Christopher West, Ph.D.

Curator of Palaeobotany

Christopher West’s research uses terrestrial plant fossils (fossil leaves, flowers, fruit, seeds, and pollen) to reconstruct climates and forest ecosystems of the geological past—with a particular focus on Late Cretaceous and early Palaeogene plant fossils from western and Arctic Canada. Christopher’s research seeks to understand how changes in environment, such as long term fluctuations in temperature and precipitation, shaped plant palaeoecology and evolution. Christopher also studies the evolutionary pathways, systematics, and biogeography of terrestrial plants in the fossil record.

Research Interests

  • Late Cretaceous and early Palaeogene palaeoenvironments. 
  • Plant fossils from Alberta, British Columbia, and the Canadian Arctic.
  • The evolution of Cretaceous and Palaeogene terrestrial environments in North America. 
  • Deep time climate change and how it informs on modern and future climate change. 
  • The evolutionary relationship between high latitude and middle latitude fossil plants from the early Palaeogene.
  • The relationship between angiosperm (flowering plants) leaf physiognomy (the external appearance) and climate.
  • Plant taphonomy.

Professional Highlights

  • Participated in fieldwork on Ellesmere Island, Nunavut in the Canadian Arctic. 
  • Described the late Palaeocene to early Eocene (about 57 to 53 million years ago) fossil flora from Ellesmere and Axel Heiberg islands in the Canadian Arctic.
  • Received the Governor General’s Gold Medal for outstanding academic achievement. 


Ph.D., University of Saskatchewan, 2019
B.Sc. Hons., University of Saskatchewan, 2013 
B.Sc., University of Winnipeg, 2008


Recent Publications

Lowe, A.J., Diefendorf, A.F., Schlanser, K.M., Super, J., West, C.K. and Greenwood, D.R., 2022. Dynamics of deposition and fossil preservation at the early Eocene Okanagan Highlands of British Columbia, Canada: insights from organic geochemistry. Palaios, 37(5), pp.185-200.

Greenwood, D.R., Conran, J.G., West, C.K. 2022. Palm fronds from western Canada are the northernmost palms from the Late Cretaceous of North America and may include the oldest Arecaceae. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology, 302: 104641, 20 pp.

Reinhardt, L., von Gosen, W., Lückge, A., Blumenberg, M., Galloway, J. M., West, C.K., Sudermann, M., and Dolezych, M. 2022. Geochemical indications for the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) and Eocene Thermal Maximum 2 (ETM-2) hyperthermals in terrestrial sediments of the Canadian Arctic. Geosphere, 18: 327–349

West, C.K., Reichgelt, T. and Basinger, J.F. 2021. The Ravenscrag Butte flora: Paleoclimate and paleoecology of an early Paleocene (Danian) warm-temperate deciduous forest near the vanishing inland Cannonball Seaway. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 576: 110488, 14 pp.

Sudermann M., Galloway J.M., Greenwood D.R., West C.K., and Reinhardt L. 2021. Palynostratigraphy of the lower Paleogene Margaret Formation at Stenkul Fiord, Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, Canada. Palynology, 45: 459-476.

Selected Publications

West, C.K., Greenwood, D.R., Reichgelt, T., Lowe, A.J., Vachon, J.M., and Basinger, J.F. 2020. Paleobotanical proxies for early Eocene climates and ecosystems in northern North America from mid to high latitudes. Climate of the Past, 4: 1387–1410. 

Greenwood, D. R., West, C. K., Basinger, J. F. 2020. The Miocene Red Lake macroflora of the Deadman River Formation (Chilcotin Group), Interior Plateau, British Columbia, Canada. Acta Palaeobotanica, 60: 213–250.

West, C.K., Greenwood, D.R., Basinger, J.F. 2019. The late Paleocene and early Eocene Arctic megaflora of Ellesmere and Axel Heiberg islands, Nunavut, Canada. Palaeontographica Abt. B, 300: 47–163.

Reichgelt T., West C.K., and Greenwood D.R. 2018. The relation between global palm distribution and climate. Scientific Reports, 8: 4721.

Greenwood, D.R. and West, C.K., 2017. A fossil coryphoid palm from the Paleocene of western Canada. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology, 239: 55-65.

West, C.K., Greenwood, D.R., and Basinger, J.F. 2015, Was the Arctic Eocene ‘rainforest’ monsoonal? Estimates of seasonal precipitation from early Eocene macrofloras from Ellesmere Island, Nunavut. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 427: 18-30.



Phone: 403-821-2107