Climate, landscape dynamics, and evolutionary processes in tropical South America

Since 1995, I have been involved in various interdisciplinary projects on the Quaternary climate history of tropical South America. We have collected piston and drill cores from Lake Titicaca, the largest lake in South America; from Salar de Uyuni, a salt deposit in southern Bolivia, which is the remnant of a large lake system that filled at various times during the Quaternary; and from various smaller lakes in the Andes and Amazon Basin. Our interests are in the drivers and pacing of tropical climate change and the relationship of tropical hydrologic variability to higher latitude climate variability.

Sheri Fritz and Trisha Spanbauer sampling plankton from Lago Umayo (photo by Joe Holmquist)

More recently, we have started to investigate evolutionary and biogeographic questions related to diatom dispersal, diversification, and extinction in the South American tropics.

I am also one of the lead investigators in a large interdisciplinary project on the roles of Andean uplift, Amazon fluvial evolution, and climate variation in the evolution of Cenozoic biodiversity in tropical South America. This project, funded by the Frontiers in Earth Systems Dynamics program of NSF, involves 14 US geologists, climatologists and biologists, together with South American colleagues, working together to understand evolutionary processes and history. FESD Project Website

Island in Salar de Uyuni in southern Bolivia (photo by Sheri Fritz)
Laguna Chalalan in Madidi National Park in the Bolivian Amazon (photo by Sheri Fritz)