Biography & Abstract



Prof. James S. Clark

Duke University



James S. Clark is Nicholas Professor of Global Environmental Change in the Nicholas School of the Environment and Professor of Statistical Science, at Duke University.
Clark’s research focuses on how global change affects populations, communities, and ecosystems. Current projects explore consequences of climate, CO2, and disturbance on dynamics of forests. His lab is using long-term experiments and monitoring studies to determine disturbance and climate controls on the dynamics of 20th century forests in combination with extensive modeling to forecast ecosystem change.
Among recent activities he led the National Assessment on Effects of Drought on Forests and Rangelands in the United States: A Comprehensive Science Synthesis, an effort involving more than 70 academic and government scientists.
Clark has authored 200 refereed scientific articles and published four books, including Models for Ecological Data (Princeton, 2007), Models for Ecological Data in R (Princeton, 2007), Hierarchical Models of the Environment (Oxford, 2006), and Sediment Records of Biomass Burning and Global Change (Springer, 1997). Full publication list.
Clark received a BS from the North Carolina State University in Entomology (1979), a MS from the University of Massachusetts in Forestry and Wildlife (1984), and a PhD from the University of Minnesota in Ecology (1988). Between his MS and PhD, he studied one year at the University of Göttingen under a Fulbright-DAAD fellowship. At Duke University, Clark teaches Biodiversity Science and Applications and Ecological Models & Data. He has served as Director for the Center on Global Change, and Director of Graduate Studies for the University Program in Ecology.  He currently serves on the University Program of Ecology Executive Committee, the Nicholas School of the Environment Strategic Priorities Committee, and he chairs the committees on Life Sciences and Distinguished Professorships in the NSOE.
Clark is recipient of ESA’s William Skinner Cooper Award, for his research on barrier beach dynamics, and George Mercer Award, for studies of climate change and fire. For excellence in teaching and research, he was one of 15 scientists recognized by President Clinton with the National Science Foundation s five-yr Presidential Faculty Fellow Award. He was named an Aldo Leopold Leadership Fellow, on behalf of the Ecological Society of America. He is a Distinguished Alumnus from Natural Resources Conservation, University of Massachusetts. In 2005, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.  He is a Fellow of the Ecological Society of America.
Clark has testified before congress on behalf of the Ecological Society of America and the NSF budget. He served on editorial boards for Ecology and Ecological Monographs, Annual Reviews of Ecology and Systematics, Global Change Biology, Ecosystems, Elementa, Trends in Ecology and Evolution, and the Journal for Agricultural, Biological, and Environmental Statistics.  He has served on NSF Advisory panels for Ecology, Earth System History, LTER, Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Disease, and Ecosystem Science. He chaired ESA’s Mercer Award Committee and was Vice President for Science. He was a founding member of the Science Advisory Board of the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis


Title: Generative models for ecological forecasting: how entire communities will respond to climate change

Abstract: Models used to anticipate community responses to climate change, termed species distribution models (SDMs), are increasingly recognized as unreliable and too imprecise to provide guidance—current estimates range from 0 to 50% species loss. SDMs fail to accommodate the joint relationships between species and the multiple scales at which different species are measured. A new, generative model, generalized joint attribute modeling (GJAM), accurately predicts the richness and abundance of species jointly as well as their organization in communities. It fingerprints the environment and location of sampled communities, verifying the capacity to predict new distributions and entire communities with climate change. Precision forecasts for ground beetles, vascular plants, and small mammals in the new National Ecological Observatory Network show that, contrary to previous emphasis on vulnerable high latitudes, community sensitivity is in fact highest in the South.  The combination of rapid climate change in the north and high sensitivity in the south makes the velocity of risk highest in the continental interior.