Climate Change Vulnerability and Assessment

Our vulnerability assessment research is focused on understanding how climate change, acting in concert with other factors such as land-use change, affects the demographics and distributions of species of conservation concern. We are developing approaches to estimate species’ demographic sensitivities to variable climatic factors such as the frequency of extreme weather events, and to estimate the exposure of species to these dynamics in different parts of their range. Our efforts include spatially explicit, full life-cycle demographic models for species found in a diversity of habitats in the upper Midwest and eastern US, including Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake (Sistrurus catenatus) Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa umbellus), Henslow’s sparrow (Ammodramus henslowii), Greater Prairie Chicken (Tympanuchus cupido), Bobolink (Dolichonyx oryzivorus), Horned Lark (Eremophila alpestris), and others. These projects are collaborative efforts involving the Northeast Climate Science Center, the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes Landscape Conservation Cooperative, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and additional partners. Our ultimate goal is to work with these partners to develop conservation strategies that can help natural resource managers cope with the particular kinds of vulnerabilities that we identify for different species and different places.

Eastern Massasauga (Sistrurus catenatus) Photo by Mike Redmer, USFWS

Eastern Massasauga (Sistrurus catenatus)
Photo by Mike Redmer, USFWS


Adaptive Capacity
Species can adapt to change in climate over time. We are interested in modeling the effects of climate change on microevolutionary processes and changes in species’ physical traits over broad spatial and temporal scales. Through the use of museum study skins of Northern Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis cardinalis), we are exploring the relationship between changing climatic conditions and variability in species characteristics associated with thermoregulation. By assessing the climate connections of Northern Cardinal morphology and physiology, we intend to create a broader picture of how species are adapting to global change in our own backyards.



Recent related publications

Pomara, L.Y., O.E. LeDee, K.J. Martin, and B. Zuckerberg. 2014. Demographic consequences of climate change and land cover help explain a history of extirpations and range contraction in a declining snake species. Global Change Biology 20: 2087-2099 | DOI:10.1111/gcb.12510. Link