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

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.

A new year, and new faces! (Setember 1, 2013)

We're happy to welcome two new members to the Williams lab, Ben Bates and Kevin Burke. Ben is working in the lab in conjunction with the Wisconsin Geological Survey. Kevin has started his M.Sc after finishing his undergraduate degree at Notre Dame.

Congratulations to Sam Munoz! (September 1, 2013)

Sam Munoz is now on a traineeship with the Novel Ecosystems IGERT. The Novel Ecosystems IGERT is an NSF funded project that brings together faculty and graduate students from many departments on campus to foster collaborative research in the realm of conservation biology in an ever-changing environment.

New papers on plant diversity, pollen assemblages megafauna proxies (September 1, 2013)

Jacquelyn Gill, Jack Williams, Chad Zirbel and Simon Goring are co-authors with Adam Skibbe and Kendra McLauchlan on a new paper out in the Journal of Ecology relating herbivore density to dung fungus abundance. In a paper in the same issue, Simon Goring, along with co-authors Terri Lacourse, Rolf Mathewes and Marlow Pellat discuss the lack of a link between modern plant species richness and pollen taxonomic richness in British Columbia.

NSF Funding for Sam Munoz! (September 1, 2013)

Sam's NSF-DDRI proposal titled "Doctoral Dissertation Research: Assessing the Characteristics and Consequences of Prehistoric Land Use in the Cahokia Region" was successful. This grant will help fund Sam's dissertation research, and allow him to present his research at the annual meetings of the American Association of Geographers and the Society for American Archaeology.

PalEON on the WildIdeas podcast (July 1, 2013)

Simon Goring talks about PalEON on this week's WildIdeas podcast, produced by The Wilderness Center, a non-profit nature center in Wilmot OH.

Putting dung fungus in a modern context (July 1, 2013)

Key to the use of Sporormiella as a proxy for Pleistocene megafauna is linking it to estimates of biomass or grazing intensity in modern systems. Jacquelyn Gill's accepted paper in the Journal of Ecology does just this, showing that Sporormiella concentrations and percent abundance in bison enclosures at the Konza Prairie Biological Station are much higher than at ungrazed sites in the same region. This helps us extend the use of this important proxy and improves our ability to understand the role of megaherbivores in structuring Pleistocene landscapes.

How does climate change in the Mediterranean? (June 15, 2013)

Simon Goring is a co-author on a new paper out in Climate of the Past. A multi-record shows partitioning of Holocene climate between a northern and southern system, with alternating patterns of drying and wetting that shift from north to south during the Holocene.

Hunting for clues to why the last mammoths disappeared (June 5, 2013)

One of the last places on earth with surviving mammoths is the focus of a Discover article featuring work by Jack Williams.

Substituting space for time

Jessica Blois and Jack Williams are co-authors on a new paper in PNAS, Space can substitute for time in predicting climate-change effects on biodiversity. In the paper Jessica shows that space can act as a reliable substitute for time in modeliing species turnovers through the Holocene, but point out that this substitution should be used judiciously.

Improving the chances of success in interdisciplinary research

Simon Goring presented a talk in Washington DC at the NSF Macrosystems PI meeting about ways the academic community can support interdisciplinary collaboration by changing the definitions of success to include both individual and team measures (here).

Welcome to Ben Seliger

Ben Seliger is joining the lab for the summer as part of an REU in conjunction with the IBS-SRP Program. He'll be heading off to the University of Maine to work with Jacquelyn Gill in the fall, but for now he's being mentored by Simon Goring and Jack Williams as part of the PalEON Project.

Climatic analogs, climate velocity, and potential shifts in vegetation structure and biomass for Wisconsin under 21st-century climate-change scenarios

A report for the Environmental and Economic Research and Development Program of Wisconsin’s Focus on Energy and the Bryson Climate, People, and Environment Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has been released. Check it out here.

Access Neotoma through APIs in R

Simon Goring has released the first version of a Neotoma package for R with the ROpenSci team (here and here).

[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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