Professor of Biology, Ecology, and Climate Change; and Former Director, Climate Change Institute
Plant ecology and paleoecology; long-term history and dynamics of vegetation and climate in the Western Hemisphere
My scientific focus involves past and present patterns in vegetation, and particularly the nature of climatic and ecological changes that have shaped modern landscapes. This research has two broad themes: patterns of modern vegetation, and changes in vegetation through time. Recent projects involving modern vegetation have dealt with forests, peatlands, and saltmarshes of Maine. These studies, which seek to describe and explain the distribution of plants in these ecosystems, have included analysis of local and regional patterns in vegetation with special emphasis on how spatial and temporal variations in climate, geology, disturbance, and other factors have affected the plant assemblages. Current paleoecological studies involve sites in Maine, as well as in northern New England, Florida, Sweden, and Chile. This research is designed to provide understanding of long-term ecosystem processes, many of which are not evident on modern landscapes or within human life-spans. The projects usually involve analysis of plant fossils that have accumulated in lakes and bogs over thousands of years, and have as a primary focus the responses of vegetation to abrupt climate changes of the past.See also Climate Change Institute.