Dr. Michael O. Rischbieter


Professor of Biology
B.S., University of Washington (Botany)
M.S., Western Illinois University (Biology)
Ph.D., University of South Carolina (Geology)

  • 106 Lassiter Hall
  • (864) 833-8403 (office)
  • (800) 476-7272 (switchboard)
  • miker@presby.edu


Area of Specialty
Paleontology, with primary interests in Carboniferous Coal Swamp plant paleoecology, and South Carolina Pleistocene palynology

Courses I Teach
Introductory Biology I (Fall Semester)
Principles of Biology II (Spring Semester)
Evolution (Spring Semester)
Biogeography (Alternate Fall Semesters)
Paleontology (Alternate Fall Semesters)
Botany (Spring Semester)
Plant Systematics (Fall Semester)
Flexicourses (Maymester)


My primary focus at this point is to involve students in the research process. My particular area of interest has been the Carboniferous paleoflora of the southeast. I have been actively collecting fossils from Virginia south through Georgia and west to Alabama. With student help, I have been attempting to reconstruct the change in plant communities in the southeast through geologic time. Along the way, students have been learning how to curate and maintain a paleobotanical collection, and how to manage a fossil database.

Another more recent and exciting line of research biology students and I have been involved in is the study of the palynology of the 450,000 year old Pleistocene deposits from Harleyville, South Carolina. Three Honors Projects (Delaney and Hayne [2004], and Beaty [2005], and Sheppard [2006]) have focused on the environmental interpretation made possible by the extensive palynoflora present in these sediments. In an interesting twist on this research, I decided to test the working hypothesis of these paleoecosystem reconstructions by having students work on a modern pond ecosystem to see if the pollen and spores that were being deposited in the sediments of the pond reflected accurately the plants growing adjacent to the pond. Three Honor’s Research projects were the result of this idea: Carly Eargle and Heather Hawkins [2008] worked on the palynology, and Nicholas Blake [2008] worked on the plant component of the surrounding pond environment.

Over the last four years, I have also been pursuing, along with a number of students, another line of research that centers around the Eocene and Oligocene mammals of the Badlands of Wyoming. I had the opportunity in 2007 to attend the TATE Conference in Casper, Wyoming, where I met Dr. Kent Sundell of Capser College. He leases approximately 10,000 acres of land near Douglas, Wyoming, which is right in the heart of the Badlands. The ‘badlands” are amazing topographic features that result from the actions of modern erosional forces cutting the mudstones deposited by the ancient Platte River, and is loaded with fossils, including oreodonts, horses, camels, nimravid “cats”, the huge suidArchaeotherium , and a myriad of smaller rodents. I returned with Dr. Inman and eight PC students in May 2008, and we spent several days collecting fossils in an untouched corner of Kent’s land which is controlled by the Bureau of Land Management (I had obtained a permit to do this!). Many of these fossils, encased in their mudstone tomb, are now being worked by students at PC. Allison Serdah completed a Honor’s project in 2008. Nick Plaisted also learned the techniques associated with preparing these fossils. More recently (2011), James Wilson completed a semester-long Internship learning how to use the airscribe to free fossils from the matrix. The ability to use the airscribe requiring fine-touch motor skills was especially useful to James in his aspirations of becoming a dentist after his 4 years at PC. Learn more


Student Research (* Honors Research)
2012. Caitlin Basnight*. Analysis of the paleodiet of 2 Oligocene-aged mammals of the White River Badlands using tooth striation microanalysis techniques.

2011. Caitlin Basnight. Reconstructing the paleoenvironment of the White River Formation of Wyoming based on the dentition of Oligocene-aged mammals. Summer Fellows Research project.

2011. Kaitlyn O’Gorman. Paleopathology of an Oligocene-aged camel jaw from the White River Formation of Wyoming. Summer Fellows Research project.

2011. Meghan Skinner*. Effects of [CO2] on stomata density in Arabidopsis thaliana.

2010. Claire Hann. SEM and light microscopic analysis of the pollen and spores of the Young Pond depositional environment.

2009. Nick Plaisted. Techniques in fossil preparation.

2008. Nicholas Blake*. An ecological study of the relative density and relative dominance of the trees and understory plants contributing to the pollen rains in the pond sedimentary basins in and around Clinton SC.

2008. Carly Eargle*. An analysis of the pollen and spores contributing to the pond sediments in and around Clinton SC: light micrscopy.

2008. Heather Hawkins*. An analysis of the pollen and spores contributing to the pond sediments in and around Clinton SC: electron microscopy.

2008. Allison Serdah*. The use of a modified air abrasion technique to analyze the structures used in the cladistic analysis of two Oligocene oreodonts.

2007. Sarah Cash*. A microfaunal analysis of the late Middle Pliocene Walrus Ditch Locality near Summerville, South Carolina.

2006. Danielle Gill*. Are the dinoflagellates of the Camelot Locality Eocene contamination or signs of a sea-level change in the Pleistocene?

2006. Anna Stevenson. The vertebrate microfauna of the Walrus Ditch Locality near Summerville, SC.

2005. Katie Becker. A Study of the pollen and spores of the Camelot Locality.

2005. Margaret Sams. An assessment of the fungal component of the Camelot Locality.

2005. Anna Sheppard*. An analysis of the dinoflagellates of the Camelot Locality sediments, Harleyville, South Carolina.

2004. Melissa Clare Beaty*. A paleoenvironmental analysis of the Camelot Fauna Locality utilizing the angiosperm and gymnosperm component of the microflora.

2004. James Stetson. Preparation of the Eocene Green River Formation fish Knightia.

2003. Laurel Delaney and Mary Douglas Hayne*. A microfaunal analysis of the Pleistocene Camelot Locality of South Carolina.

2001. Essie Buxton. An assessment of the fossil plants of the Triassic Deep River Basin sediments near Gulf, NC.

2000. Brian Shuflet. Curation of the Timmonsville Duplin Formation Kirby Pond Collection.

1999. Matt Moore*. An analysis of the Duplin Formation fossils, and a paleoenvironmental reconsideration of the Tearcoat Locality near Sumter, South Carolina.

1997. Ryan Williamson. A comparative study of snake scale microdermatoglyphics.

Publications & Articles
Michael T. Dunn, Prescott Atkinson, James Lacefield, and Michael Rischbieter, 2012. Winslowia tuscumbiana gen. et sp. nov. (Chaloneriaceae): A Cormose, Heterosporous, Ligulate Lycopsid Reconstructed from the Inside Out from the Pride Mountain Formation (Late Mississippian/Serpukhovian) of Northern Alabama. Int. J. Plant Sci. 173(1):96–111.

Carly Eargle and Michael O. Rischbieter, 2009. “An Analysis of the Pollen Profiles in Pond Deposition Basins and Associated Plant Community Structure in Young’s Pond, Clinton, SC”. Council of Undergraduate Research “Posters on the Hill” Abstract.

Eargle, C and M.O. Rischbieter, 2009. An analysis of the pollen and spores contributing to the pond sediments in and around Clinton SC . BigSURS Undergraduate Research Symposium Abstracts. UNC-Asheville.

Cash, S. and M.O. Rischbieter, 2007. A Microfaunal Analysis of the Walrus Ditch Locality. BigSURS Undergraduate Research Symposium Abstracts. Coastal Carolina University.

Rischbieter, M.O., Carpenter, J.R., and Saunders, O., 1996. Life Science Source Book: A guide to Life Science Activities, Vol. 1: Ecology. Center for Science Education, University of South Carolina, Columbia, S.C.

Rischbieter, M.O., and Slater, T.A., 1996. “The use of alternative assessment strategies in college-level science courses.” In preparation, to be submitted to the American Biology Teacher.

Rischbieter, M.O., and Carpenter, J.R., 1995. “The effect of a learning cycle-based teaching strategy on the cognitive gains of earth science teachers.” Submitted to The Journal of Geological Education.

Rischbieter, M.O., Ryan, J.M., and Carpenter, J.R., 1993. “Use of microethnographic strategies to analyze some affective aspects of learning-cycle-based minicourses in paleontology for teachers.” Journal of Geological Education, v. 41, p. 208-218.

Rischbieter, M.O., and Stidd, B.M., 1985. Anatomically and morphologically preserved Linopteris obliqua Bunbury from the Herrin No. 6 Coal of Sokuthern Illinois. Amer. J. Bot. Abstr., 72 (6): 899.

Stidd, B.M., Rischbieter, M.O., and Phillips, T.L., 1985. “A new lyginopterid pollen organ with alveolate pollen exines.” Amer. J. Bot., 72 (4): 501-508.

Rischbieter, M.O., Stidd, B.M., and Phillips, T.L., 1984. “A new seed fern pollen organ from the Pennsylvanian of Kentucky,” Amer. J. Bot. Abstr., 71(5/2):77.

DiMichele, W.A., Rischbieter, M.O., Eggert, D.L., Gastaldo, R.A., 1984. “Stem and leaf cuticle of Karinopteris: source of cuticles from the Indiana ‘paper’ coal,” Amer. J. Bot., 71(5): 626-637.