Introducing Dr. Mariana García Criado – new CHARTER researcher

Dr. Mariana Garcia Críado in Svalbard, 2022.
Pic: Judith Winkler

Dr. Mariana García Criado has had a northward trajectory since she finished her studies in the south of Spain. From there followed a Masters degree in the UK, followed by a 4-year stint at the IUCN in Brussels, where among other tasks became a Red List certified trainer with expertise on the assessment of species’ extinction risk. After, this she embarked on her Doctoral studies at the University of Edinburgh, where is currently hired as a Post Doc.

Her academic training is as a macroecologist and she is one of the latest additions to the CHARTER project team and we are delighted to have her on board! She is especially interested in biodiversity conservation, biogeography, climate change, macroecology, protected areas and the science/policy interface. Her PhD thesis was titled “Macroecological patterns of vegetation change across a warming tundra biome” in which she investigated plant biogeography and climate change, with a particular focus on the tundra biome. Now as a post doc, she will be continuing and expanding this line of enquiry, retaining an Arctic focus and working alongside Dr. Isla Myers Smith (her former PhD supervisor), also at the University of Edinburgh. Mariana will be primarily contributing to Work Package 1 in CHARTER.

We caught up with Mariana after the 2nd CHARTER General Assembly in Hamburg at the beginning of this month and she filled us in on her preliminary work and findings with CHARTER and where she wants to go with this work over the coming year.

Dr. Mariana García Criado in the field (in Qikiqtaruk-Herschel Island (Yukon)
with her German speaking assistant, GNSS. Pic: Sandra Angers-Blondin

Her first task has been undertaking a synthesis study of vascular plant diversity dynamics across the Arctic using data derived from International Tundra Experiment (ITEX) stations. This is a considerable undertaking – accounting for over 40,000 records from as many as 1200 plots. This has meant a lot of time in the weeds of data cleaning (see below for a post on this from her Twitter feed), the developing of clear criteria and the use of R programming language, to ensure that the study findings hold up. Surprisingly, or perhaps not surprisingly given the large amount of raw data, this has not been done before on such a large scale.

The findings from this part of the study are still preliminary, but so far are hinting at a surprising, limited diversity change across the Arctic despite lots of composition and abundance turnover of different plant species. This raises more questions in need of follow up, such as are we seeing the same number of local plant colonisations or extinctions? The data also pointed to the fact that increased shrubification leads to a reduction in the richness of vascular plants. Finally, they found that plant communities show signs of resistance, with different species being able to cope with climate change across the Arctic.

The next part of her CHARTER related work will focus on the what the future looks like for lichens and bryophytes (mosses) under continued shrubification – will there be decreases in their populations and distribution and might there be some surprises? This is at an early stage and has been challenging as she admits, ecologists are not usually experts on lichens and mosses, but her coming fieldworks plans and travels will be in the Arctic and will likely have this topic as a focus.

Leave a Reply