We always knew that Dr. Jacquelyn Gill (lab alumna, PhD 2012) was an outstanding science communicator, but now it’s official: she’s one of the best in the country! The National Academy of Sciences has just awarded Jacquelyn an Eric and Wendy Schmidt Award for Excellence in Science Communication. This honor is so well-deserved: from the start, Jacquelyn has always been passionate about science communications and always ready to try creative new ways of reaching audiences - whether it be live-streaming her dissertation (way back before this was a thing), social media, podcasts Warm Regards, or heartfelt essays. Jacquelyn brings her full self to her science and her science communications, and her fierce authenticity has made her a role model to so many. Thank you, Jacquelyn, for your tireless efforts to fight misinformation and share knowledge.
Angie Perrotti’s paper Diverse responses of vegetation and fire after pleistocene megaherbivore extinction across the eastern US is now published in Quaternary Science Reviews. Alongside collaborators, Angie tested the hypothesis that end-Pleistocene megaherbivore extinction caused a cascade of changes including an incursion of woody vegetation, no-analog vegetation assemblages, and fire activity increase in eastern North America. Using the largest-to-date network of dung fungal spores, pollen, and macrocharcoal proxy records, this research found that ecosystems in the northern US are more sensitive to megaherbivory than those in the southeastern US.
Welcome to Ismael Garcia Espinoza! Ismael is a Fulbright Scholar, who has just arrived from Colombia to pursue his PhD studies in the US. Ismael has a Masters in Geography and an undergraduate degree in Geology, and he is interested in studying climate-driven ecological dynamics. He’s already started ice skating lessons, so he’ll be ready for the Wisconsin winters soon!
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 Adrian 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, Adrian 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 their work, see http://open.neotomadb.org/CartoAnimations/legend.html.
All good things come to an end, and this includes David Fastovich’s time as a PhD student in a Williams Lab! David has successfully defended his PhD dissertation “Patterns, mechanisms, and legacies of abrupt climate change: examining the Younger Dryas in eastern North America.” David did a superlative job diving deep into a broad range of paleoclimatic proxies and paleoclimatic simulations from Earth system models, all to understand the patterns and drivers of millennial-scale climate variability in eastern North America. He’s got papers published in Geophysical Research Letters and Quaternary Science Reviews and more on the way. David’s now started a postdoc with the fantastic Dr. Tripti Bhattacharya at Syracuse. If you’d like to connect with David, his new contact info and personal webpage is here. Congratulations and best wishes for this next stage of David’s life and career.