Dr. Burnham is currently involved in research on climbing plants of the Amazon Basin, especially in Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia on the lower flanks of the Andes Mountains. Her interests are in the community structure and species composition of Amazonian forests, as viewed via the lianas and vines that inhabit these forests. Particular interest has recently been focused on the impacts of human intervention in Amazonian forests from oil exploration, agriculture and gold mining. Continuing work on the paleontological history of the forests of Northern South America is carried out in her lab as well, with on-going research in the intermontane basins of Ecuador and the eastern basins of Bolivia.
Dr. Burnham received her Ph.D. in Botany at the University of Washington in 1987. Her dissertation was on "Inferring vegetation from plant-fossil assemblages: effects of depositional environment and heterogeneity in the source vegetation on assemblages from modern and ancient fluvial-deltaic environments." Research was carried out in southern Mexico (Tabasco) and in the state of Washington in coal mines of the Puget Group. Her Masters Degree was also received from the University of Washington in 1983 on Foliar Morphological Analysis of the Ulmoideae (Ulmaceae) from the early Tertiary of western North America. She received her Bachelor's Degree from the University of California, Berkeley in 1980.