Jere H. Lipps

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Jere Henry Lipps (August 28, 1939) has been a professor at the University of California at Berkeley in the Department of Integrative Biology since 1988 and Curator of Paleontology at the UC Museum of Paleontology. Lipps is also a past director of the museum (1989–1997) and chair of the department (1991–1994). He served as president of the Paleontological Society in 1997, and the Cushman Foundation for Foraminiferal Research Inc. 1983-84 and 2001-2002. He has been elected a fellow of eight organizations and serves on the board of directors of Micropaleotology Project and the Cushman Foundation.

He was recently named Director of the Dr. John D. Cooper Archaeological and Paleontological Center in Orange County, California.

Early life[edit]

Lipps was born in Los Angeles at the Queen of Angels Hospital and grew up in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Eagle Rock, California. As a boy Lipps roamed the hills in Los Angeles county near his boyhood home collecting interesting rocks and animals. Lipps attended Eagle Rock High School where he played American football, for the only undefeated team (1956) in the school's history.


After graduating from Eagle Rock High School he attended the University of California at Los Angeles, earning a B.A. in 1962 and a Ph.D. from UCLA in 1966. During this time, he became involved in paleontological research on the Southern California Channel Islands, collecting fossils and documenting the geology on five of the seven islands. His special interests were the Pleistocene history of California, the paleoecology of Miocene whale-bearing deposits in western North America, and planktonic foraminiferal evolution and biostratigraphy in California, the topic of his PhD dissertation. As a sideline, he did statistical analysis of the penis bones or baculum of the dire wolf, one of the most abundant fossils in the Rancho La Brea tar pits in Los Angeles.


After receiving his Ph.D. Lipps moved to the University of California at Davis and began his career in the Department of Geology. Lipps's research concerns the evolutionary biology and ecology of marine organisms, protists in particular. This involves studies of modern species and of particular problems in the fossil record. Presently, he is participating in studies concerning the biology and molecular phylogeny of coral reefs (Papua New Guinea, Enewetak Atoll, French Polynesia) and California foraminifera with the aim of better understanding the fossil record of these forms and ecosystems. Paleobiologic projects include the evolution of the earliest shelled protists in the Precambrian and Cambrian, the biologic constraints on mass extinctions and radiations, and the evolutionary history and future of reefs. These projects are mostly field oriented utilizing SCUBA in the modern studies and extended geologic work in the paleobiologic studies.

Lipps was leader of a project on Antarctic marine ecology for the United States Antarctic Program between 1971 and 1981. During that project Lipps took drilled core samples of the sea floor from beneath the ice. He and his team used dry suits to dive under the ice, frequently encountering aggressive leopard seals. He was the leader of the biology team for the Ross Ice Shelf Project which drilled a hole through the 420m thick ice shelf and recovered organisms on the sea floor some 200m below the base of the Shelf at the southernmost marine locality in the world. As a result of this research, he has an island named for him in Antarctica called Lipps Island.

From 1985-1989, he worked in Papua New Guinea on coral reef ecology, supplementing many years of previous work on reefs elsewhere in the world. Since then his reef work involves localities in Australia, the Society Islands, the Egyptian Red Sea, Fiji, and other Pacific islands. His paleontological research involves fossil reefs, the Ediacaran biota in Russia, Australia, Newfoundland, and California, extinction dynamics in open-ocean ecosystems, and the paleontology of the Galapagos Islands and sites in California.

Lipps is co-author (with Philip W. Signor) of the Signor-Lipps effect,[1] a paleontological principle which states that since the fossil record of organisms is never complete, because neither the first nor the last organism in a given taxon will be recorded as a fossil, hence the complete range in time and the rock record can never be known.


  1. ^ Signor III, P. W. and Lipps, J. H. (1982) "Sampling bias, gradual extinction patterns, and catastrophes in the fossil record", in Geological implications of impacts of large asteroids and comets on the Earth (ed. L. T. Silver and P. H. Schultz), Geological Society of America Special Publication, vol. 190, pp. 291-296.

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