Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Ingrid Romero

Postdoctoral Research Fellow

I am a Colombian biologist and micropaleontologist. Throughout my career, my research interests have been focused on the study of microfossils to have a deeper understanding of paleo-ecological changes through time, as well as to understand the role that climatic and geological events have in these changes. My research has also been focused on studying the evolution of different lineages of plants, mainly in the tropics. Microfossil records, such as pollen and spores, are considered one of the most continuous proxies for evaluating changes in plant communities through different periods of time.

During my career, I had the opportunity to work on a Miocene geological section from the Colombian savannas. From this study, the major findings indicated two major marine incursions in northern South America during the early and middle Miocene.

I also have worked with computer scientists to integrate super-resolution microscopy and machine learning models in the identification of pollen species. This study demonstrated that the combination of both techniques provides more information about the evolution of plants than previously recognized and suggests that the fossil pollen record is more diverse than previously expected.

One of my goals as a scientist is to transmit the knowledge that I have acquired during my career to future students in science, as well as to inspire new generations to pursue STEM careers, especially in paleontology.

Department / Division
  • Ph.D. Plant Biology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • M.S. Biology, Seton Hall University
  • M.S. Palynology and Paleoecology, Universidad Nacional de Colombia
  • B.A. Biology, Pontificia Universidad Javeriana

Sociedad Colombiana de Geología, The Palynological Society AASP-TPS, Asociación Latinoamericana de Paleobotánica y Palinología, Torrey Botanical Society, Past Global Changes (PAGES), Botanical Society of America, The Paleontological Society, The Micropaleontological Society, Geological Society of America

Research Interests

Plant evolution, Cenozoic, palynology, paleoecology

  • Nuñez Otaño N.B., Saparrat M. C. N., Romero I. C., Perez Pincheira E., Saxena R. K., Bianchinotti V. 2022. Transfer of Frasnacritetrus Taugourdeau (1968) to Tetraploa Berkeley and Broome (1850) and comments on the contribution of dark pigments for the preservation of fungal spores in the fossil record. Mycosphere 13(2): 188-206. Doi 10.5943/mycosphere/si/lf/6
  • Pound Matthew J., Nuñez Otaño Noelia B., Romero Ingrid C., Lim Michael, Riding James B., O’Keefe Jennifer M. K. 2022. The fungal ecology of the Brassington Formation (Middle Miocene) of Derbyshire, United Kingdom, and a new method for palaeoclimate reconstruction. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution. 10, 947623.
  • Romero I. C., Nuñez Otaño N. B., Gibson M. E, Spears T., Fairchild C. J., Tarlton L., Jones S.5, Belkin H. E., Warny S., Pound M. J., O’Keefe J. M. K. 2021. First record of fungal diversity in the tropical and warm-temperate Middle Miocene Climate Optimum forests of Eurasia. Frontiers in Forest and Global Change, 04:768405,
  • Romero I. C., Kong S., Fowlkes C., Urban M. A., Jaramillo C., Oboh-Ikuenobea F. E., D’Apolito C., Punyasena S. W. 2020. Improving the taxonomy of fossil pollen using convolutional neural networks and superresolution microscopy. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. http://doi:10.1073/pnas2007324117
  • Romero I., Urban M. A., Punyasena S. W. 2020. Airyscan confocal superresolution images of fossil and modern pollen of Amherstieae (Fabaceae). Illinois Data Bank. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. http://doi.or/10.13012/B2IDB-9133967_V1.
  • Romero I. C., Urban M. A., Punyasena S. W. 2020. Airyscan superresolution microscopy: A high-throughput alternative to electron microscopy for the visualization and analysis of fossil pollen. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology, 276:
  • Bernal R., Bacon C., Balslev H., Hoorn C., Bourlat S., Tuomisto H., Salamanca S., Teunissen van Manen M., Romero I., Sepulchre P., Antonelli A. 2019. Could coastal plants in western Amazonia be relicts of past marine incursions? Journal of Biogeograhy, 00: 1-11. https://doi. org/10.1111/jbi.1356
  • Urban M. A., Romero I. C., Sivaguru M., Punyasena S. W. 2018. Nested Cell strainers: An alternative method of preparing palynomorphs and charcoal. Review of Palaeobotany and palynology, 253: 101-109.
  • Jaramillo C., Romero I., D’polito C., Bayona G., Duarte E., Louwye S., Escobar J., Luque J., Carrillo J., Zapata V., Mora A., Schouten S., Zavada M., Harrington G., Ortiz J, Wesseling F. 2017. Miocene flooding of Western Amazonia. Science Advances, 3(5): e1601693.
  • Duarte E., Bayona G., Jaramillo C., Parra M., Romero I., Mora J. A. 2017. Identification of Miocene maximum marine flooding events and their use for correlation and analysis of the Eastern Llanos Foreland Basin, Colombia. Boletín de Geología, 39(1): 19-40.
  • Romero I. & Rangel-Ch J. O. 2013. Cambios en la vegetación y el clima durante el Holoceno Tardío en el complejo cenagoso de Zapatosa. Cesar, Colombia. In: Rangel-Ch. J. O. Colombia Diversidad Biótica XIII. Complejo cenagoso Zapatosa y ciénagas del sur del Cesar: Diversidad, conservación y manejo. Instituto de Ciencias Naturales. Universidad Nacional de Colombia. Colombia.
  • Rangel-Ch. J. O., Jaramillo A., Parra L. N., Rivera O., Rocha M., Álvarez J. P., García Y., Amat G., Arellano H., Avella A., Carvajal J. E., Galvis G., Cortes D., Moreno C., López Y., Morales I., Romero I., Ávila S., Estupiñán M., Delgado P. & Ardila M. 2012. Las ciénagas del departamento del Cesar: Zapatosa y ciénagas del Sur-Biodiversidad y Conservación. Colombia: Diversidad Biótica. Publicación especial VII. Instituto de Ciencias Naturales. Universidad Nacional de Colombia- CORPOCESAR. Bogotá. Colombia.