Global Change Ecology
Center for Conservation and Sustainable Development
• Climate change vulnerability of threatened plant species
• Species distribution models
• Global change, conservation, biogeography, and macroecology
Locating “lost” populations of threatened and endangered plant species. Smith is an Assistant Scientists in Global Change Ecology who uses collections data and species distribution models to predict how climate change and human activities might affect threatened species. Although >2700 plant species would likely qualify to be listed under the US Endangered Species Act, only ~800 actually have such protection. A first step toward protecting vulnerable listed and unlisted species is identifying the locations of populations. Field surveys are costly in time and expenditure, and hindered by access to private lands. However, online biodiversity databases like GBIF and TROPICOS offer a potential shortcut to locating “lost” populations of these species. In this project the REU would mine online biodiversity databases for the locations of sensitive species. These would then be compared to databases of monitored populations to determine which populations have “slipped through” conservation assessments. This project would involve use of myriad biodiversity databases, interpretation of historical specimen collections, and retroactive georeferencing. Most of the project would be done online, although work in the MOBOT herbarium could also be performed (depending on COVID safety protocols). The successful applicant will be enthusiastic about conservation of rare plants, detail-oriented, and able to navigate complex workflows and make thoughtful judgment calls for cases that do not “neatly” fall into the standard workflow. The REU student would also be supported by a team of peer-mentors (undergraduates, post-bachs, grad students, and postdocs) in the Smith lab (please see mentoring statement at www.earthSkySea.org/mentoring).