River in Brooks Range Tunga Lake

Hu Lab Overview

We are an interdisciplinary group of faculty, postdoctoral scientists, and students working at the interfaces of biology, geology, and climatology. Graduate students in our group enroll in Plant Biology, Geology, or the campus-wide Program in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

We study ecosystem dynamics in relation to past climatic change at various spatial and temporal scales. Our investigations are primarily based on proxy records preserved in geological deposits (lake sediment and peat). We use a wide array of methods in our research, including the analyses of pollen, charcoal, stable isotopes (O, C, and N), organic compounds, and molecular-genetic markers. We maintain a state-of-the-art, comprehensive laboratory.

Current projects address the following questions:

  • Do abrupt climatic changes occur in a predictable fashion, and how do they affect grassland, forest, and peatland ecosystems?

  • How do geomorphic factors interact with climatic change to control ecosystem development and soil carbon cycling?

  • What are the relative roles of climate and vegetation composition in determining forest fire regimes?

  • What can geographic patterns of chloroplast, mitochondrial, and nuclear DNA markers tell us about full-glacial refugia and postglacial migration of trees in North America?

  • How do habitat fragmentation, climatic constraints, and stand invisibility control tree migration on heterogeneous landscapes?

Our study sites are located in Alaska, western Canada, the midwest United States, the Pacific northwest, and Russia. See our photo album for some images of our field sites.


Department of
Plant Biology

School of
Integrative Biology

Department of

Program in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

University of Illinois

updated: 08/06/2013