobiology, v. 45, p. 1–6.

• Holland, S.M., 2018. Diversity and tectonics: predictions from neutral theory. Paleobiology, v. 59, p. 219–236.

• Danise, S., and S.M. Holland, 2018. A sequence stratigraphic framework for the Middle to Late Jurassic of the Sundance Seaway,Wyoming: implications for correlation, basin evolution, and climate change. Journal of Geology, v. 126, p. 371–405.

• Danise, S., and S.M. Holland, 2017. Faunal response to sea-level and climate change in a short-lived seaway: Jurassic of the western interior, U.S.A. Palaeontology v. 60, p. 213–232.

• Clement, A.C., and S.M. Holland. 2016. Sequence stratigraphic context of extensive evaporites: Middle Jurassic Gypsum Spring Formation,Wyoming, U.S.A. Journal of Sedimentary Research, v. 86, p. 965–981.

• Holland, S.M. 2016.The non-uniformity of the fossil record. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, Biological Sciences v. 371, no. 20150130. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2015.0130.

• Holland, S.M., and M.E. Patzkowsky. 2015.The stratigraphy of mass extinction. Palaeontology, v. 58, p. 903–924. Awarded best paper in Palaeontology for 2015.

• Holland, S.M., and J. Sclafani. 2015. Phanerozoic diversity and neutral theory. Paleobiology, v. 41, p. 369–376.

• McMullen, S.K., S.M. Holland, and F.R. O’Keefe. 2014.The occurrence of vertebrate and invertebrate fossils in a sequence stratigraphic context: the Jurassic Sundance Formation, Bighorn Basin, Wyoming, USA. Palaios v. 29, p. 277–294.

• Holland, S.M., and M. Christie, 2013. Changes in area of shallow siliciclastic marine habitat in response to sediment deposition: implications for onshore-offshore paleobiologic patterns. Paleobiology v. 39, p. 511–524. Featured Article for the Fall 2013 Issue.

• Holland, S.M., 2012, Sea-level change and the area of shallow marine habitat: Implications for marine biodiversity. Paleobiology v. 38, p. 205–217.

• Holland, S.M., and M.E. Patzkowsky, 2012. Sequence architecture of the Bighorn Dolomite, Wyoming, USA: transition to the Late Ordovician icehouse. Journal of Sedimentary Research v. 82, p. 599– 615.

• Holland, S.M., and A. Zaffos, 2011, Niche conservatism along an onshore–offshore gradient. Paleobiology, v. 37, p. 270–286.

• Holland, S.M., 2010, Additive diversity partitioning in paleobiology: revisiting Sepkoski’s question. Palaeontology, v. 53, p. 1237–1254.

•Holland, S.M., and M.E. Patzkowsky, 2009,The stratigraphic distribution of fossils in a tropical carbonate succession: Ordovician Bighorn Dolomite,Wyoming, USA. Palaios v. 24, p. 303–317.

Articles Featuring Steven Holland

Quantifying Intermittent Flow Regimes in Ungauged Basins: Optimization of Remote Sensing Techniques for Ephemeral Channels Using a Flexible Statistical Classification

Geology publication entitled: "Quantifying controls on the occurrence of nonmarine fossils"

Steven Holland and his graduate students have been engaged in a multi-year study of a Jurassic epicontinental seaway in western North America, known as the Sundance Seaway.

Events featuring Steven Holland
Geography-Geology Building - Room 200A

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