Hola! My name is Jon and I’m a PhD student at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. I focus on using plant functional traits to help understand or predict how plant communities might change under future conditions. These future conditions that interest me include the spread of invasive species, warming climate conditions, less snow in temperate ecosystems, and greater frequency of extreme weather events. My dissertation focuses on how prescribed fire timing might interact with winter climate change to affect tallgrass prairie plant communities in Wisconsin. This means that I spend time in the spring and fall lighting fires while I spend the winter skiing to move snow around the prairie. Luckily I’m from Minnesota, where playing in the snow was an important part of life for me.
I’m really excited about this course in Peru because I hope to meet a wide variety of people, learn new perspectives and approaches in trait-based ecology, and experience a new ecosystem. I strongly believe that some of the best science comes from collaborations between a wide variety of people and perspectives because problems can be tackled in creative ways. Thus, one of my main goals from this experiences is to get involved in a collaborative research project. I’ll know whether this has happened when we are done and it seems like work will continue with people from the course that could lead to future research collaborations.
I also have to mention that I am really excited to explore and learn about Peru and the Andes. Having lived at the southern tip of the Andes in Argentina for a while after college, I am really excited to see them in all their splendor and diversity. The idea that the mountains go from the Amazon rainforest to some of the tallest mountains in the world is fascinating.
I haven’t really thought about how climate change in Peru might be perceived. My expectation would be that most people accept that climate change is real and important. This is because this country has so much highly valued nature that I would imagine people would be somewhat aware of changes that are happening. Of course, I would guess that there is variability in these beliefs, like many other places.
Being from the United States, public perception of climate change is very mixed. I remember seeing various statistics that put this country at the back of the herd for belief in climate change and the science behind it. It is sometimes hard to see that in real life because I live in a very progressive town and am surrounded by academically-minded people, but the political environment unfortunately doesn’t suggest that most people in this country believe that climate change is