Using a variety of techniques we sense patterns in biodiversity to understand how the rapidly changing world of the Anthropocene is influencing the fate of species on Earth. Through our research questions and the tools we develop, we look for the signals of how biodiversity responds to disturbance - both natural and human-caused.
How and why have species, populations and communities changed through time?
We excavate new paleontological sites and use museum collections to study long-term fluctuations in morphology and genetic diversity, to reconstruct ancient communities and the ecological dynamics that govern them, and to begin to understand how species and communities will respond to future change.
About the Research (blog post by PhD student Maria Viteri)
How are animal communities restructuring?
Global biodiversity is threatened by the anthropogenic restructuring of animal communities, rewiring species interaction networks in real-time as individuals are extirpated or introduced. The Hadly Lab is working towards developing rapid, quantitative, and non-invasive technologies for robustly capturing changing biodiversity, quantifying species interactions, and forecast the effects of perturbations on the ecosystem. Only when we know what species are present and understand their function in the ecosystem, will we be equipped to protect and holistically manage these systems.
How can genomic tools be used to understand and manage vertebrate survival?
How have wild vertebrate populations changed due to human-caused landscape fragmentation? How can we use genomic tools to manage their survival into the future? We use genomic analysis to study the genetic diversity of wild vertebrate populations, track illegal wildlife parts, and support conservation efforts on the ground. This science allows land managers to take informed decisions about whether, for example, a South African population of rhinos can be successfully re-located to a reserve in Tanzania.
How do we define and explain the Anthropocene?
We are studying sediment cores from Stanford's field station, Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve to define the geological epoch of the Anthropocene. We are also part of an international collaboration to establish the Anthropocene Curriculum with HKW.
How do wild species serve as reservoirs and transmitters of disease?
Did you know that wild animals harbor antibiotic resistance genes in their gut microbiomes even though they have never been treated directly with antibiotics? Why do bats harbor diseases that do not negatively impact them, but are deadly to other living organisms they get passed on to? We use molecular techniques to find answers to these questions.
It is essential to understand how disease transmission and antibiotic resistance are shaped and how our activities may lead to higher risks. (The photo above shows Egyptian Fruit Bat cells infected with Salmonella, in red.)
How does mercury bio-accumulate in soil invertebrates in the Bay Area?
Mercury is one of the many Anthropocene challenges that affects humans, wildlife and ecosystems. It has been well-studied in aquatic systems, but not terrestrially - and on top of this, we suspect that distribution of mercury may intersect with environmental justice issues as well.
History of the Hadly Lab
For nearly 30 years, the Hadly Lab has focused on ancient vertebrate diversity. Our research into the past spans hundreds to millions of years. Our projects reach across the globe from California, to Yellowstone National Park, to Patagonia, India, Central America, Africa, Nepal, and the Caribbean. We focus on deep history, on the impacts of climate and demographic change on distribution and abundance of fossilized species and what they tell us about ecosystems.
Our work has led us to a place we didn’t expect to arrive: the present. Rates of change that have historically happened over millions of years are now occurring in decades. The Hadly Lab today bears witness to an unprecedented moment in human consciousness, to a state of the Earth with no analog from the past. To survive this cataclysm, with its many negative implications for a safe and healthy future, requires revision and adaptation.
The Hadly Lab today continues our paleoecological work to understand the deep past. We are also decoding a novel present. Our intention is to provide a wayfinding, a map, for understanding how healthy ecosystems evolved on the planet, and how we might support their continued vitality into the future.