Paleoecology Laboratory

Welcome from the Director

The focus of my research program and the Paleoecology Lab is to better understand natural hazards and past environmental change, particularly as they relate to vegetation ecology. Research themes include paleoseismology (past earthquakes), paleohydrology (past floods), fire history, and ecosystem function in response to climate and human-induced change. This variety of projects enables me to include many students and to make connections between different cause and effect relationships.

Techniques used in the lab pertain mostly to palynology (identification and quantification of pollen and other organic-walled microfossils) and dendrochronology. With these techniques and analyses of sediments and peats (humification, loss on ignition, total carbon and nitrogen, and radioisotopes for age-depth modelling) students and I are able to reconstruct changes in vegetation across sedimentary contacts including abrupt contacts that can result from earthquakes and floods. Trees killed or damaged by earthquake-induced shaking and flooding help refine age estimates and can record information about the magnitude of a catastrophic event.

A principal function of the Paleoecology Lab is to train undergraduate and graduate students on a continuous basis in a variety of field and laboratory techniques useful for paleoecological reconstructions of environmental change. Understanding how environments changed in the past helps refine predictive models and risk management. The interdisciplinary research conducted in the Paleoecology Lab attracts students and faculty with interests in geography, geology, biology, chemistry, statistics, and fine arts. This training in inquiry-based learning helps to prepare undergraduate students for graduate studies and the workforce. The Paleoecology Lab welcomes students from other institutions to work alongside UFV students.

Jonathan Hughes
Lab Director

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