Time Travelling Scientist: Paleoecologist Jacquelyn Gill

Our next palaeocurator is hardly needs an introduction. Associate Professor Jacquelyn Gill is a paleoecologist at the University of Maine, science writer and science communicator. You may know her from the excellent podcast Warm Regards with Eric Holthaus, twitter, blog, and many articles in news media. Dr Gill’s work examines the history of climate through the fossil record, using Earth’s “natural experiments” to understand ecology and climates. Here’s Dr Gill’s story.



I was always interested in the natural world, because we moved around a lot abd traveled, and I got to experience many different kinds of landscapes. Also, as a teen in the 90’s, I grew up during a period of growing awareness of about the environment. I wanted to go into theater for a long time, but taking classes in ecology and conservation brought me back to science. It was Mount Desert Island’s ice age features that got me hooked on studying the past.


How did you end up in science? Puzzles! Paleoecology is like environmental forensics—we piece together past environments from clues left behind by plants, animals, and even ancient atmospheres. We even use similar tools to forensic scientists. I love the puzzle of studying the past, and also how we can use the last to understand the future. Also, mammoths are cool.


As a paleoecologist, I use “natural experiments” in past climate change and extinction to help species in a warming world. In my lab, we study the fossil record, with a focus on plants, climate change, extinction causes and impacts, plant-animal interactions, and early human impacts. The past is the key to the future. We can’t understand where Earth is going unless we know where it’s been.


Do you have any extra-curricular work? Not obligations, but I do run a blog (The Contemplative Mammoth) and a podcast (Warm Regards).brhiQLjN.jpg-large


I knit and quilt, read, play games (role-playing, board and video games), hike with my dog, and enjoy old movies. Hobbies that I do: – gardening – archery (recurved bow) – brewing mead – making cheese – cooking – writing short stories (horror) – can knit, but it’s been awhile


I’m a night owl, so sleeping late will start off the ideal day. The morning would start with a leisurely cup (or three!) of Earl Grey or Lapsang tea, and if the weather is nice, a long hike to look at birds. If the weather is cold and wet, relaxing at home and experimenting with a new recipe! It’s been awhile since I’ve read for fun, but now that the doctorate is complete I’m starting to pick that up again. Of course, no day is complete without playing with my 15 year old cat, Maia!


Please welcome Dr Gill to Real Scientists!

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