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Core Group

Jens-Christian Svenning 

Professor and Center Director Jens-Christian Svenning obtained his PhD in tropical plant community ecology from Aarhus University in 1999. He has been a full professor at Department of Biology since 2009 and currently is the director of Center for Ecological Dynamics in a Novel Biosphere (ECONOVO). His research integrates macroecology and biogeography with field-based ecology, remote sensing, paleoecology and studies of human ecology and socio-ecological systems, and integrates focus on fundamental questions in ecology and biodiversity science with applied research in climate change, biotic globalization, conservation, restoration, rewilding and sustainable development. Jens-Christian works on plants, animals and people, with special interest in megabiota, i.e., large-bodied organisms (trees and megafauna). His work is global in scope, with long-term research foci not only in Europe, but also in Africa, South America, and East Asia. He is the author of >500 peer-reviewed papers in international scientific journals and is active in public outreach, teaching, and early-career researcher training. He brings strong leadership experience into ECONOVO, e.g., as VILLUM Investigator and director for Center for Biodiversity Dynamics in a Changing World (BIOCHANGE) 2017-2023, Head of Section for Ecoinformatics & Biodiversity 2010-19, and research lab leader since 2005.

Michael M. Hansen

Professor Michael M. Hansen obtained his PhD in population genetics in 1994 from Aarhus University and obtained his DSc degree from the same place in 2003. From 1994-2009 he was employed at the Danish Institute for Fisheries Research (from 2007 part of the Technical University of Denmark), and since 2009 he has been a full professor at Aarhus University, Department of Biology. His research field can be broadly described as conservation and population genomics, encompassing the use of genetic and genomic data for analyzing processes of speciation, demographic history of populations and species, adaptation of populations to local environments and their potential for adapting to climate change, and estimating parameters of particular conservation relevance, notably inbreeding. Much of his research has focused on fishes as models (in particular European eel, salmonid fishes and three-spine stickleback), but he increasingly also studies mammals and birds. Within the framework of ECONOVO he will particularly focus on conservation genetic status and climate change adaptability of big mammal grazers, comparing systems of indigenous species and introduced feral species.

Felix Riede

Professor Felix Riede is German-born and British educated with a PhD in archaeology from Cambridge University. Using evolutionary and ecological theory and methods he seeks to understand human-environment relations past, present and future. His work focuses in particular on major tipping point episodes such as the end of the Pleistocene, extreme environmental events such as volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis, and on the Anthropocene. Felix has a strong interest in the application of computational method to archaeology, including the application of morphometrics and phylogenetics to track culture change and distribution modelling as a way to link climate and environment with human settlement distributions. He currently pursues these ambitions through his ERC-CoG CLIOARCH. In addition, Felix works on the emergence of modern human behaviour in early hominins with a particular focus on the role of social learning and play in adaptation. Within the framework of ECONOVO, Felix brings in expertise on climate change archaeology, environmental humanities, and Paleo- and Mesolithic human-environment relations.

Elizabeth le Roux

Assistant Professor Elizabeth le Roux is a South African large mammal ecologist who specializes in studying trophic interactions and the impacts of large mammals on the structure and function of ecosystems. She investigates the effects of large mammals on the natural environment, with a particular focus on how their behaviour shapes vegetation physical structure and species composition, fire dynamics, higher trophic levels and diversity, functional redundancy, and nutrient landscapes. Elizabeth’s research has shed light on how the selective feeding, nutrient transport, and nutrient deposition of large mammals can alter the ecological stoichiometry of the habitats they inhabit. She also investigates how species diversity and functional redundancy among large mammals can moderate impacts on vegetation, fire, and biodiversity.

Elizabeth specializes in African savannas, where large mammal communities have remained largely intact, and their impact has been preserved over long periods of time. Recently, following her relocation to Denmark, she aims to transfer her knowledge of African savannas to temperate landscapes, in an attempt to contribute to the restoration and rewilding projects ongoing in Denmark and beyond. In ECONOVO, she brings in expertise on ecosystem effects of megafauna.

Trine Kellberg Nielsen

Adjunct Associate Professor Trine Kellberg Nielsen obtained a PhD in archaeology at Aarhus University in 2016 followed by several post doc positions. From 2022 she has been Head of Archaeology at Moesgaard Museum. As a palaeolithic archaeologist, she is interested in understanding adaptive strategies of our extinct human relatives, particularly Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis) in the northern part of their geographic range. Her research operates at various temporal and spatial scales, looking at both site-specific Neanderthal behavior, regional patterns, and continental range dynamics. For now, Trine focuses mainly on the last interglacial-glacial cycle (130.000-40.000 BP), as this is a period of Neanderthal range expansion and contraction as a response to both climatic and cultural dynamics. She is currently PI in a DFF-funded Sapere Aude project, NeanderEDGE, based at the Department of Archaeology and Heritage Studies at Aarhus University. Within the framework of ECONOVO, Trine will be adding expertise on Neanderthal-environment relations.

Alejandro Ordonez

Associate Professor Alejandro Ordonez is a global-change macroecologist interested in understanding and predicting future ecosystem behaviour in the face of the ongoing and accelerating changes in Earth’s ecological, biogeochemical, climatic and disturbance gradients. For this, he uses a macroecological perspective to quantify and provide scenarios that explain how past climate change and current drivers of biodiversity change (climate change, land degradation and invasive species) have shaped modern diversity patterns; where those changes have led to novel ecosystems emerging; and the implications of such changes for the key ecosystem processes and nature’s contributions to people. As part of his work at the policy-science interphase, he is a coordinating lead author of the upcoming Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) Invasive alien species report. Within the framework of ECONOVO, Alejandro will add expertise on climate modelling and invasive plants.

Robert Buitenwerf

Assistant Professor Robert Buitenwerf is a broadly interested ecologist. He lived and worked in South Africa for several years working for various research and conservation organizations, and obtained his PhD at Goethe University in Germany. Robert’s overarching research theme is to quantify, understand and predict how human impacts – like climate change, land-use change, and ecosystem restoration – affect biodiversity and the capacity of ecosystems to maintain ecosystem functioning. At large scales, he quantifies patterns and dynamics in vegetation composition and functioning, often using data from Earth observation satellites. At smaller scales, he uses ground-based LiDAR, manipulative field experiments, and data on plant functional traits to figure out the relationship between plant form and function, vegetation structure, and ecosystem properties, including the role of disturbance from large herbivores and fire. Ultimately, answering these questions should inform better ecosystem management, particularly using novel and ambitious restoration strategies. Within the framework of ECONOVO Robert adds expertise on large-scale vegetation patterns and dynamics, remote sensing, disturbance ecology, and plant functional traits.