RESEARCH

I am a paleoecologist who studies the long-term interactions between humans and the environment. I utilize multiple sediment-based paleoecological proxies to examine long-term drivers of fire and vegetation. I combine paleoecological archives from lake records with archaeobotanical, archaeological, paleoclimatological, and botanical datasets to examine the legacy of past humans on modern ecosystems. 

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RESEARCH INTERESTS

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Paleoecology

I use a multi-proxy tool-kit including macrocharcoal, pollen, stable isotope geochemistry, and phytoliths to reconstruct past environments. Combined with archaeology and paleoclimate data, I examine natural and human drivers of past environmental change. 

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Pyrogeography

I produced high-resolution, well-dated, fire histories to determine changes in spatio-temporal patterns of past natural and human-driven fire activity.

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Island Biogeography

My research explores the influence of past natural and human disturbance regimes on the biogeographic distribution of plants and animals on Islands.

RESEARCH PROJECTS

ISLAND SUSTAINABILITY IN CURAÇAO

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR

ISLANDER: Island Sustainability: the Legacy of Anthropogenic & Natural Disturbance on Ecological Resources is a jointly funded project by the British Ecological Society and Van Eeden Fonds. Caribbean island ecosystems face unique social, economic and environmental vulnerabilities induced by anthropogenic climate change, exacerbated by unsustainable resource management. The future resilience of island nations will be determined by sustainable resource management and adaptive subsistence strategies that can respond to increased frequency of climate extremes. To develop sustainable ecological resource management strategies, accurate forecasting of long-term vegetation response to climate and human-caused disturbance is necessary. To address this issue, the project ISLANDER implements an interdisciplinary approach combining palaeoecology, archaeolozoology, palaeoclimate and forest management in Curaçao.

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FIRE INTENSITY IN RAINFOREST ECOTONES

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR

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Fire Intensity in Rainforest Ecotones (FIRE) is a Marie ​Skłodowska-Curie Individual Actions Fellowship in collaboration with Dr William D. Gosling at the University of Amsterdam. The combined factors of global warming and increased human disturbance in the 21st century are projected to cause an unprecedented increase in fire activity in the Amazon Basin. The increase in recent fire activity is most notable in Amazonian rainforest ecotones (AREs), a naturally occurring vegetation transition zone from fire-averse rainforest to fire-prone savanna vegetation. To date, AREs have largely been neglected in conservation initiatives and the long-term ecological effects of fire in AREs remain poorly understood. The aim of this project is to develop an interdisciplinary framework that will provide a better understanding of the long-term drivers of fire in AREs and how future climate and changes in land-use practices may impact these vital ecosystems.

JAMAICA A LAST ISLAND  FRONTIER

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR

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Anthropogenic climate change is leading to longer, more severe fire seasons in the tropics. These effects are more acute in insular environments, such as the Caribbean islands, resulting in increased costs of fire control, management, and fire-related damages. To develop effective fire management strategies, accurate ecological forecasting of long-term vegetation and fire-response to climate and human-caused disturbance is necessary. Our primary research aim is to disentangle long-term impacts of natural and anthropogenic disturbance regimes in Jamaica, one of the last frontiers of human settlement. Jamaica provides an ideal case study to assess natural drivers of fire and the impact of abrupt changes in human disturbance regimes associated with pre-Columbian settlement and later European colonization.

Past Fire Frequency and Intensity REconstruction

CO-INVESTIGATOR

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The Past Fire Frequency and Intensity REconstruction project brings together a unique team of experts in Indigenous knowledge and practice, fire ecology, palaeoecology and ecological modelling to understand how fires and fuels have changed over the past 500 years in southeast Australia – a period that spans Aboriginal management through the British Invasion to the present climate change world

PANTROPICA

STEERING COMMITTEE

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The ‘PANTROPICA’ online initiative seeks to provide a space for researchers, Indigenous and local communities, and conservation policymakers to publicly share research outputs, projects, events, fieldwork, and research experiences through blogs, and news in relation to the tropical forests. In doing so, PANTROPICA will enable the wider sharing of information across continents, disciplines, and cultures, in order to help promote more synthetic, diverse approaches to the investigation of crucial environments that have stood on the planet far longer than our own species, but that may soon, without action, cease to exist. 

FUTURE OF FIRE CONSORTIUM

SCIENTIFIC STEERING COMMITTEE

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The Future of Fire Consortium (FFC) is composed of ecologists from around the globe with expertise ranging from paleoecology to atmospheric science. In our recent review, the FFC identifies critical research frontiers and emergent themes for future fire ecology research to continue the important mission of understanding both the fundamental role of fire in ecological systems and the human role in shaping fire activity. As fire regimes and our relationships with fire continue to change, prioritizing these research areas and emergent themes will facilitate understanding of the ecological causes and consequences of future fires and fire management. 

CARIBBEAN ENVIRONMENTS RESEARCH GROUP

SCIENTIFIC STEERING COMMITTEE

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The Caribbean Environments Research Group (CERG) is a Caribbean-based research group investigating environmental change in the Caribbean. Sediment cores are used to reconstruct the environmental history of the Caribbean and explore the impact of climate change on Small Island Developing States. Additional research themes include socio-economic and biophysical assessments of coral reef ecosystems and fish sanctuaries, long-term vegetation dynamics of mangrove forests, and the role of fire in tropical island landscapes. For more information visit the CERG website.

AMAZON FIRE: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

CO-INVESTIGATOR

Amazon Fires Yesterday, Today, and Tomor

This National Geographic Research Project is lead by Professor Mark Bush of the Florida Institute of Technology. The aim of this research is to contextualize the 2019 Amazon fire season through the analysis of sedimentary lake charcoal, soil charcoal samples, and MODIS data.  The 2019 field season targeted two fire hot-spots regions in the eastern and southwestern Amazon.  

UPCOMING RESEARCH PROJECTS

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Coming Soon:
2021
Principal Investigator 

FIELDWORK

A time-lapse video from the PAST Team 2016 coring season at Lago Versalles, Bolivia. Analysis in process. Stay tuned for publications 2019-2020.

READ MORE

This field season archaeological excavations were conducted at Maguari, in FLONA National Reserve near Santarem Brazil. This timelapse video is of excavations of a terra preta site.

National Geographic Fieldwork Jamaica 2019
Footage by Z. Beier
02.07.2019 
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Read More:
National Geographic Early Career Grant 2019 
25.06.2019