The Williams Lab

Welcome to the Williams Lab!

Spicer Lake

The Williams Lab studies vegetation change and its drivers, across diverse spatial and temporal scales, with an emphasis on the environmental changes of the last 20,000 years as a model system for global change research. Key research areas include no-analog climates and communities, the drivers of abrupt ecological change, and the interactions among vegetation, climate, disturbance regime, megafauna, and humans. We employ a diverse mix of tools (primary collection of paleoenvironmental data, data synthesis, and ecological and climate modeling) and seek to foster strong and productive collaborations, within and outside our research group. We share a strong commitment to advancing scientific communications, education, diversity, and mentorship from the undergraduate to postgraduate levels.

Please look around our site, meet the people who work here, and browse through our research and picture gallery. If you have questions, please feel free to contact us.


Latest News

4/12/2016: Congratulations to Megs Seeley!.

Megs Seeley, a University of Wisconsin undergraduate researcher, was recently awarded a Hilldale Undergraduate/Faculty Research Fellowship to come join the Williams Lab as part of our studies on pre-settlement landscapes in the upper Midwestern United States.

4/12/2016: Congratulations to Sarah Supp!.

Williams Lab guest, NSF Postdoctoral Fellow and researcher extraordinaire Sarah Supp welcomes an adorable new future paleoecologist.

4/08/2016: Congratulations to Ben Watson!.

Our own Ben Watson has been awarded the Olmstead Award for outstanding teaching. Congratulations Ben, and thanks for all your hard work!

3/9/2016: New Paper: Community-level models generally outperform species distribution models when predicting to novel climates.

In a new paper published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, Kaitlin Maguire and coauthors use fossil data from the last deglaciation to show that CLMs have higher predictive skill than SDMs when predicting to communities and climates with no modern analog.  Both CLMs and SDMs suffer reduced predictive skill but the decrease is lessened for CLMs.  These results suggest that CLMs may be more robust when predicting species and biodiversity responses to the novel climates of the 21st century.

2/17/2016: New Paper: The changing fortunes of beech forests in the Great Lakes region during the Holocene.

Lab member Yue Wang has a new paper out in the Holocene detailing regional changes in beech (Fagus grandifolia) abundance in the Great Lakes region during the Holocene.  Using Bayesian methods she shows that the changing fortunes of beech are similar to those recorded for hemlock during the Holocene and appear to be tied to drought events recorded in the region, but the lack of spatially continuous records and paleoclimate proxy data in the region means that a direct link remains elusive.

5/4/2015: Sam Munoz and Ashtin Massie in the news with a new paleoflood record for the central Mississippi River.

Congratulations to lab members Sam Munoz and Ashtin Massie on the publication of "Cahokia’s emergence and decline coincided with shifts of flood frequency on the Mississippi River" in PNAS with Jack Williams. The paper has received coverage from Nature and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. See the UW Press Release here.

1/14/2015: Kevin Burke has been awarded an Outstanding Student Paper Award (OSPA) for his AGU 2014 Poster

During the Fall 2014 meeting of the American Geophysical Union, Kevin Burke's poster entitled "Improving estimates of regional vegetation: Using pre-settlement vegetation data and variable wind speed to quantify pollen dispersal and source area" [PDF] was awarded an OSPA for the Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology Section. The full list of OPSA award winners can be found here.

11/13/2014: News coverage on the historic US-China climate agreement with Jack Williams

Jack Williams commented on the recent emissions deal between the United States and China on Madison's WKOW TV. [video][text]

8/20/2014: Joint speeds of projected climate and land use for the USA

A new study published in Nature Climate Change calculates the combined velocities of future climate and land use change in the coterminous US. This work was led by former postdoc Alejandro Ordonez, with Jack Williams and colleagues Volker Radeloff and Sebastian Martinuzzi in CALS/Forest Ecology & Wildlife. The study reports that overall, speeds of climate change are higher than land use change, with the upper Midwest and eastern Great Plains as an area of expected to experience high combined climate and land use change. The projected rates of climate change are similar to or higher than the dispersal capacity of many species. Article, UW Press Release, ClimateWire

8/13/2014: The Williams Lab heads to Camp PalEON!

Simon Goring, Kevin Braun, and Jack Williams are off to the Northwoods for a week of integrated instruction in paleoecology, Bayesian statistics, and ecosystem modeling at the UNDERC field station, near Land O Lakes, WI. The one-week short course provides 15 graduate students with a crash course in the fundamentals of paleoecological data and informatics, R, and the statistical tools for data-model assimilation. This work is part of the Paleoecological Observatory Network (PalEON) and is supported by NSF-Macrosystems. Some course materials can be viewed here. Thanks, NSF!

8/12/2014: A new paper by Sam Munoz and others

A new paper is in press by Sam Munoz and others in the Journal of Biogeography. Sam's recent synthesis of historical, archaeological, and palaeoecological data argues that prehistoric human impacts in eastern North America were patchy, dynamic, and heterogeneous. These findings challenge the view that indigenous land use was widespread and ubiquitous.

University of Wisconsin press release featuring the Williams Lab and PalEON

A recent University of Wisconsin press release features Jack Williams and postdoc Simon Goring for their efforts as part of PalEON, and the rise of Big Ecology.

Jack Williams has been awarded the Romnes Faculty Award by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF)

This award, for professors within six years of tenure, is supported by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF). H.I. Romnes was the former president of the WARF Board of Trustees, and the award recognizes his service to the University through an unrestricted $50,000 research grant.

Sam Munoz and Cahokia make another spash with a new paper in Geology & coverage in Discovery.

Sam Munoz's work at Cahokia has been published online in Geology, with coverage in Discovery News

Sam Munoz and Cahokia make a big splash in National Geographic! (October 31, 2013)

Sam Munoz has had his work on Cahokia featured in National Geographic's Daily News feature.

[more news]

*The views expressed in these twitter feeds do not necessarily reflect the views of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, the Department of Geography, or other members of the Williams Lab. They should be understood as the personal opinions of each individual author.




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