Adam promoted to Associate Scientist!

February 17th, 2020
Adam B. Smith
Fig. 1. An Associate Scientist

Hiring two summer botany field technicians

January 31st, 2020

The Global Change Conservation Lab is hiring two field technicians for the summer of 2020. The technicians will be involved with a project that examines how microclimate and macroclimate affect the distributions of woody and herbaceous species of temperate mixed-species forests. Specifically, the field technicians will work with project staff at the Missouri Botanical Garden and Washington University in St. Louis to survey forest plots and monitor microclimate stations at Tyson Research Center. Tyson is a large, mostly forested, field station located ~10 miles West of Saint Louis, Missouri. Saint Louis has a highly active and friendly ecology and evolution community, and this position will provide opportunities to interact with multiple researchers at Tyson Research Center, Washington University, and the Missouri Botanical Garden.

Requirements include:

  • Interest in botany and a demonstrated ability to identify eastern US tree species
  • Prior field work experience is required for this position
  • Ability to traverse rugged terrain, carry a 20-lb backpack
  • Ability to work outside in inclement weather conditions
  • Ability to work independently of supervision
  • Careful attention to detail

Desirable qualifications include:

  • Ability to identify forest herbs
  • Prior experience using a hand-held GPS unit to locate forest plots or other sampling sites in field conditions
  • Prior experience establishing and monitoring forest plots
  • Prior independent research experience is a plus

Technicians would be responsible for their own transportation to and from Tyson, as well as for room and board, although there is a possibility to rent an apartment at the Missouri Botanical Garden for most of the summer (conditional on availability of Garden housing).  Work will be as an independent contractor for $15/hour for 40 hours a week. We envision a starting date for both positions in late May, and expect the positions to last for ~2 months. Please see below for general requirements.

To apply, please send: 1) a cover letter; 2) a resume; and 3) contact information for three references to CV to Dr. Stephen Murphy (  For questions, please contact Dr. Murphy or Dr. Adam Smith (

Hiring a Postdoc in Biogeography (based at Michigan State)

January 29th, 2020

Interested in biogeography? Want to work in a supportive group? Curious about integrating data on genetics, pollen, and occurrences to understand species’ range shifts across time? Looking for a postdoc with funds dedicated to career development? Come work with us!


Postdoctoral Position, Integrative Modeling of Species Range Shifts, Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Michigan State University

A postdoctoral research associate position in population genetics and demographic modeling is available in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at Michigan State University.   The successful applicant will join an established collaborative network of researchers across five institutions (Michigan State University, the Morton Arboretum, the College of Charleston, the Missouri Botanical Garden, Mount Royal University) and contribute to an NSF-funded data integration project focused on quantifying species’ historical range shifts and population sizes using multiple data types (for more information see:  Although multiple data types contain information on species’ range shifts (i.e., fossil pollen data, occurrence data and ecological niche models, and population genetic data) these datasets do not always result in equivalent inferences (e.g., on the speed of range shifts).  This project seeks to integrate these data types in a coherent analytical framework to infer demographic parameters (migration rates, population sizes, etc.), the location of glacial refugia, and the pace of post-glacial range movement (see Hoban et al 2019 Ecography). The statistical framework provided by Approximate Bayesian Computation (ABC) is a major component of the integrative modeling approaches we are developing.  Our project team currently includes individuals with expertise in Mathematics, Statistics, Ecology, Biogeography, and Population Genetics, and we look forward to welcoming a new collaborator to the project.

Applicants must have a Ph.D. in Genetics, Ecology, Evolutionary Biology, Bioinformatics, or a similar field with demonstrated experience in population genetics and a robust computational skillset.  In particular, experience with programming (R, Python, C++), Approximate Bayesian Computation, cluster computing, and analysis of population genomic data is desirable. Other desired qualifications include a strong work ethic, problem-solving and time management skills, and experience communicating scientific results. Applicants should demonstrate an interest in joining an established interdisciplinary research team working at the interface of statistics and ecology, and in contributing to an open-source software development project.  This position includes opportunities (and funding) to engage in a wide variety of professional development activities (depending on areas of interest) and to participate in planned outreach efforts associated with this project.

Interested applicants should submit a cover letter, statement of research interests, and contact information for three references via the Careers @ MSU website (job posting #632351):  In addition to the materials above, code (e.g., link to a GitHub repository) and writing samples (i.e., one or more recent publications) are also strongly encouraged, and will be considered during review.  Questions about the position can be directed to Dr. John Robinson,  The initial appointment for this position is for a period of one year, with the possibility of renewal for a second year pending satisfactory performance.  Start date is no later than July 1, 2020. Review of applications will begin March 15, 2020 and will continue until the position is filled.

A profile of Adam

January 16th, 2020

The decimation of Madagascar’s rainforest habitat

December 23rd, 2019

It is honestly with sadness that I announce our new publication on the fate of Madagscar’s rainforest habitat in Nature Climate Change. Modeling deforestation assuming the lowest rate of deforestation across the period 2000-2014, I could only get the rainforest to last to the 2070s… and the highest rate of loss occurred in 2018, outside the time period over which I had data. The slight hope is that protected areas are deforested at a slower rate, and if were to (unrealistically) assume no new deforestation in these areas, then some rainforest habitat would remain.

Morelli*, T.L., Smith*, A.B., Mancini, A.N., Balko, E. A., Borgenson, C., Dolch, R., Farris, Z., Federman, S., Golden, C.D., Holmes, S., Irwin, M., Jacobs, R.L., Johnson, S., King, T., Lehman, S., Louis, E.E. Jr., Murphy, A., Randriahaingo, H.N.T., Lucien, Randriannarimanana, H.L.L., Ratsimbazafy, J., Razafindratsima, O.H., and Baden, A.L. 2019. The fate of Madagascar’s rainforest habitat. Nature Climate Change 10:89-96. * Equal contribution. (article | “behind the paper” | Washington Post | National Geographic | The Conversation | ScienceDaily)

Runner-up in Ecography’s E4 Award!

December 3rd, 2019

Our article on formal integration of different lines of biogeographic evidence (genetic, pollen, occurrence) won runner-up in annual Ecography’s E4 Award!

Hoban, S., Dawson, A. Robinson, J., Smith, A.B., Strand, A. 2019. Inference of biogeographic history by formally integrating distinct lines of evidence: genetic, environmental niche, and fossil. Ecography 42:1991-2011. (open access)

Cover story!!!

September 27th, 2019
Our work on how ecoregions best explain intraspecific variation in responses of pikas to climate made the cover of Nature Climate Change!

What geographic template best explains intraspecific variation in responses to climate? Enter ‘climate coherency’

September 23rd, 2019

After many long years of battling data bottlenecks, I am ecstatic to announce the publication of our paper on intraspecific variation in responses of pikas to climate change. To our great surprise, dividing the range by ecoregions–not genetic lineages–best captures observed differences in how the species responded to 20 mechanistic climatic variables. Many thanks to Erik Beever, the “Pika Brain Trust,” and ~70 co-authors who contributed valuable data, hard-won wisdom, and trust in the outcome of this massive endeavor!

Ecoregions display the greatest climate coherency (least within-unit variation and most among-unit variation) in responses of pikas to 20 mechanistic climate variables.

Smith, A.B., Beever, E.A., Kessler, A.E., Johnston, A.N., Ray, C., Epps, C.W., Lanier, H.C., Klinger, R.C., Rodhouse, T.J., Varner, J., Perrine, J., Seglund, A., Hall, E., Galbreath, K., Anderson, C., Billman, P., Blatz, G., Brewer, J., Vardaro, J.C., Chalfoun, A.D., Collins, G., Craighead, A., Curlis, C., Daly, C., Doak, D.F., East, M., Edwards, M., Erb, L., Ernest, K.A., Fauver, B., Foresman, K., Goehring, K., Hagar, J., Hayes, C.L., Henry, P., Hersey, K., Hilty, S.L., Jacobson, J., Jeffress, M.R., Manning, T.E., Masching, A., Maxwell, B., McCollough, R., McFarland, C., Miskow, E., Morelli, T,L., Moyer-Horner, L., Mueller, M., Nugent, M., Pratt, B., Rasmussen-Flores, M., Rickman, T.H., Robison, H., Rodriguez, A., Rowe, K.M.C., Rowe, K.C., Russello, M.A., Saab, V., Schmidt, A., Stewart, J.A.E., Stuart, J.N., Svancara, L.K., Thompson, W., Timmins, J., Treinish, G., Waterhouse, M.D., Westover, M.K., Wilkening, J., and Yandow, L. 2019. Alternatives to genetic affinity as a context for within-species response to climate. Nature Climate Change 9:787-794 (article | editorial highlight | PBS NOVA | SciGlow | The Scientist)

How well do species distribution models measure variable importance?

July 26th, 2019

One of the most common applications of SDMs is to identify important variables and measure their relative effect. Despite hundreds of papers assessing the predictive power of SDMs, there are none assessing their inferential power. Maria Santos and Adam recently completed the first such analysis!

Permute-after-calibration test of variable importance. The OMNI model perfectly recreates the species’ range so serves as a benchmark for the other models.

Smith, A.B. and Santos, M.J. Testing the ability of species distribution models to infer variable importance. bioRxiv doi: 10.1101/715904

Welcome, David Henderson!

March 12th, 2019

We are happy to host David Henderson as part of his rotation at Washington University in St. Louis during the spring semester of 2019! David is interested in understanding biogeographic patterns using herbarium records. Many records are only “vaguely” georeferenced (i.e., to a county or similar political unit). Vague records can represent 40% or more of all georeferenced records, yet are routinely discarded before analysis.  David is examining the impact of this practice on estimates of range size and habitat breadth.