July 6, 2012
Chilton Receives NSF Grant for Collaborative Research
Congratulations to Elizabeth Chilton (anthropology) who has been awarded $237,921 from the National Science Foundation as PI for a collaborative research grant entitled "Interacting Influences of Climate, Land Use, and Other Disturbances on Regime Shifts in Forest Ecosystems: Holocene Dynamics in the Northeastern United States." The total project budget is $1.1 million and includes collaborators from Harvard University and the University of Wyoming.
The manner in which climate change, human land-use and natural disturbances interact to disrupt natural systems remains a critical concern for science and society. With increasing rates of climate and land-use change, the rate and magnitude of ecosystem changes will likely increase with major effects on critical services to humankind, including the availability of natural resources and the ability of nature to buffer climate impacts.
This research project will advance the understanding of how climate change interacts with human and natural disturbances to generate abrupt ecological changes by developing and analyzing a rich array of paleoecological, paleoclimatic, and archaeological data over the past 13,000 years. The study will focus on periods characterized by sharp declines in oak and hemlock due to rapid climate change, major droughts, insect outbreaks, changing human-population and land-use regimes (e.g., deforestation, fire) at ca. 6000, 5500, and 4000 yr BP and the time of European settlement.
New methodologies will be applied to analyze ecosystem change and to explore the consequences for the earth's future. The research will concentrate on southern New England and three important, contrasting landscapes: the coast (Cape Cod and islands), near-coastal wetland area (Taunton River), and the inland-riverine area of the Connecticut and Deerfield Rivers.
The collaborators will apply their strengths in ecological, biophysical and social science to advance: interdisciplinary training at undergraduate, graduate, postdoctoral and mid-career levels; communication and engagement with broad audiences of scientists, decision makers, and policy makers; and environmental and conservation policy. These efforts will capitalize on existing institutional strengths including the Harvard Forest Programs in Science and Policy Integration; the Emerson College undergraduate program in Science Communication; and graduate programs in Geology and Geophysics at the University of Wyoming and Anthropology and Archaeology at the University of Massachusetts.