Stable Isotope Ecology Fellow
Environmental Resilience Institute
IU Office: MSB II 414
Email Address: email@example.com
Education and Appointments
As the Environmental Resilience Institute stable isotope ecology fellow, Tara Smiley focuses on understanding species' responses to environmental change through the lens of stable isotope tracers. Natural variation of stable isotopes across different environments allow scientists to track animals’ diets, habitats and migration routes from the biochemistry of sampled tissues, such as feathers or hair. Smiley joins the Institute following a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellowship at Oregon State University, where she studied the diversity and ecology of small mammals in relation to climate and landscape dynamics in North America today and in the past. She received her doctorate from the University of Michigan’s Earth and Environmental Sciences Department after investigating a range of topics, including the stable isotope ecology of modern kangaroo rats and small-mammal responses to warming and grassland expansion in the fossil record. Prior to working on her doctoral degree, Smiley was a Peace Corps volunteer focused on environmental education and agroforestry in Tanzania and Madagascar.
Smiley is interested in how environmental changes impact communities and ecological processes at local scales and govern diversity at regional scales. In her research, Smiley integrates stable isotopic data from modern, historical and fossil animal populations across diverse landscapes today and in the past.
Fossils and ecological baselines: new information from an old record — To better predict how species and their ecosystems will respond to future environmental change, we must deepen our understanding of how climate and landscape change have shaped communities in the past. The fossil record offers that long-term window, enabling scientists to look at how ecological processes have unfolded over a vast range of temporal and spatial scales prior to human influence. Smiley uses several tools, including stable isotope ecology, to illuminate this history and gain insight into how and why human-caused environmental change and ecological response today differs from any time in the past.
Broadly, Smiley plans to focus on major themes in movement ecology and biodiversity maintenance in relation to changing environments. Her new research will be dedicated to understanding the particular challenges facing Indiana and creating collaborative solutions to those challenges.