In the face of a rapidly changing climate today, we can turn to the landscapes around us as well as their historical archives to give us the best possible hints of the magnitude and rapidity of past climate shifts, and their relevance for our future. Our group utilizes field trips to wetlands (salt marshes, fresh marshes, bogs, fens, and swamps) to combine the study of modern plant ecology with retrieval of long sediment cores.
Our research includes travel to Siberia, Alaska, southeastern US, and Easter Island as well as the Hudson River marshes, Black Rock Forest, NY and upland nearby lakes. From these cores we analyze pollen, spores, and plant and animal macrofossils. We are particularly interested in abrupt climate change and patterns of droughts and floods as well as warm intervals and recent coolings such as the Little Ice Age.
Patterns and rates of plant migration are documented using our macrofossil studies in combination with pollen stratigraphy. We target disturbances such as land use change and fire at the local and regional level. Carbon sequestration in wetlands is a more recent focus, with changes in sequestration linked to climate change. Global climate modeling (GCM) at GISS is utilized to understand mechanisms and causes of climatic change.