MSU Climate Research to be Featured on PBS Series 'NOVA'

From MSU News Service: Research conducted at Montana State University will be featured on a new episode of the popular PBS series “NOVA” this Wednesday. The episode, titled “Inside the Megafire,” will include the research of MSU ecology professor Cathy Whitlock and her laboratory group, as well as footage of the researchers’ fieldwork in Yellowstone National Park and MSU’s Paleoecology Lab.

The show will air at 8 p.m. Wednesday and will stream online at The episode will include reports from California’s deadly Camp Fire and examine the factors that feed the recent rise in “megafires,” from forestry practices to climate change to the physics of fire itself.

Whitlock, a Montana University System Regents Professor who has worked for decades in the fields of geology, geography and ecology, was inducted into the National Academy of Sciences in April. She is a paleoecologist in MSU’s Department of Earth Sciences in the College of Letters and Science who looks at the past to understand how ecosystems have evolved in the face of a changing climate, natural disturbances and human pressure.

Whitlock researched the large 1988 fires in Yellowstone to understand the long-term connections between fire, people and climate worldwide. Whitlock was also lead author of the 2017 Montana Climate Assessment, a report released by the Montana Institute on Ecosystems that focuses on climate trends and their consequences for Montana’s water, forests and agriculture.

MSU’s Paleoecology Lab, directed by Whitlock, was established in 2004 to study the changes in ecosystems over time with a particular focus on the effects of climate change on plants. Researchers in the lab study the vegetation, fire and climate history of the West and other temperate regions around the world by examining fossils and other matter preserved in lake sediments. 


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