Steven Mamet has focused his research on range limits of tree species at northern tree lines, and how climate and environmental change shape tree line dynamics. Currently, he is evaluating range limits at tree line near Wolf Creek, Yukon Territory, and assessing climate variation and forest resilience along moisture gradients in central Saskatchewan.
Why tree line dynamics?
For most of my life I have been curious about the natural world. I got to observe the forest-tundra ecotone [a transition area between plant communities] in northern Manitoba with Earthwatch under my undergraduate advisor, Dr. Peter Kershaw. I found it fascinating that something that appeared to be stationary, like a tree, was actually part of a dynamic entity like a treeline. The northernmost position of trees could migrate further onto the tundra with climatic change? How was this possible? I had to know more! Since then I have traveled to northern landscapes containing treelines of several different species, and the more I have learned, the more my curiosity has grown.
A memorable moment in the field:
There’s nothing quite like your first field experience. Mine was as an undergraduate student on a trip to the Rocky Mountains of southern Alberta, Canada, as part of a biogeography course. For my final project, I studied the decomposition of organic matter in different vegetation types across different habitats. We had to use snowshoes to reach the field site and carry all the equipment by hand—a challenging experience! Though our study didn’t yield any ground-breaking results, the experience was intensely rewarding. Ultimately, fieldwork has taught me that, like so many things in life, science is more about the journey than the destination.