Introductory Seminars for First-Year Students

Climate Change Ecology: Is It Too Late?


Climate is changing at an alarming rate because of human activity, and this change is certain to affect many species of animals, plants, and microorganisms, driving some to extinction while causing others to become invasive. To predict and manage the impact of climate change on species, it is necessary to understand how species interact with one another in the ecological community that they belong to and how these interactions are modified by climate change. In this seminar, we will explore some of the cutting-edge research on climate change and species interactions. We will focus on two emerging concepts, disequilibrium and historical contingency. The disequilibrium concept emphasizes that it can take much longer for ecological communities to respond to climate change than usually thought because of complex species interactions. The historical contingency concept suggests that the order in which species come and go as a result of climate change will determine which species will persist in which communities. We will discuss how these and other concepts help us to know for which species it is already too latethat is, which species are already doomed to go extinct because of the changes that have happened to climateand for which species it is not too late yet. We will also explore what can be done to save species, including reintroduction, assisted migration, and ecosystem restoration. The seminar will involve student presentation and discussion based on reading of primary and popular articles. Students will also participate in collaborative writing of a review article, aimed for publication in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. To facilitate discussion, we will visit the Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve to learn about ongoing relevant research. At the end of this seminar, students will have improved skills in scientific writing and in critical evaluation of evidence in climate change ecology.

Meet the Instructor(s)

Tadashi Fukami

Tadashi Fukami grew up near Tokyo, Japan, but his parents used to take him and his brothers to their grandparents’ place in the countryside in Wakayama. His exposure to nature there in early childhoodthrough fishing, tide pooling, insect catching, bird watching, etc.led to his interest in ecology. This interest was reinforced by his high-school biology teacher, who talked about natural history around the school in every class. After attending Waseda University for a bachelor’s degree and the University of Tokyo for a master’s degree, he earned a Ph.D. from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He then worked at Landcare Research in New Zealand and the University of Hawaii at Manoa before moving to Stanford in 2008.