Feng Sheng Hu


Professor and Head of Plant Biology
Affiliate, Department of Geology
Program in Ecology, Evolutionary & Conservation
Environmental Council
177 Morrill  MC-116
(217) 244-2982




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




IB150, Ecology & Evolution
IB337, Ecosystem Ecology




I am a broadly trained ecologist working 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 have integrated traditional paleoecological techniques (e.g., pollen analysis) and state-of-the-art analytical tools (e.g., biomarker, stable-isotope, and chloroplast-DNA techniques). Current research projects in my laboratory apply this integrative approach to the study of environmental dynamics at various spatial and temporal scales. These projects focus on (1) abrupt climatic change and effect on forests/grasslands/peatlands, (2) geomorphic control over vegetation patterns and biogeochemical processes of tundra ecosystems, (3) molecular genetics of boreal-forest-biome development, and (4) climate-fire-vegetation interaction. Research sites include arctic, boreal, and temperate ecosystems in Alaska, Michigan, Minnesota, Washington, and Russia. Students working with Professor Hu can choose Department of Plant Biology, Department of Geology, or the campus-wide Graduate Program in Ecology, Evolution and Conservation as their home unit, but they should all be interested in



Hu, F.S., Hampe, A., and Petit, R.J. 2008. Paleoecology meets genetics: Deciphering past vegetational dynamics. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 7, doi:10.1890/070160.


Nelson, D.M., and Hu, F.S. 2008. Patterns and drivers of Holocene vegetation change near the prairie-forest ecotone in Minnesota: revisiting McAndrews' transect. New Phytologist 179:449-459.


Nelson, D.M., Hu, F.S., Scholes, D.R., Joshi, N., and Pearson, A. 2008. Using SPIRAL (Single Pollen Isotope Ratio AnaLysis) to estimate C3- and C4-grass abundance in the paleorecord. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 269: 11-16.


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


Tinner, W. et al. including Hu, F.S. 2008. A 700-year paleoecological record of boreal-ecosystem responses to climatic variation from Alaska. Ecology 89: 729-743. (Editors'Choice, Science 328: 586).