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Lenny Kouwenberg
Looy Lab

Lenny Kouwenberg


Phone: (510) 642-1607

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Her research: Lenny studies fossil plants, “to reconstruct past environments.” Morphological and physiological characteristics of plants, such leaf shape and the density and distribution of stomata, can provide clues about the environment in which the plant lived, such as the altitude or atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. Says Lenny, “Plants can’t move – they have to adapt to the environment they’re in. They are really great indicators of what’s happening around them.”

How she became a paleobotanist: “When I was four years old, I found my first book about dinosaurs,” Lenny says. “I wanted to be a paleontologist my whole life.” Her high school teacher suggested she study paleontology at Utrecht University, in the Netherlands, where she lived. But during her first year, the university shut down its vertebrate paleontology department. The only paleo-department left at Utrecht was paleobotany and palynology. “I realized then that studying plants to inform us about the paleoenvironment is more fun than digging up large skeletons. Plants can tell you a lot more about the history of the earth and how the earth system works.”