Welcome to Sam Wiles! Sam is an incoming MSc student, recently from Williams & Mary. Sam will be working on a project examining the rapid collapses of beech (Fagus grandifolia) and hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) in the Great Lakes region over the last 6,000 years. Sam is working with Nora Schlenker on this and colleagues at the University of Wyoming and University of Maryland.
A new paper out in Nature Geoscience Past abrupt changes, tipping points and cascading impacts in the Earth system reviews evidence of past abrupt changes in the Earth System, their causes, and their propagation from one part of the Earth System (e.g. the North Atlantic) to other regions. Jack Williams was part of the lead writing team for this paper, with Victor Brovkin the lead author.
Global acceleration in rates of vegetation change over the past 18,000 years is now published in Science. This paper was led by Ondrej Mottl and Suzette Flantua of the HOPE team at Bergen and with senior authors Alistair Seddon (HOPE) and Jack Williams (UW-Madison). This paper draws upon fossil pollen records from the Neotoma Paleoecology Database to demonstrate that rates of vegetation change globally are now as fast or faster as those accompanying the end of the last ice age. This is remarkable, given the widespread transformations in global ecosystems associated with the end of the last ice age. The recent changes, which began 3 to 4 thousand years ago, likely are due at least in part to human activity, but more work is needed to better attribute the causes of past vegetation change. Lots of good media write-ups about this story, including pieces in National Geographic, Science, Nature, Wisconsin State Journal, and NSF. A nice showcase too of the power of large, open, community-curated data resources such as Neotoma.
David Fastovich’s paper Spatial Fingerprint of Younger Dryas Cooling and Warming in Eastern North America is now published in Geophysical Research Letters in an open access format. This work establishes the spatial configuration of temperature change in eastern North America during the Younger Dryas and identifies three regional temperature trends: 1) cooling in northeastern United States, 2) delayed cooling in near the Great Lakes, and 3) warming south of Virginia. The identification of warming south of Viriginia is hypothesized to be a result of atmospheric reorganization following ocean circulation changes in the North Atlantic Ocean with implications for the preservation of biodiversity over periods of abrupt climate change in Earth’s past.
Allie Jensen’s paper More than one way to kill a spruce forest: The role of fire and climate in the late‐glacial termination of spruce woodlands across the southern Great Lakes is now published in early access format in the Journal of Ecology. This work tests hypotheses about the role of rising temperatures and altered fire regimes as drivers of the widespread loss of spruce forests and woodlands across the central and eastern US at the end of the last glacial period. This widespread loss of a major vegetation type is a potential analog for the possible loss of coniferous forests in the western US today with continued warming. Great job Allie!
Congratulations to Anna George for the successful defense of her MSc Thesis Ice Age Mapping as a Case Study: Interactive Cartography and Big Open Data in Paleoecology! As the title suggests, Anna has been working at the intersection of Cartography and Paleoecology, developing and testing a new generation of interactive maps of past species distributions. For a sneak preview of her work, see http://open.neotomadb.org/CartoAnimations/legend.html.
David’s first paper, just published in QSR, presents a new record of temperature and vegetation history in the southern Great Lakes region at the end of the last Ice Age. The paper finds that the plant communities with no modern analog formed soon after temperatures began to rise, suggesting that warmer climates likely were a contributing factor. Other factors, such as high temperature seasonality and the declines of megafaunal megaherbivores, remain in the mix! David’s paper is also notable as one of the first in the region to use the brGDGT biomarkers as a signal of past temperatures, for finding that temperature variations were not as pronounced as reported in Watson et al. (2018), and for a careful analysis of uncertainties in brGDGT-based temperature reconstructions. Well done David; the first of many!
Congratulations to Dr. Burke for his successful PhD defense! Kevin’s dissertation, titled Novelty, analogs and ecotones: Understanding the effects of past and present climate change on forest composition and vegetation novelty, has already resulted in several peer-reviewed papers and book chapters. Kevin’s now begun a new job as a data scientist at the gleaming new SPARK building of American Family Insurance, right here in Madison, WI. Congrats to Kevin and Alix and best wishes for the next stage of your career.
Congratulations to Anna and David for their campus awards! Anna has received a 2020 STEM Public Service Fellowship, while David has received a L&S Teaching Fellow Award. These are both highly competitive awards, and each testifies to Anna’s and David’s commitment to translating knowledge from the research domain to the public sphere.
Jack just received UW-Madison’s Kellett Mid-Career Award https://news.wisc.edu/faculty-receive-warf-named-professorships-kellett-fellowships-and-romnes-awards/, given out in recognition of their research accomplishments. This is very much a recognition of the accomplishments of everyone in the lab and colleagues in the Neotoma Paleoecology Database, PalEON, and elsewhere. Congrats, Jack, and congrats all!
Jack has been elected as a Fellow of the Ecological Society of America https://www.esa.org/esa/ecological-society-of-america-announces-2019-fellows/. Jack says: I’m honored by the recognition, humbled by my cohort, and indebted to my mentors, colleagues, lab members, and - most of all - my family. Thanks to all!
The newly published Biodiversity and Climate Change: Transforming the Biosphere textbook, edited by Thomas E. Lovejoy and Lee Hannah features a chapter by Jack Williams and Kevin Burke. Their contribution highlights past abrupt changes in climate and in terrestrial ecosystems.
Kevin Burke has a new paper out, published this week in PNAS. As part of his dissertation, Kevin quantifies the similarity of projected future climate states to six geohistorical periods including the mid-Pliocene and early Eocene. This work suggests that under a high emissions scenario (RCP 8.5), future climates may resemble the Pliocene by 2030, and the Eocene by 2150. For additional coverage, see CNN, Newsweek, Discover, Grist, PBS or WPR.
Congratulations to Megs Seeley for acceptance of her first paper, to the Journal of Biogeography! In this paper, which was developed as Megs’ undergraduate honors thesis, we assess the role of environmental filtering and dispersal limitation on American Beech (Fagus grandifolia) populations in Michigan and Wisconsin, using historical data from the Public Land Survey and a mixture of species distribution models. Nice work and a good launch as Megs applies for grad school after a year working as an intern with NASA on air quality and remote sensing.
Yue Wang has a new paper out in Ecology, from her dissertation, in which she uses Niche Mapper to simulate the carrying capacity of woolly mammoths on St. Paul Island, Alaska. This work also tests hypotheses about freshwater limitation and forage limitation and points to a previously unrecognized population bottleneck during the Younger Dryas.
Several new people are joining the Williams Lab in Fall 2018. Angie Perrotti is a postdoc working on the late-glacial vegetation-climate-megafauna project (NSF-PCE), and as a recent grad of Texas A&M brings deep expertise in anthropology, palynology, and coprophilous spore signals of megafaunal population declines. Anna George, recent graduate from Smith College, is joining to work on building new data visualizations from Neotoma Explorer. She’s interested in global change, biodiversity, and the signals in long ecological time series. Feiya Lv is a PhD student from Lanzhou University visiting on a fellowship from China. Welcome to all!
In a new paper in Environmental Research Letters, we show that the US National Park System has experienced about twice the warming as the rest of US over the past century, and more drying too. Even under lower-emission future scenarios (i.e. RCP2.6), 58% of the US National Park System is projected to experience a 2C warming over the coming century, but switching from high-emission to low-emission scenarios would reduce the projected temperature increases by one-half to two-thirds. This work was led by Patrick Gonzalez at UC-Berkeley with key work carried out at UW-Madison’s Center for Climatic Research. For further coverage, see articles by the Washington Post, NBC News, The Guardian, Fortune Magazine, Breitbart, and Atlas Obscura
Members of the Williams Lab headed to New Orleans, Louisiana for the Ecological Society of America’s Annual Meeting this August. Jack spoke on Monday (INS 4) and Wednesday (SYMP 9), Mathias on Tuesday (PS 15), David on Thursday (COS 114), Allison on Monday (INS 1) and Thursday (COS 114), and Tanjona on Monday (INS 1). The UW Madison Abrupt Change in Ecological Systems Group organized and inspire session, “Understanding Extreme Events: Linking Empirical Observation to Concepts and Theory” (INS 1), and “Abrupt Change in Ecological Systems: When, Where, and Why?” (OOS 36)
Welcome to Dr. Mathias Trachsel! Mathias is joining the Williams Lab as a postdoc on the Paleoecological Observatory Network (PalEON) project, working on the effort to build new land cover reonstructions for the northeastern US and elsewhere in North America. Mathias has a PhD at Bern and comes from a postdoctoral fellowship at Maryland. Mathias’ prior background is in paleoclimatology and developing new kinds of transfer functions for use with paleoecological and paleoclimatic proxies.
Members of the Williams Lab are off to Portland, Oregon for the Ecological Society of America’s Annual Meeting! Come see Jack’s talk on Tuesday (OOS 14-9), Simon’s talk on Tuesday (COS 104-5), Tanjona’s talk on Wednesday (COS 104-6), Andria’s talk on Wednesday (COS 105-7), Kevin’s talk on Thursday (COS 150-7), Yue’s talk on Friday (COS 173-5), and Megs’ poster on Tuesday (PS 26-137).
We’re delighted to hear that the Graham et al. 2016 PNAS paper received the PNAS Cozzarelli Prize! This award recognizes recently published PNAS papers of outstanding scientific excellence and originality, and Graham et al. was one of the six papers published in 2016 to earn this distinction. Yue Wang and Jack Williams were co-authors on this paper.
Williams Lab alumnus Sam Munoz has accepted a faculty position with the Department of Marine & Environmental Science at Northeastern University. Sam’s research lab will be in an old World War II coastal bunker, so when the zombie apocalypse comes, Sam will be ready.
Williams Lab postdoctoral researcher Andria Dawson (of Team PalEON) has accepted a faculty position at Mount Royal University in Calgary, Alberta. Congratulations Andria!
Postdoctoral fellow and regular Williams Lab visitor Sarah Supp has accepted a faculty position at Denison University in Ohio. Sarah will be a member of the Data Analytics Department. Congratulations Sarah!
Williams Lab PhD student Yue Wang has accepted a postdoc position with Jenny McGuire at Georgia Tech, Atlanta. Congratulations Yue!
Yue Wang has published a new paper “The southern coastal Beringian land bridge: cryptic refugium or pseudorefugium for woody plants during the Last Glacial Maximum?” in Journal of Biogeography. This paper presents strong evidence that the southern coastal Bering Land Bridge was not a refugium for woody plants during the last glacial maximum, and that the St. Paul mammoth populations persisted on an open tundra vegetation for thousands of years.
Simon Goring has a new paper “Effect of historical land-use and climate change on tree-climate relationships in the upper Midwestern United States” in Ecology Letters that demonstrates that tree-climate niches have shifted over the past several centuries as a result of land use and climate change, and assesses their relative importance. Congrats Simon!
Williams Lab alumna Ellen Kujawa has accepted a job at the Lake Champlain Basin Program in Grand Isle, VT, where she will help to facilitate water resources research and coordinate implementation projects.
Simon Goring has published a new paper “Novel and Lost Forests in the Upper Midwestern United States, from New Estimates of Settlement-Era Composition, Stem Density, and Biomass” in PLOS One. A major compilation of settlement-era forest composition and structure, and a foundation to subsequent PalEON work.
Congratulations to Williams Lab alumna Jessica Blois for receiving the International Biogeography Society’s MacArthur and Wilson award! This is a early/mid-career award that is awarded biennially. Jessica is the third recipient, the first woman recipient, and is in outstanding company, with Miguel Araujo and Daniel Rabosky as previous awardees. Congratulations, Jessica!
Undergraduate researcher Joe Bevington has accepted a job with the USDA studying the effects of winter hydrology and nutrient runoff on water quality in our lakes and rivers.
WKOW TV ran a story about declining research funding at UW-Madison (dropping out of the top five for the first time in 40 years) and interviewed Jack Williams about the impacts on student research. Includes photos of Sam, BG, and Chad sporting Badger red during fieldwork at Horseshoe Lake!
OpEd by Jack on why being at UW-Madison feels being in the Marines or the Packers: you are with the best, and try to be the best.
Welcome to Tanjona Ramiadantsoa and Allison Stegner! They’‘re joining UW Madison as postdocs on the Abrupt Change in Ecological Systems (ACES) project.
We spent the weekend building this great new website. Feel free to explore!
Discover Magazine article about the causes and timing of woolly mammoth extinction on St. Paul Island.
The Center for Climatic Research partners with the Aldo Leopold Nature Center to create an outdoors smartphone tour of climate change and its possible effects on the plants and animals found at the ALNC and Wisconsin. Story by Wisconsin Public Radio
Kevin Burke has been awarded an NSF scholarship to attend the Urbino Summer School in Paleoclimatology (USSP), taking place July 13-29, in Urbino, Italy. This course focuses on past climate dynamics with special emphasis on the analysis of the long-term carbon cycling and its implications in the understanding of present and future climates.
Williams Lab guest, NSF Postdoctoral Fellow and researcher extraordinaire Sarah Supp welcomes an adorable new future paleoecologist.
Megs Seeley, a University of Wisconsin undergraduate researcher, was recently awarded a Hilldale Undergraduate/Faculty Research Fellowship to come join the Williams Lab as part of our studies on pre-settlement landscapes in the upper Midwestern United States
Our own Ben Watson has been awarded the Olmstead Award for outstanding teaching. Congratulations Ben, and thanks for all your hard work!
A recent University of Wisconsin press release features Jack Williams and postdoc Simon Goring for their efforts as part of PalEON, and the rise of Big Ecology.
Andria Dawson published a new paper “Quantifying pollen-vegetation relationships to reconstruct ancient forests using 19th-century forest composition and pollen data” in Quaternary Science Reviews.here
In a new paper published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, Kaitlin Maguire and coauthors use fossil data from the last deglaciation to show that CLMs have higher predictive skill than SDMs when predicting to communities and climates with no modern analog. Both CLMs and SDMs suffer reduced predictive skill but the decrease is lessened for CLMs. These results suggest that CLMs may be more robust when predicting species and biodiversity responses to the novel climates of the 21st century
Lab member Yue Wang has a new paper out in the Holocene detailing regional changes in beech (Fagus grandifolia) abundance in the Great Lakes region during the Holocene. Using Bayesian methods she shows that the changing fortunes of beech are similar to those recorded for hemlock during the Holocene and appear to be tied to drought events recorded in the region, but the lack of spatially continuous records and paleoclimate proxy data in the region means that a direct link remains elusive.
Kevin Burke has been awarded a traineeship on behalf of the Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology as part of the IGERT Graduate Training Program. His involvement in the IGERT will focus on climate novelty in the present and projected future using past earth warm periods as reference baselines.
Congratulations to lab members Sam Munoz and Ashtin Massie on the publication of Cahokia’s emergence and decline coincided with shifts of flood frequency on the Mississippi River in PNAS with Jack Williams. The paper has received coverage from Nature and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. See the UW Press Release here.
During the Fall 2014 meeting of the American Geophysical Union, Kevin Burke’s poster entitled “Improving estimates of regional vegetation: Using pre-settlement vegetation data and variable wind speed to quantify pollen dispersal and source area” PDF was awarded an OSPA for the Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology Section. The full list of OPSA award winners can be found here
Jack Williams commented on the recent emissions deal between the United States and China on Madison’s WKOW TV. video
A new study published in Nature Climate Change calculates the combined velocities of future climate and land use change in the coterminous US. This work was led by former postdoc Alejandro Ordonez, with Jack Williams and colleagues Volker Radeloff and Sebastian Martinuzzi in CALS/Forest Ecology & Wildlife. The study reports that overall, speeds of climate change are higher than land use change, with the upper Midwest and eastern Great Plains as an area of expected to experience high combined climate and land use change. The projected rates of climate change are similar to or higher than the dispersal capacity of many species. Article, UW Press Release, ClimateWire
A new paper is in press by Sam Munoz and others in the Journal of Biogeography. Sam’s recent synthesis of historical, archaeological, and paleoecological data argues that prehistoric human impacts in eastern North America were patchy, dynamic, and heterogeneous. These findings challenge the view that indigenous land use was widespread and ubiquitous.
Simon Goring, Kevin Burke, and Jack Williams are off to the Northwoods for a week of integrated instruction in paleoecology, Bayesian statistics, and ecosystem modeling at the UNDERC field station, near Land O Lakes, WI. The one-week short course provides 15 graduate students with a crash course in the fundamentals of paleoecological data and informatics, R, and the statistical tools for data-model assimilation. This work is part of the Paleoecological Observatory Network (PalEON) and is supported by NSF-Macrosystems. Some course materials can be viewed here. Thanks, NSF!