Power Paleoecology Lab & The Garrett Herbarium

Welcome to the Power Paleoecology Lab & Garrett Herbarium

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Research in the Power Paleoecology Lab focuses on long term spatial and temporal scale ecosystem responses to environmental disturbance including  fire, climate change, and anthropogenic impacts. Current research projects include studies in alpine forests of the western U.S., Seasonally Dry Tropical Forest of Bolivia and the Caribbean, as well as a new project in the highlands of Ethiopia.


We use a variety of techniques to reconstruct long-term ecosystem dynamics including historical records, fossil pollen and plant macrofossils, diatoms, phytoliths, dung spores, micro & macrofossil charcoal analysis, stable isotopes (δ13C, δ15N, δ18O), and sediment geochemistry. 

Key research areas include interactions among vegetation, climate, disturbance regimes, and phenology. 

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 Our research is made possible by support from 

Paleotempestology research in the Caribbean
Tropical cyclones in the Caribbean Sea are dominant drivers of ecosystem disturbance for island archipelagos. Hurricane intensity is expected to rise with increased global heating, but uncertainty about the role of wind shear, with winds at
different altitudes either combining to produce cyclones or cancelling each other and dispersing the buildup of heat. A central question is whether these recent changes in tropical cyclone activity are unprecedented? Natural disturbance, including tropical cyclones, fires and volcanic eruptions contribute to history of vegetation change and biotic evolution on islands. Understanding the long-term frequency and intensity of natural disturbances and impacts on island evolution provides insight into climate-disturbance-biotic linkages. The resiliency of island ecosystems to natural disturbances is increasingly being tested by global change, and one avenue for
understanding these changes is through a long-term perspective of natural disturbances on Caribbean islands.
The collapse of the Aksumite people on the Tigray Plateau, Ethiopia

Insights about relative roles of environment and human choices that affect the trajectories of civilizations are challenging to

capture from distant time periods. This project brings together a team of scientist from multiple institutions (Simon Fraser University, University of Stirling, and University of Kansas) and disciplines to explore the causal factors leading to the rise and fall of societies living on the Tigray Plateau during the past three millennia.  We are exploring the degree to which the environment influenced social, political and economic complexity of pre-Aksumite (ca 800–400 BCE) and Aksumite (ca 150 BCE–700 CE) civilizations on the Tigray Plateau in the Horn of Africa.


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