Keith Larson

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Keith Larson
(Project Coordinator)

Umeå University Webpage


I am an evolutionary ecologist and science communicator and live at the Abisko Scientific Research Station, where I am the Project Coordinator for the Climate Impacts Research Centre. This part of my job is to maintain the research infrastructure and teaching environment at the Research Station. Importantly, I engage the public through outreach activities and citizen science at the research station and in the Abisko National Park. I have spent my career working as a scientist traveling the world experiencing the impacts of climate and environmental change on wildlife and ecosystems from the Arctic to the tropics. The inspiration for his work comes from being in the field and experiencing nature. My current research focuses on comparing research conducted on plants in mountain regions over 100 years ago, before modern human-caused climate change, to the conditions found today. It is with this “time machine” approach that he and other scientists can measure change that has already taken place due to climate change and predict what maybe the future for earth’s species and ecosystems. Currently, he is collaborating with a group of diverse interdisciplinary international researchers from Sweden, Canada, Great Britain, Germany, Switzerland, and Japan. Importantly, I have a passion for teaching and sharing his experiences as a scientist with the public. Science communications and the public engagement in science is a strong feature of all of my work. In Abisko, I has developed a public outreach and citizen science program aimed at increasing the public’s awareness of climate change, how scientists conduct their science and the role science plays in dealing with the most important issues facing humanity. I believe that the best approach to dealing with truly global threats such as climate change is working together inclusively. This approach requires the use of evidence-based decision-making based on the best science available.

Research Interests

I find life (and living) in extreme environments fascinating. Many species that live at high elevations and latitudes do so because they have specific adaptions to these environments. Many show great plasticity for a large range of environmental conditions, while others have adapted to quite narrow ecological niches. I am interested in how life history adaptations in Arctic and alpine species are shaped by the environment. Further, how the timing of life history events, i.e. phenology, are affected by changing climate and environmental conditions. For example, comparing resident and migratory birds’ ability to time their breeding activities with the local conditions on the breeding grounds. Many migrant birds in Scandinavia migrate great distances from their over-wintering grounds in Africa. Because migrants can get no local information about breeding ground conditions and the timing of spring, we might predict that resident species are more plastic to changes in environmental conditions, while the timing of events for migrants is shaped by natural selection. Logically, do earlier springs and warmer winter conditions result in phenological mismatches for the migrants? How do species at the borders of their ranges deal with climate and environmental change? For example, what happens to species and populations at the shifting ecotone between the Boreal and the Arctic or the forest treeline and tundra or alpine? Where do “Arctic” species at their southern range-limits or alpine species at their elevational limits disperse, do they adapt, or do they go locally extinct? Finally, what happens when previously allopatric populations or closely related species meet as climates change shifting distributions? Comparing the results of historical studies to today can provide many insights into these problems.

Current Projects

My public outreach and research in the news

Photos from the field

Keith Larson’s Publications