Home Education Research Publications Teaching Contact

link to google map of research sites

Lake WilkieLake Wilkie, South Island, New Zealand
Rapid deforestation of South Island, New Zealand
Montana State University Paleoecology Lab

The focus of this project is better understand how climate and human activities interact to influence fire regimes in different settings.  New Zealand offers the unique opportunity to examine dramatic changes to fire and vegetation over large landscapes in the relative absence of climate change.  This research will provide insights into the natural resilience of different ecosystems to disturbance and how human impacts and climate may interact to alter ecosystems in the future.

Possum Lagoon
Possum Lagoon, Flinders Island, Tasmania
Human impacts, Flinders Island, Tasmania

For thousands of years low sea levels allowed humans to migrate between Flinders Island, Tasmania and mainland Australia.  As sea levels began to rise 14 thousand years ago humans became isolated on Flinders Island and an absence of archeological evidence after ~4,500 years ago suggests humans no longer occupied the island. With this unique history of human settlement, we will use past records of climate, vegetation and fire to disentangle the relative influence of climate and humans in shaping fire regimes and vegetation in forests that vary between those dominated by species well adapted to fire (Eucalypt. spp) and (Callitris and Causurina spp.).

Fire in Miombo woodland, Mozambique
Fire in Miombo woodlands of southern Africa
Research supported by the National Geographic Society Committee for Research and Exploration

Fire is a key ecological agent in the savanna biome, burning millions of square kilometers of savanna each year.  Fire plays an important role in maintaining 
seasonally dry, species-rich, tropical savanna woodlands (Miombo woodlands) that are the dominant vegetation type across southern Africa yet the role of fire maintaining these woodlands is still poorly understood.  Using detailed analyses of pollen, charcoal and geochemical elements from lake sediment records, our research will be used to reconstruct vegetation and fire histories for central Mozambique.  This research will provide historical context for management and conservation of Miombo woodlands by identifying long-term trends in the abundance of Miombo woodland species and comparing these trends with variations in climate and fire.

Mosaic of forest age classes, Springfield Oregon
Biodiversity potential in the northwestern US

Managing forest lands for biodiversity is a common goal in the public and private forests of the Pacific Northwest and is typically achieved through harvests that result in an array of vegetation structural conditions that provide suitable habitat for a number of species. The primary aim of this research is to better understand how species respond to both local and landscape-scale forest structural conditions in landscapes with different levels of productivity.  Results will be used to guide management of forests across the northwestern US.