Research and Teaching Overview
I am a biogeographer and paleoecologist that grew up in the heart of the US Rocky Mountains. I spent a great deal of time in the outdoors, camping, skiing, hiking and fishing with family and friends, and through these experiences gained an appreciation and curiosity of the environment. I have a particular fascination with biodiverse regions and understanding the controls that have allowed them to develop and be maintained. My research interests are in the areas of vegetation and climate history and the role of disturbance, in particular fire, as a catalyst for environmental change during the Quaternary. Pollen, macrofossils and charcoal preserved in lake and wetland sediments are the main proxies that I use to reconstruct vegetation, fire and climate. I am also interested in the use of pollen and macrofossils as geolocation tools in other fields, such as forensic palynology, that advance and complement paleoenvironmental studies. My work informs forest policy and ecosystem mangers, is applied and interdisciplinary, and has a strong field and laboratory component. My past and present investigations are located in the western US and Australia, are experimental in nature, and address a number of important questions related in the fields of paleoecology, ecology, geology, biogeography, palynology and forest management.
Teaching is an opportunity to encourage students to question the world around them and to develop skills in the scientific method, data analysis, scientific interpretations of presentations, critical thinking, and metacognition. The classroom, field and laboratory are venues where students can get excited about science. My teaching philosophy emphasizes application of classroom material in the real world, active learning, and using the scientific method to solve problems. I have taught a variety of physical geography courses and research seminars.