- Paleoclimate, the influence of seasonal precipitation and temperature on water availability
- Paleoecology, the relationship between climate and the extent of forest versus grasslands
- Organic Geochemistry, tools for independent reconstruction of vegetation and climate
I am interested in geochemistry, sedimentology, and botany in the context of climate-landscape interactions. My research aims to test hypotheses regarding the impacts of past climate changes in the geologic record on water resources and ecosystems. I am particularly interested in seasonal climate change impacts on atmospheric circulation, vegetation patterns, and water availability. I use a wide range of methods, including compound specific isotopes, biomarkers, ground penetrating radar (GPR), sedimentology, and identification of micro and macro botanical fossils.
My Ph.D. research focused on understanding the quantitative ability of surface-water hydrogen and oxygen isotopes to capture key climatic variables. I applied these techniques to sediment-based studies along with fossil pollen analyses to reconstruct vegetation responses to past drought and other climate changes in the Rocky Mountains and the Great Plains over the past 10,000 years. This work includes novel approaches to working with hydrogen and oxygen isotopes from a warm period 6,000 years ago in the Great Plains to obtain direct evidence of changes in the seasonal distribution of precipitation.
In my postdoctoral work I investigated the seasonal climatic conditions associated with emergence of C4-grasslands in North America. This work involved development of biomarker and isotopic tools for identifying unique signals of hydroclimatic and vegetation patterns with Dr. Kate Freeman at Penn State. I also worked with Dr. Sharon Cowling at University of Toronto to use numerical models to test hypotheses about climate changes associated with development of C4-grasslands.