Charles E. Mitchell


Charles E. Mitchell.

Charles E. Mitchell


Charles E. Mitchell


SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor Emeritus


Paleobiology, biostratigraphy, Appalachian Basin history, Ordovician geology


PhD, Geology, Harvard University – 1983

Research Interests

My research is motivated by a desire to understand the evolutionary processes that have formed the world in which we live and that have given shape to its history. Graptolites are the fossils on which I specialize. The particular segment of Earth history in which I work is the Ordovician Period. My work employs the principles of comparative morphological analysis, phylogenetic systematics, taphonomy, and quantitative stratigraphy. I am also engaged in studies of the geologic and stratigraphic history (basin analysis) of the regions in which my favorite fossils occur. My approach in all of these is to test specific hypotheses by quantitative means when ever possible but also to keep sight of the unique properties of biological and geological phenomena.

Course Offerings

  • GLY 215 – Sedimentary Geology and Paleontology
  • GLY 458 – Macroevolution
  • GLY 480 – Geological Evolution of North America: Tectonics and Appalachian Geology
  • GLY 555 – Colloquium in Evolution, Ecology and Behavior
  • GLY 499 – Independent Study
  • GLY 599 – Supervised Teaching
  • GLY 633 – Graduate Research
  • GLY 700 – Thesis Guidance

Current Students

  • Erin Schuster - (PhD - EEB)
  • Anissa Croft (MS)
  • Ian Taylor-Benjamin (MS)
  • Sam Rodgers (MS)
  • Jiawei Jiang (MA)

Recent Former Students

  • Davide Bana - MS (2019) Astronomically forced cyclicity in the Upper Ordovician Utica Shale, Taconic Foreland Basin, Mohawk Valley region, NY, USA
  • Michael Greiner - (2019) A Phylogenetic Analysis of Darriwilian Graptolites, Suborder Axonophora
  • James Boyle - PhD. (2018) Macroevolutionary drivers of extinction and quantitative stratigraphy of graptolites.
  • Richard Frieman - MS (2018) Characterizing the influences of local tectonism on the distribution of Climacograptus? rugosus within the late Sandbian basal Utica Shale, Mohawk Valley, New York State. 
  • Stephanie Amodeo - MA (2017) Sedimentary Geochemistry of the Flat Creek Shale: Core 74NY-10, Mohawk Valley, NY State.
  • Shelby Willeby – MA (2016) Lithological interpretation of wireline logs and regional correlation of Late Ordovician strata in the Oklahoma subsurface.
  • Tanner West – MA (2015) A Trace Fossil and Geochemical Analysis of Black Shales in the Northern Appalachian Basin
  • Stephen Saboda – MA (2015) – Thesis title: “Inorganic geochemistry of the Trenton Limestone-Utica shale contact based on XRF data.”
  • Jeffrey Folger – MA (2013) – Thesis title: “A preliminary review of graptolites in cores 74-NY12 and 75-NY11.”
  • Kyle Jones – MS (2013) – Thesis title: “Testing depositional models of the Utica Shale, Mohawk Valley, eastern New York State.” Currently employed at U.S. Energy Development Corporation as a Geologist.
  • Daniel Robinson – MS (2012) – Thesis title: “Application of geometric morphometrics to late Katian and early Hirnantian-Aged climacograptid populations: An investigation of graptoloid shape evolution at the End-Ordovician mass extinction”; Currently employed at Cameron-Cole as a Geologist.
  • Andrew Hawkins – MS (2011) – Currently working towards a PhD at Virginia Tech.


Recent Publications

Chen, X., Chen, Z.Y., Mitchell, C.E., Chen, Q., Zhang, L.N. 2019. A restudy of the Sandbian to Katian (Upper Ordovician) graptolites from the East Qilianshan (Chilianshan), Northwest China. Journal of Paleontology, 93(6), 1175-1209.

Melchin, M.J., Sheets, H.D., Mitchell, C.E., and Fan, J., 2017, A new approach to quantifying stratigraphical resolution: application to global stratotypes: Lethaia, v. 50, no. 3, p. 407-423,

Boyle, J.T., Sheets, H.D., Wu, S-U. Goldman, D., Melchin, M.J., Cooper, R.A. Sadler P.M., and Mitchell, C.E., 2017, The Impact of Geographic Range, Sampling, Ecology, and Time on Extinction Risk in the Volatile Clade Graptoloida, Paleobiology, 43(1), 2017, pp. 85–113; DOI: 10.1017/pab.2016.33. 

Boyer, D. L., and Mitchell, C. E., 2017, Aligned trace fossils from the Utica Shale: implications for mode of life and feeding in the trilobite Triarthrus beckii: Lethaia, v. 50, no. 1, p. 69-78. DOI 10.1111/let.12177

Sheets, H. David, Mitchell, Charles E., Melchin, Michael, J., Loxton, Jason, Štorch, Peter, Carlucci, Kristi L., and Hawkins, Andrew D., 2016, Graptolite community responses to global climate change and the Late Ordovician mass extinction.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113(30): 8380–8385, doi:10.1073/pnas.1602102113.

Boyer, D. and Mitchell, Charles E., 2016, Aligned trace fossils from the Utica Shale: implications for mode of life and feeding in the trilobite Triarthrus beckiiLethaia, Early view: doi/10.1111/let.12177.

Sell, K. Bryan, Samson, Scott D., Mitchell, Charles E., McLaughlin, Patrick I., Koenig, Alan E., and Leslie, Stephen A., 2015. Stratigraphic correlations using trace elements in apatite from Late Ordovician (Sandbian-Katian) K-bentonites of eastern North America. Geological Society of America Bulletin, 127(9/10): 1259–1274; doi: 10.1130/B31194.1.

Kraft, P., Štorch, P., and Mitchell, C.E., 2015, Graptolites of the late Katian Králův Dvůr Formation (Ordovician; Prague Basin, Czech Republic), Bulletin of Geosciences, 90(1), 195–225,

Boyle, J. T., Sheets, H. D., Wu, S.-Y., Goldman, D., Melchin, M. J., Cooper, R. A., Sadler, P. M., and Mitchell, C. E., 2014. A re-examination of the contributions of biofacies and geographic range to extinction risk in Ordovician graptolites. GFF, 136(1): 38–41,

Fan Jun-xuan, Chen Qing, Hou Xu-dong, Miller, A.I., Melchin, M.J., Shen Shu-zhong, Wu Shuang-ye, Goldman, D., Mitchell, C.E., Yang Qun, Zhang Yuan-dong, Zhan Ren-bin, Wang Jun, Leng Qin, Zhang Hua, and Zhang Linna, 2013. Geobiodiversity Database: a comprehensive section-based integration of stratigraphic and paleontological data. Newsletters on Stratigraphy, Vol. 46/2 (2013), 111–136.

Holmden, C., Mitchell, C. E., LaPorte, D. F., Patterson, W. P., Melchin, M. J., and Finney, S. C., 2013, Nd isotope records of late Ordovician sea-level change—implications for glaciation frequency and global stratigraphic correlation: Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 386:131-144.

*Melchin, M. J., Mitchell, C. E., Holmden, C., and Štorch, P., 2013 Environmental changes in the Late Ordovician-early Silurian: review and new insights from black shales and nitrogen isotopes. Geological Society of America Bulletin, 125(11/12):1635-1670. *invited paper in special series to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the publication of the GSA Bulletin.

Mitchell, Charles E., Melchin, Michael J., Cameron, Chris B., and Maletz, Jörg, 2013.  Phylogenetic Analysis Reveals that Rhabdopleura is an Extant Graptolite.  Lethaia, 46(1): 34-56. DOI: 10.1111/j.1502-3931.2012.00319.x

Sheets, H. D., Mitchell, C. E., Izard, Z. T., Willis, J. M., Melchin, M. J. and Holmden, C., 2012. Horizon annealing: a collection-based approach to automated sequencing of the fossil record. Lethaia 45(4): 532-547

Bapst, D. W., Bullock, P. C., Melchin, M. J., Sheets, H. D. & Mitchell, C. E., 2012: Graptoloid diversity and disparity became decoupled during the Ordovician mass extinction. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 109: 3428-3433.

Goldman, Daniel, Mitchell, Charles E., Melchin, Michael J., Fan Junxuan, Wu Shuang-Ye and Sheets, H. David. 2011, Biogeography and Mass Extinction: Extirpation and re-invasion of Normalograptus species (Graptolithina) in the Late Ordovician Palaeotropics, Proceedings of the Yorkshire Geological Society, 58: 227-246.

 Loxton, J., Melchin, M.J., Mitchell, C.E., and Senior, S.J.H. 2011. Ontogeny and astogeny of the graptolite genus Appendispinograptus (Li and Li, 1985), Proceedings of the Yorkshire Geological Society, 58: 253-260.

 Melchin, M. J., Mitchell, C. E., Naczk-Cameron, A., Fan J. X. and Loxton, J. 2011, Phylogeny and Adaptive Radiation of the Neograptina (Graptoloida) During the Hirnantian Mass Extinction and Silurian Recovery, Proceedings of the Yorkshire Geological Society, 58: 281-309.

The fossilized remains of a colony of Paraorthograptus kimi, an archaic species of deep-sea plankton.

The fossilized remains of a colony of Paraorthograptus kimi, an archaic species of deep-sea plankton. For UB geologist Charles E. Mitchell, large-scale studies of thousands of such fossils provide a window into what drives extinction. One recent project found that ancient plankton communities started losing their diversity as much as 400,000 years before massive die-offs ensued, wiping out P. kimi and many other species. The work suggests that subtle changes may precede dramatic population declines, and Mitchell cautions that we need to be on the lookout for warning signs today as oceans respond to climate change and other pressures.

UB geology grad student Brett St. Pierre and a University of Cincinnati student hunting for trilobites in the Late Ordovician Kope Formation. New Richmond, Ohio.

UB grad student Brett St. Pierre and a University of Cincinnati student hunting for trilobites in the Late Ordovician Kope Formation. New Richmond, Ohio

97% of climate scientists agree that humans are causing global warming.