As a general rule, I care much more about the consequences of extinction than the causes. Even though I work on past landscapes, my mind is firmly rooted in the present, and I’d my work to have conservation relevance. We know what’s causing extinctions today, for the most part. What comes next — the longterm implications of extinction — are an unknown, and something I think the paleorecord can really speak to.
Despite that, my work does touch on the causes of ice age extinctions, and I often find myself drawn into the long-standing debates on whether climate change or humans* killed off the mammoths, giant ground sloths, and other mega-beasts. It’s a topic of great interest to the general public, and one that has generated staunch advocates on either side (there are relatively few people arguing for some synergistic middle ground).
Me? I tend to fall in the pro-human category, for several…
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