Monday, December 20, 2010

Featured Professional: Jessica Hellman

Have you ever wondered what humans might do to reduce the negative effects of climate change? This is one of the newest challenges for climate change biology and a question that Dr. Jessica Hellmann and her students at the University of Notre Dame are tackling.

Jessica’s work on "adaptation" to climate change has emerged from her studies on the ecological impacts of climate change. She feels that ecologists have spent many years diagnosing the effects of climate change on biodiversity, but now we need to use this knowledge to design management strategies to live with climate change.

Specifically, the Hellmann Lab is studying the ecological and evolutionary factors that limit the ability of species to track climate as it shifts. These limitations include local adaptation of populations to local climates and specialized interactions between species. Humans might be able to overcome these limitations for some species by facilitating their movement and even putting some in new locations. Several species in the Great Lakes region are helping Jessica grapple with these issues, including the hybridizing Midwestern butterflies, Papilio glaucus and P. canadensis, and the endangered Karner blue butterfly.

For more information about Jessica Hellmann and her research group, see