Jax and phoebe hire a podcast team

Who we are: Two experienced women podcasters, paleobiologists, and professors looking to bring our love of Earth’s history (and pie) to the masses. We bring a commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, justice, and accessibility to everything we do. 

What we’re doing: We’re making a limited-run podcast that explores the major events in earth history that needed to take place to get to the moment where two humans (us!) can hang out and bake an apple pie. The show is tentatively called Jax and Phoebe Make a Planet (as inspired by the famous Carl Sagan quote). Along the way, our listeners will learn about why Earth is such an incredibly special place — and one worth protecting. Each episode will focus on an important moment that changed the trajectory of our planet, and life itself —  the formation of the moon, the evolution of the oxygen-producing bacteria that created our breathable atmosphere, how plants made it onto land, the asteroid impact that ushered in the Age of Mammals, and more. Along the way, we’ll explore the origins of all the ingredients needed to make an apple pie (Sugar! Butter! Apples!). The podcast format will include a blend of scripted essays, conversation, and interviews. 

Who we’re looking for: An audio producer with podcast experience, a graphic designer, and a social media coordinator to join our team (we envision 2-3 people, depending on skills and interests). These will be paid positions, and we’ll be launching a Kickstarter to support this project later this year. We estimate that this project will start in  Fall 2021 and run through 2022 (schedule TBD). You should apply if you are passionate about science communication, enjoy working with a feminist team, and have an irreverent sense of humor.  

What we need from you: If you’re interested please send us a 1-page resume,  a 1-paragraph summary of why you’re interested in the position, and some examples of your work to makeaplanetpod@gmail.com by August 1, 2021.

Funded graduate position

Dr. Jacquelyn Gill is seeking a graduate student to join an interdisciplinary project on the paleoenvironmental history of Beringia. This project will involve generating paleoclimate records from sediment cores in Alaska, using biological and/or geochemical paleoclimate proxies (e.g., stable isotopes, chironomids, Cladocera, leaf waxes). Participation in remote Alaskan fieldwork in Alaska is available. This student will also help create of a VR outreach and education tool, and will be encouraged to participate in outreach and science communication efforts. They will also have the opportunity to mentor and supervise undergraduates.

Position: An MS is preferred, but students interested in a PhD will be also considered. Start date is Summer or Fall 2021. Dr. Gill can supervise students in the Quaternary Sciences, Ecology & Environmental Science, and Biological Sciences degree programs at the University of Maine.

Funding: Full-year funding will be provided via a teaching assistantship in the School of Biology and Ecology, including tuition and fees, health insurance, and a stipend, including summer.


  • A BS or BA in ecology, earth science, environmental science, geography, biology, or other relevant disciplines. Students with a degree in another field with relevant post-graduate work experience will also be considered.
  • Strong interest in interdisciplinary research in earth science, ecology, climate studies, and/or archaeology.
  • The teaching assistantship is through the School of Biology and Ecology (e.g., classes such as BIO 100, Vertebrate Biology, Plant Taxonomy, Field Natural History), so prior biology coursework is required.
  • Experience with lab work (e.g., microscopy, lab chemistry) is a plus, as is experience that would translate well to paleoclimate proxy research, such as aquatic invertebrate identification or soil testing (in coursework or job experience). However, students who have not had the opportunity to do lab or fieldwork but are passionate about the topics related to this project are strongly encouraged to apply.

GRE scores are not required. Non-traditional, first-generation, BIPOC, LGBTQIA2S+, and/or students with disabilities are encouraged to apply.

About Us: The BEAST Lab (Biodiversity & Environments Across Space & Time) at the University of Maine is an interdisciplinary research group interested in fundamental and applied questions about the interactions of biodiversity, climate change, and people throughout prehistory. We offer a family-friendly, supportive lab environment, a commitment to professional development and mentoring, and training in paleoecology, conservation biology, and community ecology to address urgent global change problems. Our students come from a wide range of backgrounds and interests, and we are committed to preparing lab members for diverse careers. We support social justice, accessible science, outreach, and public engagement. The University of Maine’s collegial environment, track record of excellence in interdisciplinary research, proximity to many natural areas (forests, mountains, rivers, and oceans), and low cost of living make this a great place to live, learn, and work.

To Apply: Please send a CV and 1-pg cover letter outlining your background, your interest in the position, and how this opportunity will help you realize your future goals to jacquelyn.gill@maine.edu by Friday, April 9. Interviews will be conducted during the week of April 12.


How Resilient are New England’s Sky Island Alpine Communities?

The BEAST Lab at the University of Maine has a funded position for a graduate student (at the MS or PhD level) to join a project for Fall 2019 investigating the long-term resilience of alpine and sub-alpine plant communities in New England, working with Dr. Jacquelyn Gill and Dr. Caitlin McDonough MacKenize. This project uses a conservation paleobiology framework, with a mix of approaches including paleoecological proxies (pollen, macrofossils, sedaDNA), contemporary population genetics, and trait ecology; applicants should have experience in one or more of those fields, ideally with experience working with alpine or Arctic plants, but past experience in paleoecology is not required. Students will be encouraged to develop their own research related to the overall project goals, and will have the opportunity to gain experience in science communication, outreach, and/or stakeholder engagement. The ideal candidate will have experience and/or an interest in a combination of lab and fieldwork, including working in backcountry alpine environments. Funding involves a combination of teaching assistantships in general biology or plant courses and summer research assistantships (candidates will be encouraged to write fellowship applications, with support from project mentors).

About us: The BEAST Lab is an interdisciplinary research group housed jointly in the School of Biology and Ecology and the Climate Change Institute at the University of Maine. We offer a family-friendly, supportive lab environment, a commitment to professional development and mentoring, and training in paleoecology, conservation biology, and community ecology to address urgent global change problems. The University of Maine’s collegial environment, track record of excellence in interdisciplinary research, proximity to many natural areas (forests, mountains, rivers, and oceans), and low cost of living make this a great place to live, learn, and work.

To apply:
Submit a CV, contact information for three references, and a 1-page cover letter outlining your background and interests in this project to either jacquelyn.gill@maine.edu or caitlin.mcdonough@maine.edu. Applications will be reviewed immediately and until the position is filled. 

Start date: Fall 2019 (Spring 2019 is also possible).

Wanted: Ice Age Botanist

Painting of an ice age landscape at La Brea tar pits, California. Lions, sloths, deer, bison, mammoths, and other animals wander an open plain, with some lions feeding on a horse trapped in the tar.

What: The BEAST Lab at UMaine is looking for an undergrad student to identify plant fragments (e.g., needles, seeds, acorn caps) from ice age deposits from the La Brea Tar Pits, as part of a project on ice age food webs. The project is based in Orono, ME.

Qualifications: Experience with plant identification is required. Work with microscopes, paleoecology, or the California flora is desired, but not required.

Position: This is a paid position, with flexible hours; we require a commitment of 20 to 40 hours a week through the summer. Start and end dates are flexible.

To apply, please send a CV, cover letter, and contact info for three references to Jacquelyn Gill: jacquelyn.gill@maine.edu. Applications will be reviewed immediately, until the position is filled.


The BEAST Lab (Biodiversity and Environments Across Space and Time) is recruiting a highly motivated PhD student for a research project reconstructing late Pleistocene megafaunal extinctions, paleoclimates, and vegetation changes in Beringia. This project will involve: 1) opportunities for interdisciplinary training in cutting-edge methods in reconstructing paleonenvironments, including paleoclimate proxies and aDNA of vegetation from sediment cores, as well as classical methods (e.g., pollen, charcoal); 2) fieldwork in Alaska and Russia (including Wrangel Island and Pleistocene Park), 3) opportunities for training in outreach and science communication; and 4) opportunities to mentor undergraduates and high school students.

The ideal candidate should have an academic background in ecology, geography, paleoecology, or a related discipline, and some combination of: strong written communication skills, knowledge of R, strong quantitative skills, and/or experience working with sediment cores, molecular ecology, or Arctic plant communities. The successful applicant will join a diverse, supportive lab group, housed in the Climate Change Institute, with affiliations with the School of Biology and Ecology and the Ecology and Environmental Studies program. CCI is one of the oldest interdisciplinary research institutions in the US, integrating research on the physical, biological, and social aspects of climate change.

Located on the northern border of beautiful Downeast Maine, the University of Maine is the flagship campus of the University of Maine System, and a Land and Sea grant institution. Baxter State Park and Acadia National Park are 90 minutes away in either direction, and there are numerous local opportunities for outdoor recreation (including skiing, hiking, and paddling). A low cost of living and a collegial environment make the greater Bangor area a great place to work and live.

Please send inquiries to Dr. Jacquelyn Gill (Jacquelyn.Gill@Maine.edu). To apply, please email a 1-pg cover letter outlining your background, career interests, and fit for this project, as well as a CV. Application review will begin immediately, and will continue until the position is filled.

Postdoc Caitlin gives SBE seminar on climate change and phenology in Acadia

If you’re in the area this Friday, come check out BEAST Lab postdoc Caitlin McDonough Mackenzie’s seminar on campus this Friday, December 1, at 3:00 pm in Norman Smith 101. She’ll be sharing some of her previous research on climate change impacts in Acadia National Park, a theme she’s continuing for her Smith Conservation Fellowship in the BEAST Lab. Caitlin’s dissertation research was a combination of field experiments and historical ecology using herbarium specimens and documents — for her postdoc, she’s getting even further back in time, reconstructing climate’s impacts on alpine and subalpine plants over the last 15,000 years in Maine.

You can check out her seminar flyer here:

Caitlin McDonough MacKenzie Announcement

You can also follow Caitlin on Twitter at @CaitlinInMaine.

Putting fossils to work to protect biodiversity

Last February, I gave a talk at AAAS in a session on conservation paleobiology, a field that leverages the fossil record to help inform the conservation and management of modern biodiversity. There’s a nice feature in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that highlights talks by Sue Kidwell, Rowan Lockwood, and myself. You can check out the full article in this week’s copy of PNAS, or online here.

Island BEASTs: congratulations, Mario, Kit, and Dulcinea!

Exciting news from BEAST Lab grad students doing island-related research!

Masters student Mario Williams‘ thesis research has been successfully funded on Experiment.com. He’ll be working up a multi-proxy Holocene sediment record to reconstruct the human, ecological, and climatic history of this Caribbean biodiversity hotspot. Stay tuned for exciting research to come!

PhD candidate and NSF IGERT Fellow Dulcinea Groff was awarded a Shackleton Scholarship Fund to return to the Falklands to collect new data on grazing and seabird impacts on plants. This research provides a contemporary land use linkage to her Holocene environmental reconstructions of seabirds, climate, vegetation, and fire on the islands.

PhD student and NSF Graduate Fellow Kit Hamley has received Explorer’s Club and Rolex Explorer grants to fund an expedition to the Falklands to excavate an animal bone pile discovered during her thesis research. This will continue her research investigating whether there was a prehistoric human presence in the Falklands, and whether humans were involved in the origins of the Falkland Islands Wolf.

You can read more about Kit and Dulcinea’s work on their Experiment.com project page.

Magazines, TV, and podcasts, oh, my!

I spent a day back in Madison for filming, including some very CSI-style shots of pollen analysis! If only science was always that glamorous.
I spent a day back in Madison for filming, including some very CSI-style shots of pollen analysis! If only science was always that glamorous. At least I’m wearing eye protection!

Check out this sobering article in Rolling Stone, on how the impacts of abrupt climate change are already with us. I had a really nice chat with Eric Holthous about the article: “Jacquelyn Gill is a paleoecologist at the University of Maine. She knows a lot about extinction, and her work is more relevant than ever.” It’s too bad I can’t cite that in my next NSF proposal!

Also, the PBS documentary series, The First People, came out in June. I spent a day with the film crew last year, and it’s really exciting to see everything come together. My research on the Pleistocene megafaunal extinctions is featured in the episode on North America. And yes, there’s poop. You can watch all five episodes here.

And, finally, I had a really time chatting with Marie McNeeley at The People Behind the Science podcast.

Are you #TeamWarrah or #TeamPenguin?

Who can resist that face? Painting by John Gerrard Keulemans

Our first week of crowd-funding has been a huge success — we’ve raised over $3000 towards our $10,000 goal, with over 75 contributors so far. Thanks to everyone who has helped spread the word!

Let’s make things interesting:

Remember when I said that we didn’t want to pit Dulcinea and Kit against each other, so we combined their projects into one crowd-funding campaign? While it’s true that their projects are intricately linked, tt’s time to do away with that collaborative spirit, and get competitive!

Folks, it’s time to make a choice. Are you #TeamWarrah or #TeamPenguin?

When you make a contribution on our Experiment.com page, declare your team spirit with social media using the hashtags, and leave a comment on our project page. The winning team gets bragging rights, and a perk to be announced at the end of the campaign.

May the best study organism win!

This rockhopper ain't afraid of no ghosts! Warrah are extinct, dude! Photo by Jacquelyn Gill
This rockhopper ain’t afraid of no ghosts! Warrah are extinct, dude! Photo by Jacquelyn Gill