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February 22, 2023

12:00pm, PST 1100 TLSB and Zoom

Catherine Hulshof
Virginia Commonwealth University

" The Art of Insight: Using Creativity to Redefine Our Understanding of Biodiversity and Climate Change "

Biodiversity and climate change are interconnected but, in practice, are addressed mainly by separate disciplines. My research uses creativity and intersectional thinking (combining ideas at the intersection of disciplines) to understand the connections between the two. This includes the impact of climate change on biodiversity, climatic-induced shifts in plant and butterfly species traits and distributions, the reassembly and altered dynamics of ecological communities, and subsequent impacts on ecosystem function. This creative approach, combined with field-based and data-driven tools, allows us to explore the coupling between climate change and biodiversity and identify overlooked feedbacks and untested assumptions at the intersection of ecology, climate science, and geoscience. 


I provide three examples of how I have achieved this, encompassing the empirical and theoretical importance of plant trait variation; the role of soils as a driver of plant diversity at macroecological scales; and predicting climate change responses of tropical butterflies using digitized museum collections. I also outline new work (Proyecto ALTA) that creates opportunities for cross-disiciplinary collaborations to examine the impact of climate change on the structure and function of tropical and temperate mountains across a range of spatial (plot to continental), temporal (decadal), and biological (organismal to ecosystem) scales. Given the vast planetary transformations and the underrepresentation of minorities in STEM, diversifying science can generate novel ideas and climate solutions by and for those most impacted by climate change. For this reason, my research is designed to positively challenge how science is done and by whom and I present various examples of ways in which this can be done through my work with the Ecological Society of America SEEDS program; data science curriculum development (ecoCode); and building collaborative networks (Collaboratory).

Host: Felipe Zapata