The climate and biodiversity crises are stressing wildlife species around the world in unprecedented ways. Some are migrating up mountainsides to escape the heat. Others are turning to new kinds of prey to make up for the loss of their preferred food sources. But one limitation in studying how animals are dealing with these twin crises — and will in the future — is that a warming world will bring changes that humans have never seen. A species’ evolutionary past, however, can help shed light on its fate in the face of future environmental change. Helping to fill in these crucial data gaps is the focus of Complexity Postdoctoral Fellow Jack Shaw’s work at SFI. 

Shaw’s previous research focused on identifying how the lack of fossilized soft-bodied organisms — few of which survived the ravages of time for today’s scientists to find and study — skewed our understanding of ancient food webs. At SFI, using network analysis, he is building on that knowledge of ancient creatures to help advance our understanding of how previous mass extinctions and climate change events have shaped animal communities, with the goal of using those insights to better predict how modern-day animals might respond to future environmental changes. 

Shaw holds a Ph.D. in earth and planetary sciences from Yale and a B.A. in geology and philosophy, politics and economics at Lafayette College. Arriving Sept. 2022, supported by the Omidyar Network and a Paleontological Association Grant Award.