BEAST Lab: Biodiversity & Environmental change Across Space and Time
We are a multi-disciplinary research team committed to understanding how biodiversity responds to global change through time. Climate change, disturbance, human activity, and extinction are challenges for managing future diversity, but are also opportunities to explore the dynamics of ecology and evolution. The Earth is our laboratory, from the natural experiments of the geologic past to the challenges facing today’s ecosystems. Our research spans systems and organisms, from lakes to caves, treeless islands to boreal forests, and bison to penguins. We research the dynamic distributions and interactions of plants, animals, humans, and environments, using the fossil record, models, and contemporary experiments. Our goal is to inform ecology, conservation, and management with the lens of the past. To that end, we are committed to teaching, training a diverse science workforce, science outreach and communication, and doing and publishing accessible research.
As a paleoecologist and biogeographer, I bring the perspectives of space and time to bear on questions in ecology and conservation biology. In my lab, we work on a number of fundamental and applied questions in ecology and conservation. I’m especially interested 1) novel communities and ecosystems, 2) the legacies of biotic upheavals like the extinction of Pleistocene megafauna, 3) emerging and novel conservation methods like managed relocation, rewilding, and the use of geophysical surrogates for biodiversity, 4) how climate change and extinction affect biotic interactions, 5) what the paleorecord tells us about the ability of species to keep pace with climate change, and 6) community assembly.
In my lab, we 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.
In 2013, I began 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’m thrilled to be joining a program with a long history of excellent research in ecology, climate change, and Quaternary studies. I’ll be switching this over to a new lab website in early 2016 — stay tuned!
You can also read a summary of my research in a nutshell, using only the 1000 most common words in the English language, here.