Research in the Montane Forest Dynamics Lab focuses on the interaction between climate variability, ecosystem processes, and human activities in forested systems.
We are currently leading a multi-disciplinary NSF-CNH project on the human ecology of the Mongol Empire of the 13th century using tree rings, lake sediments, historical documents, and ecosystem modeling. We are also developing new projects around long-lived endemic conifers of Tasmania, Australia and are participants in the NSF-funded Paleon project.
We have also studied the influence of climate and land use history on fire regimes in the Appalachian Mountains, the Pacific Northwest and Mongolia and have developed millennial-length climate reconstructions of climate for the Mid-Atlantic Region using the tree rings of ancient eastern redcedar (collected in West Virginia). We have explored the relative impacts of climate variability and harvest strategies on carbon sequestration by eastern deciduous forests. In collaboration with the National Park Service, we are exploring the plant diversity on the cliffs of the New River Gorge.
Our research has been published in journals such as BioScience, Climatic Change, Ecological Applications, Journal of Biogeography, Journal of Climate, Professional Geographer and Water Resources Research and has been supported by generous grants from organizations such as the National Science Foundation, the National Geographic Society, USDA Forest Service, USDI National Park Service, and the Joint Fire Sciences Program.
News and Events
- New paper in Geophysical Research Letters suggests that grazers can reduce fire activity under climate change in Mongolia
- New paper in Quaternary Research by Lehigh’s Bob Booth and Amy Hessl documents massive shifts in Medieval moisture in mid-Atlantic region
- PhD student Kristen de Graauw and lab manager Shawn Cockrell interviewed about the Historic Timbers project on WVPB!
- Amy Hessl and Eungul Lee discuss climate change on U92’s Feedback
- Amy Hessl awarded the Benedum Distinguished Scholar by WVU
- PNAS paper “Pluvials, Droughts, the Mongol Empire and Modern Mongolia” is out and getting crazy press.
- Seriously?! The Economist?! I am so proud!
- Read about our project in Science
- Cool video about our work on the Climate and Ecology of the Mongol Empire (CEME)