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QRC 50th Anniversary Speaker Series | Michelle Lawing
QRC 50th Anniversary Speaker Series | Michelle Lawing
WhenMonday, Jan. 27, 2020, 12 – 1:20 p.m.

Title: Integrating fossils, phylogenies, and paleoclimate: the reactions of species and communities to climate change

Abstract: This talk investigates the use of phylogeny and climate history to model reactions of species to climate change and explores community functional trait-environment relationships to measure ecosystem transitions. Fundamental understanding of how species and communities react to climate change should be supported by our understanding of the past. This is especially important today, because modern reactions are exacerbated by anthropogenic pressures including human population growth, habitat destruction and fragmentation, and intensifying land use. I will discuss a framework that integrates fossils, phylogenies, and paleoclimate to infer climate niche evolution and past geographic responses to climate change. These models show where and when there were hotspots of ancient diversification. The results are supported by deep time projections of physiological models of climate tolerance. More work is needed to better understand the evolution of physiological tolerances and how physiological tolerances relate to the climate space in which species occur. In the second part of my talk, I will discuss a trait-based approach for measuring ecosystem turnover. This approach can be used to estimate paleoclimate or paleoenvironment from assemblages of fossils or to forward project trait space changes based on future climate scenarios. Because the concepts of evolution and climate change are central to my research, and often misunderstood by the general public, it has become important to me to understand how to bring more evolution and climate change learning experiences to the general public. In the last part of my talk, I will discuss my recent work on informal learning opportunities at biological field stations and how field stations are special places that bring together scientists and the general public, resulting in high quality informal learning experiences.

Bio: Michelle Lawing is an assistant professor in the Department of Ecology and Conservation Biology at Texas A&M University. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville with Brian O'Meara and Allison Boyer. Michelle received a double major PhD from Indiana University in Ecology, Evolution and Behavior and in Geological Sciences. Her dissertation advisors were David Polly and Emilia Martins. Michelle uses models from ecology and evolutionary biology combined with evidence from the fossil record to inform our understanding of how species and communities respond to climate change through time.

Campus locationHitchcock Hall (HCK)
Campus roomRoom 132
Event typesLectures/Seminars
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