I am a paleoecologist and biogeographer, bringing the perspectives of space and time to bear on questions in ecology and global change science.* My work takes a community ecology approach to help understand how individual plant species and their assemblages have responded to interacting drivers (like climate change and extinction) through time. I’m especially interested 1) in how novel ecosystems are formed, 2) the legacies of what I call “biotic upheavals” like the extinction of Pleistocene megafauna, 3) drivers of plant community assembly and disassembly through time, 4) biotic drivers of landscape change on long timescales (like herbivory, competition, or insect outbreaks), and 5) what the paleorecord tells us about the ability of plants to migrate in response to climate change.
In my work, I take an interdisciplinary approach that combines paleoenvironmental reconstructions, modern field experiments, biogeographic data analysis, and modeling of past landscapes. My goal is to help other ecologists, conservationists, and policy makers better understand how ecosystems have responded to past change, in order to make informed decisions about present and future landscapes.
I recently completed my doctoral dissertation with the Williams Lab at the University of Wisconsin’s Geography Department, where my research explored how novel plant associations arose during the transition from the Pleistocene glaciation to our current interglacial, the Holocene. My work has shown that a combination of the extinction of ice age herbivores and climate change contributed to the rise of novel ecosystems.
I am currently a postdoctoral research associate with the Environmental Change Initiative at Brown University, where I am exploring the conservation implications of climate change-driven extinction during the Quaternary, as well as a project investigating critical thresholds in the ecosystems in the paleoecological record, focusing on forest/grassland transitions. This work is in collaboration with my postdoctoral advisors Jim Russell and Dov Sax.
I have accepted a position as Assistant Professor of Paleoecology and Plant Ecology at the University of Maine, held jointly with the School of Biology & Ecology and the Climate Change Institute. I’ll be starting in September, 2013.
In addition to my research, I am passionate about women in science and STEM diversity, new media and science communication, the cultural representation of scientists, science literacy, and active learning tools in the classroom. While my identity is first and foremost that of a researcher, I find that teaching and communication help to vitalize my research and make it relevant. When not in the lab, I am happiest exploring new trails or waterways, enjoying a classic movie with a knitting project in my lap, experimenting in the kitchen, or enjoying a good book.
Feel free to read more about my RESEARCH interests and read one of my recent PUBLICATIONS. I’ve also posted links to RESOURCES I’ve found helpful. You can also check out my blog, THE CONTEMPLATIVE MAMMOTH, and follow me on TWITTER.
*Or, you can read a summary of my research in a nutshell, using only the 1000 most common words in the English language, here.