Michael S. Zavada, Ph.D.

Text Box:  
Department of Biological Sciences
East Tennessee State University
Box 70703
Johnson City, TN 37614
423-439-5958 (FAX)


                                                                                                                                   Professor & Chairman


Academic Background        

Courses Taught at East Tennessee State University

  • General Biology
  • Ethnobotany                                                  
  • Palynology
  • Paleobotany
  • Electron Microscopy


Teaching Philosophy

 The imitator dooms himself to hopeless mediocrity (R.W. Emerson)

The academic community has a long tradition of aspiring to high ideals, innovation, and diversity. The academic community is an environment where thought is not bound by conventional wisdom, current societal norms, political agendas, or constrained by religious, intellectual or administrative canons. The professorship is a community of explorers, investigators and mentors working on the frontiers of thought. The modern educational environment, in the interest of accountability, tends toward fixed curricula, standardized tests and task oriented evaluation.  It is academic freedom that makes higher education different and special, and in great contrast to the specific mission and goals of primary and secondary education.

Educators need to have factual knowledge; they need to have experience that is acquired through exploration and scholarly work. University educators need to be involved in the university community, the professional community, and the community at large. Educators need to have the ability to relate to the student on a generational and personal level. No one teaching method, no one educator inspires all of the students, and it is the collaborative effort of the department and college faculty that bring their knowledge, diverse personalities and viewpoints, and their experiences to bear on the education of a student. The university community is a collaboration that includes intense debate, experimentation, and review with the goal to juxtaposition old ideas in new and unique ways to solve the problems important to today's world and future generations.



Research & Interests

I am interested in elucidating the time and place of origin of the angiosperms. I approach the problem from a paleobotanical / palynological perspective. Pollen has a number of characteristics for tracking the time, place and early diversification of a variety of taxonomic groups. Among these characteristics are; pollen is a ubiquitous fossil, often found in sediments that are devoid of other fossilized plant remains, pollen is resistant to decay and preserves a number of morphological and ultrastructural features, pollen characters have been shown to have taxonomic importance, and pollen floras are a better representation of past plant diversity than the megafossil record. An important aspect of my work has been determining the pollen synapomorphies of angiosperms. I have taken a broad approach in evaluating the taxonomic significance of these characters. My data base now includes ultrastructural studies (light, scanning electron, and transmission electron microscopy) of the extant primitive angiosperms (e.g., basal angiosperms, Hamamelidae, and monocots), dispersed fossil pollen of gymnosperm and angiosperm affinity from five of the seven continents, and pollen found in fossilized reproductive structures of various gymnosperm, pteridosperm and angiosperm taxa of the Upper Paleozoic and Mesozoic. 

A second facet of my research is elucidating the functional significance of pollen characters. This may provide insight into the selective pressures that brought about the diverse angiosperm pollen morphologies. This area of my research has been more empirical, and has taken me into disciplines such as the physical sciences (engineering and geosciences), pollination and reproductive biology, plant physiology, and development. This line of research has been, and will be, of great importance to understanding the origin and early diversification of angiosperms.   The ultrastructural studies of fossil pollen remain my primary research focus, however, my research in collaboration with Dr. Karl Hasenstein from the University of Louisiana, on the self-incompatibility (SI) of Theobroma cacao is important to understanding what role SI may have played in the origin and diversification of angiosperms. The self-incompatibility system of cacao has been termed "ovarian", a type of SI that may have been present in early angiosperms. Our investigations, however, are showing that this system may be a unique variation of a sporophytic SI system. 

I am also interested in floristic development in areas of high species diversity, i.e., the fynbos of South Africa, and the flora of Madagascar. I have been funded to look at the development of the angiosperm floras over time (Cretaceous and Tertiary) and to investigate what factors may have played a role in the development of these unique high diversity areas.  

I continue to have an ongoing interest in ethnobotany, in paleo- and plant ecology, lichenology, and the application of paleobotany and palynology to archeology, and aerobiology.

I am interested in accepting well qualified graduates with similar interests - ETSU School of Graduate Studies - Apply


                                                                      Fossil Collecting in Madagascar


Zavada, M.S.1976. Palynology of the Upper Cretaceous Fruitland Formation, San Juan Basin, New Mexico. M.S. Thesis, Arizona   

     State University, Tempe.

Lee, M. and A. Zavada. 1977. A report of a Tertiary petrified wood from Yuma County, Arizona. J. Ariz. Acad. Sci., 12: 21-22.

Nash, T.H. and M. Zavada. 1977. Population studies in the parmelias subsection Xanthoparmelia. Amer. J. Bot., 64: 666-671.

Zavada, M. 1979. Palynology of some Upper cretaceous flysch deposits in Central Macedonia, Yugoslavia. Geol. Balkanica, 9: 35-46.

Zavada, M. 1979. A cactus close to home. Connecticut Audobon Bulletin, 1(4): 3.

Crepet, W.L., Daghlian, C.P. and M. Zavada. 1980. Investigations of fossil flowers from the Eocene of North America: A new

     juglandaceous catkin.  Rev. Paleobot. Palynol., 30: 361-370.

Zavada, M. 1980. Fossil plants of the Connecticut River Valley. Newsletter Connecticut Botanical Society, 8(3-4):1-2.

Zavada, M. and W.L. Crepet. 1981. Investigations of angiosperms from the Eocene of North America: Flowers of the Celtidoideae.

     Amer. J. Bot., 68: 924-933.

Zavada, M.S.1982. Morphology, ultrastructure, and evolutionary significance of monosulcate pollen. Ph.D. Thesis, The University of

     Connecticut, Storrs.

Zavada, M., Xu, Xue-Lin, and M. Edwards. 1983. On the taxonomic status of Lophiola aurea Ker-Gawler. Rhodora, 85: 73-81.

Zavada, M. 1983. Pollen morphology of Ulmaceae. Grana, 22: 23-30.

Zavada, M. 1983.Comparative morphology of monocot pollen and evolutionary trends of apertures and wall structure. Bot. Rev., 49:


Zavada, M. 1983. Pollen wall development of Zamia floridana. Pollen et Spores, 25: 287-304.

Zavada, M. 1984. Pollen wall development of Austrobaileya maculata.  Bot. Gaz., 145: 11-21.

Zavada, M. 1984. Angiosperm origins and evolution based on dispersed fossil pollen ultrastructure. Ann. Mo. Bot. Gard., 71: 440-


Zavada, M. 1984. The relation between pollen exine sculpturing and self-incompatibility mechanisms. Plant Syst. Evol., 147: 63-78.

Yatskievych, G. and M. Zavada. 1984. Pollen morphology of Lennoaceae.  Pollen et Spores, 26: 131-143.

Zavada, M. and W.L. Crepet. 1985. Pollen wall ultrastructure of the type material of Pteruchus africanus, P. dubius and P.

     papillatus. Pollen et Spores, 27: 271-276.

Taylor, T.N. and M.S. Zavada. 1986. Developmental and functional aspects of fossil pollen, pgs. 165-178. In: Pollen and Spores,

     Form and Function, S. Blackmore and I.K. Ferguson (eds.) Linn. Soc. Symposium Series 12, London.

Zavada, M. and D.L. Dilcher. 1986. Comparative morphology and phylogeny of pollen of the Hamamelidae. Ann. Mo. Bot. Gard., 73:


Dilcher, D.L. and M.S. Zavada. 1986. Phylogeny of the Hamamelideae: An introduction. Ann. Missouri Bot. Gard., 73: 225-226.

Zavada, M. and W.L. Crepet. 1986. Pollen wall structure of Caytonanthus arberi. Plant Syst. and Evol., 153: 259-264.

Zavada, M. and T.N. Taylor. 1986. The role of self-incompatibility and sexual selection in the gymnosperm-angiosperm transition: A

     hypothesis.  Amer. Nat., 128: 538-550.

Zavada, M. and T.N. Taylor. 1986. Pollen morphology of Lactoridaceae.  Plant Syst. Evol., 154: 31-39.

Taylor, T.N., Zavada, M., and S. Archangelsky. 1987. The ultrastructure of Cyclusphaera psilata from Cretaceous deposits of

    Argentina. Grana, 26: 74-80.

Zavada, M.S. 1987. The occurrence of Cyclusphaera sp. in Southern Africa. VII Simposio Argentino de Paleobotanica y Palynologia,

     Actas: pgs. 101-105.

Zavada, M.S. and J. Benson. 1987. The first fossil evidence for the primitive angiosperm family, Lactoridaceae. Amer. J. Bot., 74:


Manchester, S.R. and M. Zavada. 1987. Lygodium foliage with intact sorophores form the Eocene of Wyoming. Bot. Gaz., 148: 392-


Zavada, M.S. and A. Cadman. 1987. People, pollen and pollinosis.  Allergy Update, 2/87:7-8.

Zavada, M.S. and A. Cadman. 1987. A Pollen Calendar for Southern Africa.  Allergy Update, 3/87: 1-2.

Cadman, A. and M.S. Zavada. 1987. Pollen Rain in the South African context. Allergy Update, 4/87: 6-8.

Zavada, M.S. and D.L. Dilcher. 1988. Pollen wall ultrastructure of selected dispersed monosulcate pollen from Cenomanian, Dakota

     Formation of central U.S.A. Amer. J. Bot., 75: 667-677.

Kerr, S. and M.S. Zavada. 1989. The effect of the Lichen Acarospora sinopica on the elemental composition of three sedimentary

     rock substrates in South Africa. The Bryologist, 92: 407-410.

Zavada, M.S.  1990. The Mexican curandera in Arizona.  Desert Plants, 10: 61-65.

Zavada, M.S. 1990. The ultrastructure of selected monosulcate pollen from the Triassic Chinle Formation, Western U.S. Palynology,

     14: 9-18.

Zavada, M.S. 1990. A contribution to the pollen wall ultrastructure of orchid pollinia. Ann. Missouri Bot. Gard., 77: 457-482.

Zavada, M.S. 1990. Correlations between pollen exine sculpturing and angiosperm self-incompatibility systems - A rebuttal.  Taxon,

     39: 442-447.

Zavada, M.S. 1991. Determining character polarities in pollen, pgs. 239-256.  In: Pollen and Spores: Patterns of Diversification,

     Blackmore, S. and S. Barnes (eds.), Linn. Soc. Symp. Series, Oxford University Press.

Zavada, M.S. and N.I. Gabarayeva. 1991. Comparative pollen wall development of Welwitschia mirabilis and selected primitive

     angiosperms. Bull. Torrey Bot. Club, 118:292-302.

Zavada, M.S. 1991. The ultrastructure of pollen found in the dispersed sporangia of Arberiella (Glossopteridaceae). Bot. Gaz.,


Zavada, M.S. and M. Mentis. 1992. Plant-Animal Interaction:  The effect of Permian mega-herbivores on the Glossopterid flora. 

     Amer. Midland Nat., 127:1-13.

Zavada, M.S. 1992. Pollen wall ultrastructure of fossil discoid pollen.  Bull. Torrey Bot. Club, 119:44-49.

Wei, Z.-X., Zavada, M.S. and Ming, T.-L. 1992. Pollen morphology of Camellia (Theaceae) and its taxonomic significance. Acta Bot.

     Yunnanica,  14: 275-282.

Zavada, M.S. and G. Scott. 1993. Pollen morphology of Cyanella spp. (Tecophiliaceae). Grana, 32: 189-192.

Zavada, M.S. and Z. Wei. 1993. A contribution to the pollen wall ultrastructure of Camellia spp. (Theaceae). Grana, 32: 233-242.

Zavada, M.S. and A. Cadman. 1993. Palynological investigation at the Makapansgat Limeworks: An australopithecine site. J. Human

     Evolution 25: 337-350.

Kim, M. and M.S. Zavada. 1993. Pollen morphology of Broussonetia (Moraceae). Grana, 32: 327-329.

Zavada, M.S. 1993. The historical use of henna (Lawsonia inermis L.) in the Balkans.  Thaiszia, 3: 97-100.

Zavada, M.S. 1993. Other things to do on a good dinosaur day. Plants and Planets, Lafayette Natural History Museum Newsletter,

     17: 4-5.

Kurmann, M.H. and M.S. Zavada. 1994. Pollen morphological diversity in extant and fossil gymnosperms, pgs. 123-137. In: M.H.

     Kurmann and J.A. Doyle (eds.), Ultrastructure of fossil spores and pollen, Royal Botanic Gardens. Kew Bull.

Baker, R.P., Hasenstein, K.H. and M.S. Zavada. 1994. Self-incompatibility in Theobroma cacao: Hormonal changes associated with

     the incompatibility responce, pgs. 273-275. In: Pollen-Pistal Interaction and Pollen Tube Growth, Stephenson, A.G. and Kao,

     T.h. (eds.). American Society of Plant Physiologists.

Zavada, M.S. and T. Lowrey. 1995. Floral heteromorphism in Dais cotinifolia L. (Thymelaeaceae): a possible case of heterostyly.

     Adansonia, 17: 11-20.

Zavada, M.S. and M. Kim. 1996. Phylogenetic analysis of the Ulmaceae. Pl. Syst. Evol., 200: 13-20.

Baker, R.P., Hasenstein, K.H. and M.S. Zavada 1997. Hormonal changes after compatible and incompatible pollinations in Theobroma

     cacao L. Hortscience, 32: 1231-1234.

Zavada, M.S. and G.J. Anderson. 1997. The wall and  aperture development of pollen from the dioecious Solanum appendiculatum:

     What  is  inaperturate  pollen? Grana, 36:129-134.

Levesque, A. and M.S. Zavada 1998. Cycad-like fossils from the Molteno Formation of South Africa. Cycad Newsletter, 21: 6-8.

Allain, L.K. Zavada, M.S. and D.G. Matthews 1999. The reproductive biology of Magnolia grandiflora. Rhodora, 101: 143-162.

Goodwin, M.B., Clemens, W.A., Hutchinson, J.H., Wood, C.B., Zavada, M.S., Kemp, A., Duffin, C.J.,  and C.R. Schaff. 1999.

     Mesozoic continental vertebrates with associated palynostratigraphic dates from the Northwestern Ethiopian plateau. J. Vert.

     Paleontology, 19: 728-741.

Harley, M.M. and M.S. Zavada. 2000. Pollen of the monocotyledons: Selecting characters for cladistic analysis, pgs. 194-213.  In:

     Monocots: Systematics and Evolution, Wilson, K.L. and D. Morrison (eds.), CSIRO Publish., Sydney, Australia.

Zavada, M.S. and S. De Villiers. 2000. Pollen of the Asteraceae from the Paleocene-Eocene of South Africa. Grana, 39: 39-45.

Zavada, M.S., G.J. Anderson and T.N. Taylor. 2000. The role of apertures in pollen germination: A case study from Solanum

     appendiculatum, pgs. 89-97. In: M.M. Harley, C.M. Morten,  and S. Blackmore (eds.). Pollen and Spores: Morphology and

     Biology, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Zavada, M.S. and P. Simoes. 2001. The possible demi-lichenization of the basidiocarps of  Trametes versicolor (L.:Fries) Pilat

     (Polyporaceae). Northeastern Naturalist, 8: 101-112.

Hasenstein, K.H. and M.S. Zavada. 2001. Auxin modification of the incompatibility response in Theobroma cacao L. Physiologia

     Plantarum, 112: 113-118.

Zavada, M.S. 2003. The ultrastructure of angiosperm pollen from the Lower Cenomanian of the Morondova Basin, Madagascar.

     Grana, 42: 20-32.

Shang, Y. and M.S. Zavada. 2003. The ultrastructure of Cerebropollenites from the Jurassic and Cretaceous of Asia. Grana, 42:


Zavada, M.S., DiMichele, L., and C. Toth. 2004. The demi-lichenization of Tremetes veriscolor II. The transfer of fixed 14CO2 from

     the aglal epiphyte to the fungus. Northeast Naturalist, 11: 33-40.

Zavada, M.S. 2004. The earliest occurrence of angiosperms in Southern Africa. South African Journal of Botany, 70: 646-653.

Zavada, M.S. 2004. Ultrastructure of Upper Paleozoic and Mesozoic monosulcate pollen from southern Africa and Asia.

     Palaeontologia Africana, 40: 59-68.

Zavada, M.S., Cox, R., Wang, Y.Q., Rakotondrazafy, A.F.M., Rambolamanana, G., Raveloson, A., and H. Razanatsoa. 2005.

     Identification and significance of human induced and natural erosion features (lavaka) on the high plateau. Ravintsara, 3: 3-4.

Zavada, M.S. 2007. The identification of fossil angiosperm pollen and its bearing on the time and place of origin of angiosperms. Pl.

     Syst. Evol., 263: 117-134.

Zavada, M.S. 2007. Botanical Methods. Bent Tree Press, Reno, NV, 116 pgs.

Zavada, M.S., McGraw, S.M., and M.A. Miller. 2007. The role of clothing fabrics as passive pollen collectors in the northeastern

     United States. Grana, 46:285-291.

Shunk, A.J., Driese, S.G., Farlow, J.O., Zobaa, M.K., Zavada, M.S. 2009. Early Pliocene paleoclimate reconstruction from Pipe Creek 

     Sinkhole, Indiana, US. Journal of Paleogeography, Paleoclimatology, Paleoecology, 274: 173-184.

Zavada, M.S., Wang, Y.Q., Rambolamanana, G., Raveloson, A. and Razanatsoa, H. 2009. The significance of human induced and 

     natural erosion features (lavakas) on the high plateau of Madagascar. Journal Madagascar Conservation and Development, 4

     (2): 120-127.

Zavialova, N, Konijnenburg-van Cittert and M.S. Zavada. 2009. The Exine ultrastructure of Williamsoniella coronata. International

     Journal of Plant Science, 170:1195-1200.

El Beialy, S.Y.,El Atfy, H.S., Zavada, M.S., El Khoriby, E.M. and R.H. Abu-Zied. 2010. Palynological, Palynofacies,          

     Paleoenvironmental and Organic Geochemical Studies on the Upper Cretaceous Succession of the GPTSW- 7 Well,     

     Northwestern Desert, Egypt. Marine and Petroleum Geology, 27: 370-385.





Born and raised in Bridgeport, Connecticut. He received his B.S. and M.S. degree in Botany / Palynology from Arizona State University, Tempe. He received a B.A. in Slavic Languages, and a Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Connecticut, Storrs. He spent one year as a Fulbright Scholar in Skopje, Macedonia at the Geologic Institute, and the Center for Foreign Languages. He did post-doctoral work at Indiana University, Bloomington with David Dilcher and Ohio State University, Columbus with Tom Taylor. He has served on the faculties of The University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa, The University of Louisiana-Lafayette, was Professor and Chairman of the Department of Biology at Providence College, Providence, RI, and is currently the Chairman of Biological Sciences at East Tennessee State University and a member of the Center of Excellence in Paleontology. His field research has taken him throughout North America, South America, and Africa, including Madagascar. He has received over $ 4 million in grants including grants from the National Science Foundation, National Institute of Health, NASA, American Philosophical Society, and National Geographic Society. He has published over 70 papers. In addition to his academic interests, he played baseball at Arizona State University, participates in a variety of sports, and outdoor activities, enjoys travel, and is an instrument rated private pilot.