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Position: Paleoclimate Scientist, GNS Science.
Field: Paleoecology.

Dr Marcus Vandergoes is a paleoecologist at GNS Science. That means that he uses the ancient remains of plants and animals to reconstruct their ecosystems and the environmental conditions they lived in. In order to understand the past like this, you also need to understand the environments of plants and animals that are around now.

It was this interest in current ecology that eventually led Marcus to studying the past. Following a love of botany and zoology at school, he went on to study geography and zoology at university. This stimulated an interest in how the landscape we see around us now has evolved over time.

Marcus currently specialises in the reconstruction and dating of the vegetation and climate of New Zealand over the last few hundred thousand years.

An exciting part of being a paleoecologist is being able to add pieces to the puzzle of what has happened in the past of New Zealand.

Many scientists say that their work is like that of a detective. Marcus is no different, but he adds that he gets to travel through time as well. His knowledge of the ecology of ‘now’ lets him interpret the past, which, in turns, allows for predictions of the future.

His field work and research experience has led to him working in Antarctica, New Zealand Subantarctic Islands, Patagonia and the USA.

Marcus is currently the co-leader of a five-year, $12m project, led by GNS Science and the Cawthron Institute, that will try to find out how 380 lakes around the country have changed over the past 1,000 years.

Useful link

Dr Marcus Vandergoes of GNS Science gives more information about the project looking at the health of 380 of our lakes in this RNZ interview.

This article is based on information current in 2011 and updated in 2018.

    Published 18 May 2011, Updated 19 July 2018 Referencing Hub articles