Mammoths, acacias, and breadfruit, oh my!

Sep 17 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

Greetings, Scientopiads!

I am honored and excited to begin my two-week stint as a guest blogger for one of my favorite science blogging communities. I'm a community paleoecologist and a conservation biogeographer, which means that I'm interested in using the tools of space and time to figure out what ecological questions are most important to understanding how ecosystems, and especially plants, respond to global change-- particularly when facing interacting threats like extinction and climate change. To do this, I spend a lot of time (in my head at least) in the Quaternary, the geologic period that encompasses the last 2.5-ish million years of Earth history. This is a really fascinating natural laboratory, particularly if you zoom in on the last ice age in North American (which is my specialty). Humans show up for the first time, lots of very large animals (like mammoths, giant ground sloths, and beaver the size of black bears) go extinct, and a 2-mile thick ice sheet makes life very interesting for animal and plants. One of my main research interests is in the interactions between animals and plants, which is a topic that hasn't received a lot of attention for reasons I'll get into later. For this reason, I'd like to spend my two weeks at Scientopia detailing the many ways that animals (especially large ones) influence plant species and communities, from the coevolution of tasty fruits to the modern-day dispersal of invasive species. Topics will include bison wallows, avocados and other seeds with Megafaunal Dispersal Syndrome (a tasty, tasty syndrome!), passenger pigeons, sheep spit, and, of course, mammoth poop.

As for me, I recently completed my dissertation at the University of Wisconsin, where I researched the effects of the extinction of ice-age herbivores like mastodons on eastern North American plant communities and fire regimes (more on this-- stay tuned!). I'm currently a postdoctoral researcher at the Environmental Change Initiative at Brown University, where I'm spending a lot of time these days thinking about ecological anachronisms and how well large-fruited trees will be able to cope with climate change. I'm normally found blogging at The Contemplative Mammoth, and on Twitter as @JacquelynGill. Feel free to suggest a topic you'd like to read about in the next two weeks! While my tenure at Scientopia will be a mere blip in the paleoecological record (my timescales rarely involve centuries or decades, let alone years or weeks!) I'm very excited to share my perspective from the fourth dimension--time-- with you.


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