• profile photo of Chris Williams
Professor of Environmental Science, Department Chair of Earth & Environment



Office: Hackman Hall K100A


I am particularly interested in using archives of environmental information (soils, sediments and the fossils they contain) to understand how and why vegetation and climate vary through time. I research the interrelationships among the ecology, biomass and distribution of vegetation and the chemistry of soil organic matter. This allows me to better understand the role of ancient and modern high-latitude wetland forests and peat forming environments in carbon cycling. 

You can follow this link to my Google Scholar Profile 

Professional Associations

Geological Society of America (GSA), International Association of Wood Anatomists (IAWA), International Organisation of Palaeobotany (IOP), Sigma Xi



2008 Named "Most Influential Professor" in the Natural Sciences by the Franklin & Marshall Class of 2008.


Note: Please email me to request a pdf reprint  or click on the links below to access material online via the publishers website.  * denotes student co-author.

Vargo, L.J., Wiles, G., Wiesenberg, N., Williams, C.J. and Cochran, K., 2020. Climate Response of Metasequoia glyptostroboides Inferred from Tree Rings, Secrest Arboretum, Wooster, Ohio, USA. The Ohio Journal of Science, 120(2), pp.22-29. 

Treat, C., Kleinen, T., Broothaerts, N., Dalton, A.S., Dommain, R., Douglas, T., Drexler, J., Finkelstein, S.A., Grosse, G., Hope, G.S., Hutchings, J., Jones, M.C., Kuhry, P., Lacourse, T., Lähteenoja, O., Loisel, J., Notebaert, B., Payne, R., Peteet, D.M., Sannel, A.B.K., Stelling J., Strauss, J. Swindles, G.T., Talbot, J., Tarnocai, C., Vertstraeten, G., Williams, C.J., Xia, Z., Yu, Z., Väliranta, M., Hattestrand, M., Alexanderson H., Brovkin, V.  2019. Widespread global peatland establishment and persistence over the last 130,000 years. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences116 (11) 4822-4827. 

Grimaldi, D., Sunderlin, D., Aaroe, G.A., Dempsky, M.R., Parker, N.E., Tillery, G.Q., White, J.G., Barden, P., Nascimbene, P.C., Williams, C.J. 2018. Biological inclusions in amber from the Paleogene Chickaloon Formation of Alaska. American Museum Novitates, 3908, 1-37.

Gotsch S.G., Draguljić, D., Williams, C.J. 2018. Evaluating the effectiveness of street trees to mitigate storm water runoff.  Urban Ecosystems , 2018 21: 183–195.

Egerton, V.M., Williams, C.J., Lacovara, K.J. 2016. A new Late Cretaceous (late Campanian to early Mastrichtian) wood flora from southern Patagonia. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 441(2): 305-316.

Yavitt, J.B., Williams, C.J. 2015. Linking tree species identity to anaerobic microbial activity in a forested wetland soil via leaf litter decomposition and leaf carbon fractions. Plant and Soil , 390:293-305.

Yavitt, J.B., Williams. C.J. 2015. Conifer litter identity regulates anaerobic microbial activity in wetland soils via variation in leaf litter chemical composition, Geoderma, 243/244:141–148.

McLauchlan, K.K., Higuera, P.E., Gavin, D.G., Perakis, S.S., Mack, M.C., Alexander, H., Battles, J., Biondi, F., Buma, B., Colombaroli, D., Enders, S.K., Engstrom, D.R., Hu, F.S., Marlon, J.R., Marshall, J., McGlone, M., Morris, J.L., Nave, L.E., Shuman, B., Smithwick, E.A.H., Urrego, D.H., Wardle, D.A., Williams, C.J., Williams, J.J., 2014. Reconstructing Disturbances and Their Biogeochemical Consequences over Multiple Timescales. BioScience. 64(2): 105-116. 

LePage, B.A., Jacobs, B.F., Williams, C.J. 2012. Insights from Paleohistory Illuminate Future Climate Change Effects on Wetlands. In: Middleton, B.A. (ed.), Global Change and the Function and Distribution of Wetlands. Global Change Ecology and Wetlands, Vol. 1. Springer pp. 3-59.

Witkowski*, C., Gupta, N.S., Yang, H., Leng, Q., Williams, C.J., Briggs, D.E.G., Summons, R.E. 2012. Molecular preservation of Cenozoic conifer fossil Lagerstätten from Banks Island, The Canadian Arctic. Palaios, 27: 279-287.  doi: 10.2110/palo.2011.p11-031r 

O'Regan, M., Williams, C.J., Frey, K.E., Jakobsson, M. 2011. A synthesis of the long-term paleoclimate evolution of the Arctic. Oceanography, 24(3): 66-80.

Neff*, J.L., Hagadorn, J.W., Sunderlin, D., Williams C.J. 2011. Sedimentology, facies architechture and chemostratigraphy of a continental high-latitude Paleocene-Eocene succession-The Chickaloon Formation, Alaska. Sedimentary Geology, 240: 14-29.

Sunderlin, D., Loope*, G., Parker*, N.E., Williams, C.J. 2011. Paleoclimate and paleoecology implications of a Paleocene-Eocene fossil leaf assemblage, Chickaloon Formation, Alaska. Palaios, 26(6): 335-345.

Noshiro, S., Leng, Q., LePage, B.A., Momohara, A., Nishida, H., Uemura, K., Williams, C.J., Yang, H (eds.). 2011. Metasequoia: The Legacy of Dr. Shigeru Miki. Proceedings of the Third International Metasequoia Symposium. Japanese Journal of Historical Botany, 19 (1-2): 1-136.

Williams, C.J. 2011. A paleoecological perspective on wetland restoration. Pp. 63-86. In: LePage, B.A. (ed.), Wetlands: Integrating Multidisciplinary Concepts. Springer.

deWet, A., Williams, C.J., Tomlinson*, J. and Carson-Loy*, E. 2011. Stream and sediment dynamics in response to Holocene landscape changes in Lancaster County Pennsylvania. Pp. 33-61. In: LePage, B.A. (ed.), Wetlands: Integrating Multidisciplinary Concepts. Springer.

Dise, N.B., Shurpali, N.J., Weishampel, P. Verma, S.B., Verry, E.S., Gorham, E., Crill, P.M., Harriss, R.C., Kelley, C.A., Yavitt, J.B., Smemo, K.A., Kolka, R.K., Smith, K., Kim, J., Clement, R.J., Arkebauer, T.J., Bartlett, K.B., Billesback, D.P., Bridgham, S.D., Elling, A.E., Flebbe, P.A., King, J.Y., Martens, C.S., Sebacher, D.I., Williams, C.J., and Wieder, R.K. 2011. Carbon emissions from peatlands. Pp. 297-347. In: Kolka, R.K., Sebestyen, S.D., Verry, E.S., Brooks, K.N., (eds.), Peatland Biogeochemistry and Watershed Hydrology at the Marcell Experimental Forest. CRC Press. 

Rust, J., Singh, H., Rana, R.S., McCann, T., Singh, L. Anderson, K., Sarkar, N., Nascimbene, P.C., Stebner, F., Thomas, J.C., Kraemer, M.S., Williams, C.J., Engel, M.S., Sahni, A., and Grimaldi, D. 2010.  Biogeographic and evolutionary implications of a diverse paleobiota in amber from the early Eocene of India. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 107(43): 18360-18365.

Williams, C.J., Trostle*, K.D., Sunderlin, D. 2010. Fossil Wood in Coal-forming Environments of the Late Paleocene-Early Eocene Chickaloon Formation. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 295: 363-375.

Williams, C.J., Yavitt, J.B. 2010. Temperate Wetland Methanogenesis: The Importance of Vegetation Type and Root Ethanol Production. Soil Science Society of America Journal 74: 317-325.

Williams, C.J., LePage, B.A., Johnson, A.H., Vann, D.R. 2009. Structure, Biomass and Productivity of a Late Paleocene Arctic Forest. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia. 158: 107-127.

Richter, S.L., Johnson, A.H., Dranoff, M.M., LePage, B.A. and Williams, C.J.. 2008. Oxygen Isotopes in Fossil Wood Cellulose I.: Isotopic Composition of Eocene- to Holocene-age Cellulose. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 72(12): 2744-2753. 

Williams, C.J., Mendell*, E.K., Murphy*, J., Court*, W.M., Johnson, A.H., and S.L. Richter. 2008. Paleoenvironmental Reconstruction of a Middle Miocene Forest from the Western Canadian Arctic. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 261(1-2): 160-176. 

Williams, C.J. 2007. High-latitude forest structure:  methodological considerations and insights on reconstructing high-latitude fossil forests. Bulletin of the Peabody Museum of Natural History 48(2): 339-357. 

Yang, H., Huang, Y., Leng, Q, LePage, B.A. and Williams, C.J. 2005. Biomolecular preservation of Tertiary Metasequoia fossil Lagerstatten revealed by comparative pyrolysis analysis. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology, 134: 237-256. 

Yavitt, J.B., Williams, C.J. and R.K. Wieder. 2005. Soil chemistry versus environmental controls on production of CH4 and CO2 in northern peatlands. European Journal of Soil Science, 56: 169-178. 

Williams, C.J. 2005. Ecological Characteristics of Metasequoia glyptostroboides. Pp. 285-304. In B.A. LePage, C.J.  Williams, & H. Yang (eds.).  The Geobiology and Ecology of Metasequoia,. Springer, Dordrecht, The Netherlands. 444 pp.

LePage, B.A., Williams, C.J., and H. Yang (eds.). 2005. The Geobiology and Ecology of Metasequoia Vol. 22, Topics in Geobiology, Springer, Dordrecht, The Netherlands. 444 pp.

Williams, C.J., LePage, B.A., Vann D.R., Tange, T., Ikeda, H., Ando, M., Kusakabe, T., Tsuzuki, T. and T. Sweda. 2003. Structure, allometry, and biomass of plantation Metasequoia glyptostroboides in Japan. Forest Ecology and Management, 180(1-3): 287-301.

Vann, D.R., Williams, C.J., and B.A. LePage. 2003. Possible evolution of photosystem parameters and deciduousness in response to paleoclimate seasonality in Metasequoia glyptostroboides. Pp. 431-449. In: Hemsley AR, Poole, I, eds. Evolution of Plant Physiology. Vol 2. Evolutionary physiology from whole plant to ecosystem. London: Academic Press. 

Williams, C.J., Johnson A.H., LePage, B.A., Vann D.R. and T. Sweda. 2003. Reconstruction of Tertiary Metasequoia Forests II.   Structure, Biomass and Productivity of Eocene Floodplain Forests in the Canadian Arctic. Paleobiology, 29(2): 271-292. 

Williams, C.J. Johnson A.H., LePage, B.A., Vann D.R. and K.D. Taylor. 2003. Reconstruction of Tertiary Metasequoia Forests I.   Test of a method for biomass determination based on stem dimensions. Paleobiology, 29(2): 256-270. 

Williams, C.J. and J.B. Yavitt 2003. Botanical composition of peat and degree of peat decomposition in three temperate peatlands. Ecoscience, 10(1): 85-95. 

Williams, C.J., Shingara*, E.A., and J.B. Yavitt. 2000. Phenol oxidase activity in peatlands in New York State: Response to summer drought and peat type. Wetlands, 20(2): 416-421. 

Turetsky, M.R., R.K. Wieder, C.J. Williams, and D.H. Vitt. 2000. Organic matter accumulation, peat chemistry and permafrost melting in peatlands of boreal Alberta. Ecoscience, 7(3): 379-392. 

Yavitt, J.B., Williams, C.J., and R.K. Wieder. 2000. Controls on Microbial Production of Methane andCarbon Dioxide in Three Sphagnum-Dominated Peatland Ecosystems as Revealed by a Reciprocal Field Peat Transplant Experiment. Geomicrobiology Journal, 17(1): 61-88. 

Fahey, T.J., Williams, C.J., Rooney-Varga, J.N., Cleveland, C.C., Postek K.M., Smith, S.D. and D.R. Bouldin. 1999. Nitrogen Deposition In and Around an Intensive Agricultural District in Central New York.  Journal of Environmental Quality, 28(5): 1585-1600.

Williams, C.J., Yavitt, J.B., Wieder, R.K. and N.L. Cleavitt. 1998. Cupric oxide oxidation products of northern peat and peat forming plants.  Canadian Journal of Botany, 76: 51-62.

Wieder, R.K, Yavitt, J.B., Gasda, C.E., Starr, S.T., and C.J. Williams. 1998 Tetrazolium (INT) reduction in acidic Sphagnum-derived peat -- A poor measure of terminal carbon mineralization.  Wetlands, 18(1): 79-83. 

Yavitt, J.B., Williams, C.J., and R.K. Wieder. 1997. Production of methane and carbon dioxide in peatland ecosystems across North America: Effects of temperature, aeration and organic chemistry of peat. Geomicrobiology Journal, 14: 299-316.


Student Collaborations

Student Theses / Independent Studies/ Summer Students Advised (click on names to access most recent information via LinkedIn or Reasearch Gate:

2014-2014. Roman Leon, Environmental Science '15

2013-2014. Marc Palmer, B.A. Geosciences '14 (private sector) 

2012-2013. Molly Reynolds, B.A. with Honors Environmental Science '13 (private sector)

2011-2012. Jory Lerback, B.A. Geosciences '12 (private sector)

2010-2011. Perry Oddo, B.A. Environmental Science '11 (M.S. Penn State University)

2010-2011. Nora Theodore, B.A. with honors Environmental Studies '12 (M.S. Univ. of Maine, Orono)

2009-2010. Franklin Dekker, B.A. Environmental Science '10 (M.S. University of Montana)

2008-2009. Kyle D. Trostle, B.A. with Honors, Environmental Science '09 (Ph.D. Cornell University)

2007-2008. Sarah Seiff Lewis. B.A. Environmental Science '08 (private sector)

2006-2007. Stephanie A. (Strouse) Catsle , B.A. Environmental Science ‘07 (M.S. Boston College)

2005-2006. Brittany A. Croll. B.A. with honors Environmental Studies ’06. (M.A. American University)

2005-2006. Wesley M. Court B.A. Geosciences ’06 (M.S. The Petroleum Institute, Abu Dhabi UAE)

2004-2005. Amanda B. Sahl. B.A. Environmental Science ’05 (MESc. Yale University, MBA The Johns Hopkins University)

Course Information

CNX 263 - Materials and Humanity

ENE 114 - Earth, Environment and Humanity

ENE 344 - Global Change and Natural Resources

ENV 454 - Environmental Problems, Senior Seminar


Mailing Address

Franklin & Marshall College

Department of Earth & Environment

415 Harrisburg Ave

Lancaster, PA 17603 USA


email: chris.williams@fandm.edu