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About Eric G. DeChaine

My research interests are focused on understanding the biogeographic history and evolution of tundra ecosystems. The overarching goal of these studies is to determine how climatic variability of the Quaternary (~ the last 2.6 million years) has impacted and may further affect the distribution and diversity of the arctic and alpine flora. During the Quaternary, the climate oscillated between glacial and interglacial periods, forcing plant populations to track suitable habitat across the shifting landscape, adapt to the environmental changes, or go extinct.

To evaluate the consequences of the Quaternary on tundra communities, my students and I are: 1) testing biogeographic hypotheses and speciation models through coalescent-based analyses of next-generation genomic sequence data from various species of plants across the region; 2) performing comparative paleogenomic analyses among modern populations and ancient DNA (aDNA) preserved in permafrost middens to estimate genetic responses of species to climate change; and 3) informing ecological niche models with genetic data to predict potential impacts of future warming on tundra plant distributions.

Through these investigations into the history of multiple species of plants and their associated herbivores, a general understanding of the process of speciation and extinction in the tundra is emerging. These comparative analyses are akin to investigating myriad natural climate change experiments linked to the region's geology, hydrology, and ecology and are critical for understanding the paleoecological history of arctic and alpine ecosystems, informing conservation priorities for rare and native plants, and estimating the past and future consequences of climate change on the distribution of biological diversity.

Positions

Present Associate Professor, Department of Biology, Western Washington University Department of Biology
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Phone:(360)650-6575
Office: BI 237

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