We seek a cluster of 3-4 postdoctoral research associates (each for two years) for newly funded research on understanding abrupt change in ecological systems (ACES). Science currently lacks a framework for predicting when, where, why, and how surprisingly abrupt and fundamental changes are likely to occur in ecosystems and landscapes. Rates of environmental change are accelerating, and understanding the consequences of these 21st-C changes for natural resources and human wellbeing is among the biggest challenges in contemporary ecology. We aim to answer fundamental research questions, such as: How much disturbance can living resources absorb before they change qualitatively? Where are the tipping points in ecosystems, and what forces can push ecosystems past those tipping points? When and where do we expect significant changes in our landscapes and waters? What natural resources are likely to change radically in the coming decades? The ACES project is a new collaboration among UW-Madison PIs (Monica Turner, Steve Carpenter, Tony Ives, Chris Kucharik, Jack Williams) who are leaders and have complementary expertise in theoretical and applied ecology; a range of terrestrial, aquatic, and agricultural systems; and scales that extend deep in time and from local to regional extent. Our research will focus on a diverse set of real world ‘model ecosystems,’ each characterized by complex spatial dynamics and time lags that can mask impending abrupt changes. Case studies include harmful algal blooms that occur in over-fertilized lakes, tree population collapses related to variation in climate in deciduous forests of eastern North America, loss of conifer forests as climate and fire regimes change in western North America, and risk to crop yields with climate warming and declining water availability. For questions about ACES, contact Monica Turner ([email protected]) or any of the faculty listed above.
Deadline: Wednesday, June 15, 2016