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!