I am trained as a landscape and forest ecologist, and have spent most of the past decade researching risks to nature and people associated with climate change. In my current position, I serve as a Climate Change Ecologist, and manage a climate change resilience mapping project focused on the Great Lakes and Great Plains regions of the US. I report to the LANDFIRE team within the North America Science program, and collaborate with colleagues across the Conservancy on strategies and tools for climate change adaptation. From 2008 to 2014, I was part of the Conservancy’s Great Lakes Project, which works with partners to restore and maintain the Great Lakes system. As part of the Climate Change Adaptation Strategy team I worked with colleagues and partners to ensure that our actions and strategies protecting this incredible freshwater resource were designed, prioritized, implemented and monitored in ways that accounted for climate change risks. Prior to joining the Conservancy in 2008, I received my Master’s and PhD from the University of Michigan, and conducted research focused on understanding connections between forest conditions and habitat quality for migratory songbirds in northern forests. I am based in Lansing, Michigan and currently hold adjunct faculty positions at Michigan State University in the Departments of Forestry and Fisheries & Wildlife.
In my current position, I manage an expansion of the “Conserving Nature’s Stage” Project, which began with pioneering work led by Mark Anderson in the Eastern Division to develop Terrestrial Resilience maps for the eastern US. Building from a delineation of ecological “stages” (combinations of geology, soils, and elevation), these maps highlight areas that have the most topographic diversity, and best local connectivity. This approach allows us to identify sites with similar characteristics, and then rank them based on characteristics that should enhance the ability of species to adapt to changes in climate. This body of work, including new results for northwestern ecoregions, has primarily been funded by grants from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.
In addition to managing the Terrestrial Resilience project, I am engaged in several other projects focused on evaluating climate change risks, or developing and testing adaptation strategies. I collaborate with a team from the University of Notre Dame to share climate change adaptation knowledge and tools through a Climate Adaptation Collaboratory, and am assisting a team from Conservancy chapters in New York that are creating an innovative, map-based toolkit for practitioners that are evaluating options for adaptation. I will also be co-leading a Science for Nature and People (SNAP) working group focused on planning for climate change related increases in drought in North America. Our goal is to synthesize information on ecological impacts in a wide variety of ecosystem types, and improve the integration of adaptation strategies that benefit both natural systems and people into local-scale drought preparedness efforts.
While working for the Conservancy, I have had the great fortune of being able to contribute to several multi-partner efforts to advance the field of climate change adaptation. Several years ago, I was part of the team that developed NatureServe’s Climate Change Vulnerability Index, and contributed to updates of the Conservancy’s guidance on how to conduct regional-scale conservation planning. More recently, I was part of a group organized by the National Wildlife Federation to develop comprehensive guidance on best practices in climate change adaptation. I currently represent the Conservancy on the Federal Advisory Committee for USGS’s Climate Science Centers & the National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center, and serve on the Program Committee for the National Adaptation Forum.