Projects and Research
Wetland Vulnerability and Sea-Level Rise
Coastal wetlands are critical for both ecosystem services and coastal protection from storm surge and their response to accelerated sea-level rise is a key issue in long-range coastal management. My research uses large data sets to answer the important question of whether coastal wetlands are able to prevail while facing some of the world’s highest rates of relative sea-level rise, as in coastal Louisiana.
Climate-Induced Tipping Points
Ecosystem response to drastic shifts in environmental conditions, such as increased relative sea-level rise rates, can be abrupt. In complex systems, recovery requires not just a return to the conditions that created the initial equilibrium state but, instead, a shift to conditions that go beyond the previous equilibrium point. My research looks at whether this holds true for Holocene wetland systems using radiocarbon analyses and stratigraphic interpretation of sediment cores from coastal Louisiana.
Carbon Cycling and Storage in Fluviodeltaic Systems
The fate of carbon as it travels through biogeochemical cycles has important implications in a world experiencing climate change related to greenhouse-gas emissions. In fluviodeltaic systems, wetland vegetation acts as an important organic carbon reservoir. Carbon that is transported by rivers may also be sequestered through floodplain deposition. My research focuses on quantifying the amount of carbon in Holocene clastic-rich deltaic deposits and organic-rich wetland deposits to comparing the sequestration efficiency of these depositional environments in coastal Louisiana.
Lakes as records of global change
Lakes readily record changes to global conditions and, in particular, to climate. Sedimentology, stratigraphy, and minerology are all tools I use to track climate-related physical, chemical, and biological changes to lake systems. I look at these questions on annual to millennial timescales in environments ranging from Glacier National Park to Lake Tanganyika.
Climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction
Changing climate has implications for the livelihoods, safety, and security of individuals and their communities across the globe. Climate-related disasters can negatively impact entire regions and an understanding of how to predict and prepare for these events is necessary. I work to communicate climate projections and other relevant information to non-scientific audiences (NGO staff, government officials, community members) in order to adapt disaster risk planning to the realities of new climate patterns. I also work to help communities assess their vulnerabilities and capacities as related to climate-related risk.
Science literacy is a crucial for young people to become knowledgeable and productive citizens. The discipline of paleontology teaches us that “past is prologue,” and helps us to better understand today’s world by understanding what came before. I authored the Junior Paleontologist for the National Park Service and have, to date, taught over 75,000 young people about our nation’s fossil resources and the importance of geological inquiry and understanding.