Examining the influence of past climate and human activity on temperate forest dynamics

Professor Cathy Whitlock

Department of Earth Sciences
Montana State University
Bozeman Montana 59717 USA

Personal Homepage

Fellowship Period:  05.2016-07.2016

Research interests and main activities

My research examines Quaternary environmental change, especially the linkages between fire, vegetation, climate, and people over time scales of decades to millennia.  I analyze fossil pollen, particulate charcoal, and the chemical components in lake sediments to reconstruct vegetation, fire and climate history.  My research projects have focused on the evolution of natural and altered landscapes in the northern and southern hemispheres including the western U.S., Patagonia, Tasmania and Europe.

Activities within WSL Fellowship

Our project is motivated by the recent increase in fire occurrence and its threat to natural forest dynamics.  The western U.S. has seen a number of large stand-replacing fires in the last 30 years, motivating public discussion about wildland fire management.  Similar large fires in Europe are also raising concern.   Debates in the forest management community center on where to introduce fire to manage fuels, where to suppress fires, and how to prioritize conservation goals that require burning.  Understanding large-scale patterns of biomass burning has also become a research priority in the global change community with respect to the carbon cycle, biodiversity, and social-ecological sustainability.  The project focused on understanding past linkages among fire, climate, vegetation and people in different settings and specifically to (1) better understand Swiss and western U.S. landscape history; (2) share research tools and methods; and (3) develop new synthesis publications.

Cooperation within WSL

Interne Kontakte (Datensätze)

Cooperation outside of WSL

Dr. Willy Tinner, Institute of Plant Sciences at the University of Bern

Dr. Daniele Colombaroli, Institute of Plant Sciences, University of Bern; currently in Department of Geography, Royal Holloway University of London