Research.

Toxic microbial blooms & wildfires in the dying Gondwanan wetlands, end-Permian extinction event (c. 252 Ma). Artist credit: Victor O. Leshyk.
Neutron scan 3-D reconstruction of fire-adapted plant Protodammara reimatamoriori showing resin inside.
Austrosequoia novaezeelandiae. Artist credit: Mali Moir.
Synchrotron X-ray reconstruction of fossil wood with a labyrinth of arthropod borings, Jurassic Period, Argentina.
A seed (~255 million years old) ‘virtually extracted’ from fossil peat with high-energy synchrotron X-rays.
Scorched fossils and amber show the plant adaptations to wildfires during past extreme global warming events. Artist credit: Pollyanna von Knorring.
Fossil plants from before (left) and after (right) the end-Permian mass extinction event. Scales: 10 mm (left), 10 micrometres (right).
Krassilovia mongolica: the first use of neutron tomography for tissue differentiation of fossil plants. Scales: 1 mm.
Ginkgo leaves from the south polar forests of the Chatham Islands. Scale: 10 mm. Artist credit: Mali Moir.
The end-Permian extinction event in outcrop, at Coalcliff, New South Wales.
A new fossil fern (Cladophlebis auriculipilosus) from the south polar forests of the Chatham Islands (~95 million years old). Artist credit: Elyse Butterfield.
Cretaceous pollen and spore fossils that have only been found on the Chatham Islands. Scales: 10 micrometres.
‘Pacman’-like cypress pollen signify an extinct floral province at the South Pole ~95 million years ago. Scanning electron microscope image, scale: 10 micrometres.

Plants as the barometers of extreme events in Earth’s history.

Academic publications

Mays, C., McLoughlin, S. (in press, accepted March 14th, 2022). End-Permian burnout: The role of Permian-Triassic wildfires in extinction, carbon cycling and environmental change in eastern Gondwana. Palaios, 37.

McLoughlin, S. & Mays, C. (2022). Synchrotron X-ray imaging reveals the three-dimensional architecture of beetle borings (Dekosichnus meniscatus) in Middle Jurassic araucarian conifer wood from Argentina. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology, 297: 104568.

Mays, C., McLoughlin, S., Frank, T.D., Fielding, C.R., Slater, S.M. & Vajda, V., (2021). Lethal microbial blooms delayed freshwater ecosystem recovery following the end-Permian extinction. Nature Communications, 12: 5511.

Frank, T.D., Fielding, C.R., Winguth, A.M.E., Savatic, K., Tevyaw, A., Winguth, C., McLoughlin, S., Vajda, V., Mays, C., Nicoll, R., Bocking, M. & Crowley, J.L. (2021). Pace, magnitude, and nature of terrestrial climate change through the end Permian extinction in southeastern Gondwana. Geology, 49: 1089–1095.

Mays, C., Vajda, V. & McLoughlin, S. (2021). Permian–Triassic non-marine algae of Gondwana—distributions, natural affinities and ecological implications. Earth-Science Reviews, 212: 103382.

McLoughlin, S., Halamski, A.T., Mays, C. & Kvaček, J. (2021). Neutron tomography, fluorescence and transmitted light microscopy reveal new insect damage, fungi and plant organ associations in the Late Cretaceous floras of Sweden. GFF, 143: 248276.

McLoughlin, S., Nicoll, R.S., Crowley, J.L., Vajda, V., Mays, C., Fielding, C.R., Frank, T.D., Wheeler, A. & Bocking, M. (2021). Age and paleoenvironmental significance of the Frazer Beach Member—A new lithostratigraphic unit overlying the end-Permian extinction horizon in the Sydney Basin, Australia. Frontiers in Earth Science, 8: 600976.

Fielding, C.R., Frank, T.D., Tevyaw, A.P., Savatic, K., Vajda, V., McLoughlin, S., Mays, C., Nicoll, R.S., Bocking, M. & Crowley, J.L. (2021). Sedimentology of the continental end-Permian extinction event in the Sydney Basin, eastern Australia. Sedimentology, 68: 30–62.

McLoughlin, S., Mays, C., Vajda, V., Bocking, M., Frank, T.D. & Fielding, C.R. (2020). Dwelling in the dead zone—vertebrate burrows immediately succeeding the end-Permian extinction event in Australia. Palaios, 35: 342–357.

Mays, C., Vajda, V., Frank, T.D., Fielding, C.R., Tevyaw, A.P. & McLoughlin, S. (2020). Refined Permian–Triassic floristic timeline reveals early collapse and delayed recovery of south polar terrestrial ecosystems. GSA Bulletin, 132: 1489–1513.

Stilwell, J.D., Langendam, A., Mays, C., Sutherland, L.J.M., Arillo, A., Bickel, D.J., De Silva, W.T., Pentland, A.H., Roghi, G., Price, G.D., Cantrill, D.J., Quinney, A. & Peñalver, E. (2020). Amber reveals ancient portals into Southern Pangea and Gondwana terrestrial worlds. Scientific Reports, 10: 5703

Herrera, F., Shi, G., Mays, C., Ichinnorov, N., Takahashi, M., Bevitt, J.J., Herendeen, P.S. & Crane, P.R., (2020). Reconstructing Krassilovia mongolica supports recognition of a new and unusual group of Mesozoic conifers. PLOS One, 15: e0226779.

Vajda, V., McLoughlin, S., Mays, C., Frank, T., Fielding, C.R., Tevyaw, A., Lehsten, V., Bocking, M. & Nicoll, R.S. (2020). End-Permian (252 Mya) deforestation, wildfires and flooding—an ancient biotic crisis with lessons for the present. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 529: 115875.

Fielding, C.R., Frank, T.D., McLoughlin, S., Vajda, V., Mays, C., Tevyaw, A.P., Winguth, A., Winguth, C., Nicoll, R., Bocking, M. & Crowley, J.L. (2019). Age and pattern of the southern high-latitude continental end-Permian extinction constrained by multiproxy analysis. Nature Communications, 10: 385.

Mays, C., Coward, A.J. & O’Dell, L.A., Tappert, R. (2019). The botanical provenance and taphonomy of Late Cretaceous Chatham amber, Chatham Islands, New Zealand. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology, 260: 16–26.

McLoughlin, S., Maksimenko, A. & Mays, C. (2019). A new high-paleolatitude late Permian permineralized peat flora from the late Permian of the Sydney Basin, Australia. International Journal of Plant Sciences, 180: 513–539.

Mays, C. & Cantrill, D.J. (2019). Protodammara reimatamoriori, a new species of conifer (Cupressaceae) from the Upper Cretaceous Tupuangi Formation, Chatham Islands, Zealandia. Alcheringa, 43: 114–126.

Mays, C., Cantrill, D.J., Stilwell, J.D. & Bevitt, J.J. (2018). Neutron tomography of Austrosequoia novae-zeelandiae comb. nov. (Late Cretaceous, Chatham Islands, New Zealand): Implications for Sequoioideae phylogeny and biogeography. Journal of Systematic Palaeontology 16: 551–570.

Coward, A.J., Mays, C., Patti, A.F., Stilwell, J.D., O’Dell, L. & Viegas, P. (2018). Taphonomy and chemotaxonomy of Eocene amber from southeastern Australia. Organic Geochemistry, 118: 103–115.

Mays, C., Cantrill, D.J. & Bevitt, J.J. (2017). Polar wildfires and conifer serotiny during the Cretaceous global hothouse. Geology, 45: 1119–1122.

Mays, C., Bevitt, J.J. & Stilwell, J.D. (2017). Pushing the limits of neutron tomography in palaeontology: three-dimensional modelling of in situ resin within fossil plants. Palaeontologia Electronica, 20.3.57A: 12 pp.

Stilwell, J.D., Vitacca, J.J. & Mays, C. (2016). South polar greenhouse insects (Arthropoda: Insecta: Coleoptera) from the mid-Cretaceous Tupuangi Formation, Chatham Islands, eastern Zealandia. Alcheringa, 40: 502–508.

Mays, C. (2015). Mid-Cretaceous palynoflora of the Chatham Islands, New Zealand. Memoirs of the Association of Australasian Palaeontologists, vol. 47, 92 pp.

Mays, C., Steinthorsdottir, M. & Stilwell, J.D. (2015). Climatic implications of Ginkgoites waarrensis Douglas emend. from the south polar Tupuangi flora, Late Cretaceous (Cenomanian), Chatham Islands. Palaeogeography Palaeoclimatology Palaeoecology, 438: 308–326.

Mays, C., Tosolini, A.-M.P., Cantrill, D.J. & Stilwell, J.D., (2015). Late Cretaceous (Cenomanian–Turonian) macroflora from the Chatham Islands, New Zealand: bryophytes, lycophytes and pteridophytes. Gondwana Research, 27: 1042–1060.

Chen, K., Stilwell, J.D. & Mays, C. (2015). Palaeoenvironmental reconstruction of Livingston Island, Antarctic Peninsula in the Early Cretaceous: Interpretations from Walker Bay erratics. Alcheringa, 39: 465–476.

Quinney, A., Mays, C., Stilwell, J.D., Zelenitsky, D.K. & Therrien, F. (2015). The range of bioinclusions and pseudoinclusions preserved in a new Turonian (~90 Ma) amber deposit from southern Australia. PLOS One,10: e0121307.

Sorrentino, L., Mays, C. & Stilwell, J.D. (2014). Syn- and post-depositional tephra dispersal from an early Paleogene shallow submarine eruption, the Red Bluff Tuff Formation, Chatham Island, New Zealand. Sedimentary Geology, 300: 86–102.

Mays, C. & Stilwell, J.D. (2013). Pollen and spore biostratigraphy of the mid-Cretaceous Tupuangi Formation, Chatham Islands, New Zealand. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology, 192: 79–102.

Mays, C. & Stilwell, J.D. (2012). Judging an acritarch by its cover: taxonomic implications of Introvertocystis rangiaotea gen. et sp. nov. from the Cenomanian to Turonian, Chatham Islands, New Zealand. Palynology, 36: 180–190.

Mays, C., & Stilwell, J.D. (2012). Mid-Cretaceous south polar palynology & floristic trends of the Tupuangi Formation, Chatham Islands, New Zealand. Japanese Journal of Palynology, 58: 146–147.

Conference contributions

Mays, C., Vajda, V., Frank, T.D., Fielding, C.R., Tevyaw, A.P. & McLoughlin, S., (2019). Refined Permian–Triassic timeline reveals early collapse and delayed recovery of the south polar terrestrial ecosystem. Seminar presented at: EGU Galileo Conference on Mass Extinctions, Recovery and Resilience, Utrecht, Aug. 26–29.

Mays, C., Vajda, V., McLoughlin, S., Fielding, C.R., Frank, T.D. & Nicoll, R. (2018). Extinction, evolution and recovery of the Gondwanan flora through the Permian–Triassic biotic crisis in southern high palaeolatitudes, Australia. Seminar presented at: 2018 Geological Society of America Conference, Indianapolis, Nov. 4–7. (Session chair)

Mays, C., Vajda, V., McLoughlin, S., Fielding, C.R., Frank, T.D. & Nicoll, R. (2018). Extinction, evolution and recovery of the Gondwanan flora through the Permian–Triassic biotic crisis in southern high palaeolatitudes, Australia. Seminar presented at: European Palaeobotanical and Palynological Conference, Dublin, Aug. 12–17.

Mays, C., Vajda, V., McLoughlin, S., Fielding, C.R., Frank, T.D. & Nicoll, R. (2018). Extinction, evolution and recovery of the Gondwanan flora through the Permian–Triassic biotic crisis in southern high palaeolatitudes, Australia. Seminar presented at: International Palaeontological Congress, Paris, Jul. 9–13.

Mays, C., Cantrill, D.J., Bevitt, J.J. & Coward, A.J. (2018). Polar wildfires and fire-adapted seed dispersal during the Cretaceous global hothouse. Seminar presented at: International Palaeontological Congress, Paris, Jul. 9–13.

Mays, C., Vajda, V., McLoughlin, S., Fielding, C.R., Frank, T.D. & Nicoll, R. (2018). Permian–Triassic vegetation turnover under a consistent fluvial regime in the high southern latitude Sydney Basin, Australia. Poster presented at: Evolution in Sweden, Stockholm, Jan. 10–11.

Mays, C. (2017). Putting the ‘hot’ in ‘hothouse’: The evolution of fire-adapted plants during an extreme global greenhouse event. Seminar presented at: Bolin Days, Stockholm, Sweden, Nov. 22–23.

Mays, C., Cantrill, D.J., Bevitt, J.J. & Stilwell, J.D. (2016). Neutron tomographic virtual extraction: Late Cretaceous seed cones of the Tupuangi Flora, Chatham Islands, N.Z. Seminar presented at: IPC XIV/IOPC X, Salvador, Brazil, Oct. 23–28.

Mays, C., Steinthorsdottir, M., & Stilwell, J.D. (2016). Gondwanan ginkgoes: Heralds of Cretaceous biogeographic and climatic change. Seminar presented at: Palaeo Down Under 2, Adelaide, Australia, Jul. 10–15.

Mays, C., Tosolini, A.-M. P., Cantrill, D.J. & Stilwell, J.D. (2014). Fossil flora of the Chatham Islands, eastern Zealandia: A window into the forest biome of the mid-Cretaceous South Pole. Seminar presented at: IPC4, Mendoza, Argentina, Sept. 28–Oct. 3.

Mays, C. (2012). Mid-Cretaceous south polar palynology and floristic trends: The Tupuangi Formation, Chatham Islands, New Zealand. Seminar presented at: IPC XIII/IOPC IX, Tokyo, Japan, Aug. 2330.

Mays, C. (2011). Mid-Cretaceous south polar flora & environments: biostratigraphy of the Tupuangi Formation, Chatham Islands, New Zealand. Seminar presented at: Geological Society of Australia (Victoria Division), Parkville, Victoria, Feb. 24.

Mays, C., Stilwell, J.D. & Hall, W.D.M. (2010). South polar flora and environments: mid-Cretaceous biostratigraphy of the Chatham Islands, New Zealand. Poster presented at: GeoNZ 2010, Auckland, New Zealand, Nov. 2124.

Mays, C., Stilwell, J.D. & Hall, W.D.M. (2010). South polar flora and environments: Mid-Cretaceous biostratigraphy of the Chatham Islands, New Zealand. Poster presented at: 1st Annual Pollen and Spore Master Class, Utrecht, The Netherlands, Aug. 16–20.

Mays, C., Stilwell, J.D. & Hall, W.D.M. (2009). Mid-Cretaceous south polar palaeoenvironments and eastern gondwanan rifting (~80°S): new data and insights from the Tupuangi Formation, Chatham Islands, southwest Pacific. Lecture presented at: 8th International Symposium on the Cretaceous System, Plymouth, United Kingdom, Sept. 6–12.

Public presentations

The end Permian mass extinction: A song of slime & fire. Invited presentation at the Annual General Meeting of the Geological Society of Australia (South Australia division), 13th of May, 2021: https://youtu.be/wu7kvh2ffdc.


“I shall collect plants and fossils… yet this is not the main purpose of my journey. I shall endeavor to find out how nature’s forces act upon one another, and in what manner the geographic environment exerts its influence on animals and plants.

In short, I must find out about the harmony in nature.”

Alexander von Humboldt (1769–1859)


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