Dynamic interaction of Life and Landscape
Jane Willenbring smiling at camera wearing a black shirt

Dr. Jane Willenbring, Associate Professor
Stanford – School of Earth, Energy, and Environmental Sciences

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2021
1 pm

watch Dr. Willenbring’s talk

Natural landscapes are often viewed as the scenic backdrop on which life grows; when the landscape changes, biota responds passively to this change. A new view is emerging in which landscapes represent an ever-changing canvas shaped by dynamic interactions between life and landscape, through erosion, sediment transport through rivers and alteration of rock to produce soil. Life probably strongly influences the evolution of topography at all scales although evidence of the impact of life in mountains has been elusive. The converse is also true–landscapes affect life through bottom-up controls. Landscape connectivity and substrate composition can act as a primary control on biodiversity and flora biomass and productivity. In this talk, I will discuss our approach coupling geochemical techniques, mostly involving cosmogenic nuclides, and remotely sensed data of topography and flora to show how vegetation can control topography at the scale of individual mountain stream catchments and how topography impacts life. 

Jane Willenbring is an Associate Professor of Geological Sciences at Stanford University. Willenbring’s research examines the evolution of the Earth’s surface especially how landscapes are affected by tectonics, climate change, and life. She also organizes environmental justice campaigns around urban soil pollution and does outreach to help reduce sexual harassment and discrimination in STEM. She is the recipient of the Antarctica Service Medal from the US Armed Forces, a National Science Foundation CAREER Award and Marguerite T. Williams award and a Presidential Citation from the American Geophysical Union. Dr. Willenbring is a fellow of the Geological Society of America and a Gabilan Fellow at Stanford University. She is one of the scientist featured in the award-winning documentary film Picture a Scientist