Student Highlights: Kalley Collins


Class:  Junior

Major:  Geology and Anthropology

Kalley Collins is an undergraduate student at UW studying Geology and Anthropology. She is originally from the small town of Cowley, Wyoming, near the Montana state border. When she is not looking for cool rocks, fossil leaves, or historic artifacts, she enjoys attempting to cook and reading. Kalley hates driving in traffic and parallel parking.

Kalley showing the first leaf fossil that she found while working at a paleobotany quarry.


Kalley works in Dr. Ellen Currano’s paleobotany lab with Ph.D. candidate Lauren Azevedo Schmidt. Kalley looks at the isotopic ratios of bulk carbon and nitrogen in modern leaf fossils. This isotopic composition indicates if leaves are composed of more carbon due to the carbon increasing in the atmosphere. When leaves are composed of more carbon and less nitrogen than in theory, insects would have to eat more plant material to compensate for the decreased nutritional value of plants.

Furthermore, Kalley also studies insect-plant interactions. In particular, she measures and quantifies insect damage on leaves from two temperate forests in the United States, Harvard forest in Massachusetts and the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) in Maryland, as well as from the tropical La Selva forest in Costa Rica.


Every year, we award fellowships to graduate and undergraduate students attending the University of Wyoming or one of Wyoming’s community colleges in order to provide them with the opportunity to do “real” research. Occasionally, we feature one of these students and their research on this blog. For more information about our student fellowships, visit our College Programs page.