We are in the midst of a global experiment: how will living organisms respond to unprecedented environmental changes resulting from human actions? Meanwhile, the quantity of information in the world is soaring and, despite persistent gaps, we are better placed than ever to understand the processes underlying biodiversity and ecosystems. My research involves harnessing large amounts of information on the historical and current state of biological systems to better understand how they are being impacted by past and ongoing environmental changes such as climate change and habitat degradation. My ultimate goal is to contribute to improving predictions of the likely future impacts of environmental change on biodiversity and ecosystems.
Studies of observed biogeographic responses to 20th century climate change have examined primarily effects based on temperature increase. We show that many responses to climate change in California are inconsistent with increasing temperature and identify a number of potential direct and indirect mechanisms for these responses.
Can models based on climate change predict recently-observed range changes of British plants, birds, and butterflies across Great Britain? We found that climate variables were useful for determining the broad, relatively-stable range boundaries of these taxa but did not accurately predict where they had expanded to or retracted from over time.
Assessing how well models forecast changes in species’ distributions under future global environmental change is notoriously difficult because predicted events are yet to occur. We developed a tool for making use of data on species’ historical distribution changes for a comprehensive assessment of how well models are likely to predict future changes.