A few months ago, I was notified that I got an NSF CAREER award! I’ve been sitting on the news for a while, while the details got worked out. But here’s the official announcement from UC Merced and the link to the award within the NSF Earth Sciences Division. Many thanks to NSF’s Sedimentary Geology and Paleobiology group for supporting my work!!
And this also means that I’ll be looking for a grad student to work with on this for next fall! So for prospective grad students, please look through the various announcements, my webpage and papers, etc., and contact me if you have exciting ideas you want to work on that relate to this project!
Congratulations! Sounds pretty neat. I got pointed your way by a family member at UC Merced who mentioned this announcement reminded them of my masters thesis work, or at least was vaguely in the same wheelhouse.
I was working with Robert Negrini (I’d be shocked if you hadn’t run into each other at some point) on some paleolimnology in Tulare Lake, looking at carbon fractionation of long chain n-alkanes from ancient leaf waxes in sediments, and using a shift in vegetation as a proxy for precipitation to confirm water level changes were due to rainfall, rather than something else like river migration. I remember having to do a lot more botany reading than I ever expected, being a physics nerd at core who ended up stumbling into a geology masters program. For example, prior to that I didn’t know there were different kinds of photosynthesis. I essentially found that all the C3 type grass in the area was, as I described it, “behaving even more C3-ish” during a the time period of high water levels. Since C3 photosynthesis is associated with more wet environments (and plants keeping their stomata open longer without fear of losing moisture) that seemed a solid point in favor of increased precipitation.
The point relevant to your work, that I am finally circling around to, is that I remember reading about canopy effects as a possible alternative explanation for the fractionation shift. The grass is in the cooler shade of taller vegetation (the growth of which would presumably ALSO indicate a lot more available moisture). It strikes me that shifting shade profiles might have a dramatic zoological effect. Aside from the many creepy crawlies that live in and among trees and shrubs, plenty of cold blooded organisms make use of shade to regulate body temperature. I was wondering if you knew of any existing methods or experimental techniques that reliably link climate, vegetation, and wildlife. Any established or reliable proxies from one to another? An area with room for growth perhaps? Like I said, I’ve only had a cursory brush against your field. I’m a physicist who ended up in a geology masters, and stumbled backwards into a paleoclimatology themed thesis when my advisor essentially said “you’re working on this now”, which then required something of a crash course on the basics of organic chemistry to extract samples, and some catch up reading in botany to interpret results. I think somewhere in all that I learned I had a knack for writing and presenting to a layman audience.
Gonna go check out some papers now. If I were to look for some of yours to get a feel for the topic, would I find them on this blog? I’ve been loosely flirting with the idea of going back and pursuing a PhD in paleoclimatology or something similar since I had such a good time in the lab working on my thesis.
Very cool stuff. Yes, all my papers are linked on the Publications page. Happy reading!