Feng Sheng Hu


Professor, Department of Plant Biology
Ralph E. Grim Professor, Department of Geology
Professor, Program in Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation Biology
Associate Dean, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences
177 Morrill Hall, MC-116,(217) 244-2982




Ph.D., 1994, University of Washington
M.S., 1990, University of Maine
B.S., 1983, Xiamen University




IB452, Ecosystem Ecology




I work at the interfaces of biological, geological and climatological sciences. The overall objective of my research is to understand patterns and mechanisms of long-term ecosystem dynamics under changing climatic conditions. To achieve this objective, I use "the natural experiments of the past" that are archived in geological deposits. These deposits offer a long-term holistic perspective into past environmental conditions, some of which do not exist today but may be analogs of different climatic conditions in the future. In pursuing my research interests, I integrate traditional paleoecological analyses and state-of-the-art analytical tools (e.g., genomic, isotopic, and numerical-modeling techniques). My students and I have conducted field research from the tropics to the Arctic to address a wide array of global change questions. We have authored more than 100 scholarly articles in top-tier disciplinary and interdisciplinary journals.


I served as Head of the Department of Plant Biology from 2008-2014, and am currently Associate Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences where I work with the science departments to promote research, teaching, innovation, and public service. Despite my administrative duties, I continue to enjoy working closely with my students on their research projects. Prospective graduate students are encouraged to contact me directly to explore research of mutual interest.


Selected Publications (*=graduate students)

*Chipman, M.C., Hudspith, V., Higuera, P.E., Duffy, P., Kelly, R., Oswald, W.W., and Hu, F.S. 2015. Spatiotemporal patterns of tundra fires: Late-Quaternary records from Alaska.  Biogeosciences: In press.


Hu, F.S., Higuera, P.E., Duffy, P., Chipman, M.L., Rocha, A.V., Young, A.M., Kelly, R., and Dietze, M.C. 2015. Tundra fires in the Arctic: natural variability and responses to climate change.  Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment: In press.


*Barrett, C., Kelly, R., Higuera, P.E., and Hu, F.S.  2013. Climatic and land-cover influences on the spatiotemporal dynamics of Holocene boreal fire regimes.  Ecology 94: 389-402.


*Kelly, R., Chipman, M.L., Higuera, P.E., Stefanova, V., Brubaker, L.B., and Hu, F.S.  2013. Recent burning of boreal forests exceeds fire regime limits of the past 10,000 years. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 32: 13055-13060.


*Urban, M. A., *Nelson, D.M., Jiménez-Moreno, G., Châteauneuf, J-J., Pearson, A., and Hu, F.S. 2010. Isotopic evidence of C4 grasses in southwestern Europe during the middle Miocene-early Oligocene. Geology 38: 1091-1094.


Hu, F.S., Hampe, A., and Petit, R.J. 2009. Paleoecology meets genetics: Deciphering past vegetational dynamics.  Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 7: 371-379.


Petit, R.J., Hu, F.S., and Dick, C.W. 2008. Forests of the past: A window to future changes.  Science 320: 1450-1452.


Hu, F.S., Kaufman, D., Yoneji, S., Nelson, D., Shemesh, A., Huang, Y.S., Tian, J., Bond, G., Clegg, B., and Brown, T. 2003. Cyclic variation and solar forcing of Holocene climate in the Alaskan subarctic.  Science 301: 1890-1893.