Dr. Pearsall is an American archaeologist, specializing in paleoethnobotany. She maintains an online Phytolith database. She is a professor emerita in the Department of Anthropology, University of Missouri in Columbia, Missouri, where she where first began working in 1978. She is no longer accepting students. She received her Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1979, her dissertation being The Application of Ethnobotanical Techniques to the Problem of Subsistence in the Ecuadorian Formative.
Pearsall was awarded the 2002 Fryxell Award for Exceptional Interdisciplinary Research, by the Society for American Archaeology.
She is the author of four books, Case Studies in Paleoethnobotany: Understanding Ancient Lifeways through the Study of Phytoliths, Starch, Macroremains, and Pollen (2019); Paleoethnobotany: A Handbook of Procedures (Third edition, 2015); Plants and People in Ancient Ecuador: The Ethnobotany of the Jama River Valley (2004); and D. R. Piperno and D. M. Pearsall, The Origins of Agriculture in the Lowland Neotropics (1998), and was the general editor of Academic Press’s 2008 Encyclopedia of Archaeology. She has published in numerous professional journals and edited books.