picture of Matthew Wooller

Matthew Wooller


Chemical Oceanography
Marine Biology
Marine Ecology
Duckering 461
Office Hours
Mon, Tues, Thur
10:30 - 11:30
Institute of Marine Science - 461 Duckering - University of Alaska Fairbanks
University of Wales – Bangor (Ecology)
University of Wales – Bangor (Ecology)
A. Baltensperger, F. Huettmann, A.L. King, M.J. Wooller, J.M. Welker. P. Identifying spatial patterns in small mammal diets across Alaska using machine learning and stable isotope ratios of carbon (o13C) and nitrogen (o15N).

S. Wang, S. Budge, K. Iken, R. Gradinger, A. Springer, M.J. Wooller . P. Zooplankton diets in the Bering Sea inferred using fatty acid and compound-specific stable isotope analyses reveal the relative importance of pelagic and sympagic carbon sources. MEPS.

L. Oxtoby, et al. and M.J Wooller. P. Constraining stable carbon isotope values of microphytobenthos (C3 photosynthesis) in the Arctic for application to food web studies. Polar Biology.

Wang, S.W., Springer, A.M., Budge, S.M., Horstmann-Dehn, L., Quakenbush, L.T., Wooller, M.J. In p. Carbon sources and trophic relationships of ice seals during recent environmental shifts in the Bering Sea. Ecological Applications.

D. Kauffmann et al., M.J. Wooller. In P. Holocene climate changes in eastern Beringia (NW North America) — A systematic review of multi-proxy evidence. QSR.

M. Elvert, B. Gaglioti* et al. M.J. Wooller. In P. Methane turnover and environmental change from Holocene lipid biomarker records in a thermokarst lake in Arctic Alaska. The Holocene.

J. Schilder, C. Tellenbach, M. Möst, P. Spaak, M. van Hardenbroek, M. Wooller and O. Heiri . 2015. Experimental assessment of environmental influences on the isotopic composition of Daphnia pulicaria and their ephippia. Biogeoscience.

S. Wang, A. Springer, S. Budge, L. Horsteman, L. Quakenbush, M.J. Wooller. 2015. Trophic relationships and carbon sources of ice seals during recent environmental shifts in the Bering Sea. Ecological Applications.

Ruo He, M. J. Wooller, J. W. Pohlman, J. Quensen, J. M. Tiedje, M. Beth Leigh. 2015. Methane-derived carbon flow through microbial communities in arctic lake sediments. Environmental Microbiology.

S. Brennan, D. Fernandez, C. Zimmerman, T. Cerling, R. Brown, M.J. Wooller. 2015. Strontium isotopes in otoliths of a non-migratory fish (slimy sculpin): Implications for provenance studies. GCA.

S. Wang, et al., M.J. Wooller. 2015. Importance of sympagic production to Bering Sea zooplankton as revealed from fatty acid-carbon stable isotope analyses. Marine Ecology Progress Series. (518):31-50.

U. Scharler, Ulanowicz RE, Fogel ML, Wooller MJ, Jacobson-Meyers ME, Lovelock C, Feller IC, Frischer M, Lee R, McKee K, Romero IC, Schmit JP, Shearer C, Joye S. 2015. Variable nutrient stoichiometry (C:N:P) across trophic levels determines community and ecosystem properties in an oligotrophic mangrove system. Oecologia.

M.J. Wooller, B Gaglioti, TL Fulton, A. Lopez, B. Shapiro. 2015. Post-glacial dispersal patterns of Northern pike inferred from an 8,800 year old pike (Esox cf. lucius) skull from interior Alaska. Quaternary Science Reviews. :On-Line First.

S. Brennan, D. Fernandez, C. Zimmerman, T. Cerling, R. Brown, M. McFee, M.J. Wooller. 2015. Strontium isotopes provide new tool for fine-scale biodiversity conservation of Pacific salmon. Science Advances. :On-Line First.

  • Stable Isotope Biogeochemistry
  • Quaternary Paleoclimate and Paleoecology
  • Elemental cycling (C N) and food web ecology -
Current Research Projects
  • • Paleoclimate, Paleoenvironment and Other Potential Drivers of Extinction of Mammuthus primigenius , St. Paul Island, Pribilof Islands, Alaska (National Science Foundation) This project will facilitate a better understanding of why woolly mammoths survived late into the mid-Holocene only in the environments of arctic islands of the BLB. Furthermore, this research will test various hypotheses proposed to explain the extinction of the Holocene mammoth population on St. Paul Island, Pribilof Islands, Alaska as well as establish the actual time of extinction. Specifically, cores from Cagaloq Lake, St. Paul, will be sampled for chironomids, pollen, plant macrofossils, charcoal, aDNA and cryptotephras. Oxygen isotopes from the heads of chironomids will provide an independent climate record which can be supplemented by studies of the paleoecology of the chironomid assemblages. Terrestrial environments will be reconstructed from pollen, spores and plant macrofossils
  • whereas, charcoal frequency will document fire events. aDNA will provide data on plant and animal species that have not been detected by the other methods of analysis. These data can also refine identifications of taxa to a species level, thus, providing more paleoenvironmental resolution. Coprophilous spores will serve as proxies for the size of the mammoth populations and therefore, document the actual time of mammoth extinction on the island. Again, aDNA will help resolve specific identifications of these spores as well as document the time of extinction by the decline and absence of mammoth DNA. DEMS, bathymetric data, sea level curves along with GIS technology and coverages will permit the reconstruction of island size from the time of its isolation until today. A highly- constrained chronology will be achieved by using 40 14 C dates and tephras. Having a thorough understanding of this event may facilitate planning for environmental changes and potential extinctions in the future as a result of global change.
  • • Exploring intrasite variability at Upward Sun River (Xaasaa Na’), a terminal Pleistocene site in central Alaska: foraging behaviors and paleoenvironmental contexts (National Science Foundation) This project consists of exploration of Upward Sun River (USR) (Xaasaa Na’), a deeply buried multicomponent site in central Alaska, associated with the earliest human remains and residential structure in the Arctic or Subarctic of North America (~11,500 cal BP). This exploration will focus on understanding technological organization and subsistence economy (fauna and floral use) in the terminal Pleistocene and early Holocene, specifically how they are conditioned by site structure and organization, social organization, seasonality, and paleoenvironmental contexts. Archaeologists presently lack sufficient controls on these variables needed to test alternative factors that condition cultural adaptation. This proposed project will provide these controls, situated within a multi-disciplinary approach incorporating lithic, faunal, macrofossil, phytolith, and stable isotope analyses. No other terminal Pleistocene burials or residential structures are known from the Arctic/Subarctic of North America, so our knowledge of an entire suite of mortuary and residential behaviors remains limited.
  • • Characterization of major watersheds draining into Bristol Bay, Alaska using strontium isotopes: a new method for tracking water resources in Alaska (National Institutes for Water Resources) We are developing an approach for tracking the use of rivers and streams by salmon. Many of the rivers of Alaska, such as Yukon, Kuskokwim and those flowing into Bristol Bay (Kvichak and Nushagak), support active salmon populations. Salmon use the freshwater resources in rivers and the lakes attached to these rivers as the locations to breed before returning again to the ocean. Salmon frequently return to the same rivers and streams, which means that river-specific populations exist. However, once salmon return to the ocean it is very difficult to tell the different populations apart and to determine which freshwater resources (rivers, streams and lakes) are important to which salmon populations. A State need exists to determine the relative importance of different freshwaters resources in Alaska in terms of the salmon that return to them each year. A State need also exists to be able to tell different salmon populations apart in the ocean, as this is where human activities can have dramatic influences. One of these activities includes catching salmon as bycatch, which is an unfortunate consequence of trawling for other fish species in the ocean (e.g. Pollock). We propose conducting fieldwork to collect salmon and water from Nushagak river, which flows into Bristol Bay, Alaska. We will compile these samples with water and salmon we already have collected from the George, Andrafsky, Yukon, Kuskokwim, Kvichak (supplied to us by our collaborators). We propose measuring the strontium isotope composition of these samples to determine if water and salmon can be used to differentiate salmon in terms of their strontium isotope ratios (87Sr/86Sr) and subsequently pinpoint the identity of the freshwater resources used by these different salmon populations. The strontium isotope composition of a river is dictated by the strontium isotope composition of the geology in the river’s basin. Variation in the geology of different watersheds results in rivers and streams with very different strontium isotope ratios. Preliminary strontium isotope data (supplied to us by our collaborator Dr. Naidu) from water samples collected at the mouths of our six study rivers show that they have different strontium isotope compositions. Organisms that have lived in these different waters will have strontium isotope compositions that reflect the strontium isotope compositions of the river waters. This is a particularly useful hydro-geo-bio chemical relationship for tracking fish back to the river that they originated from. Salmon have ear bones (otoliths) that grow incrementally, like tree rings. By measuring the strontium isotope composition of the earliest rings in a salmon’s otolith it is possible to determine the likely river of origin. This relationship relies on a base map of river strontium isotopes compositions. The approach of mapping strontium isotope values in different rivers and relating this to values in salmon otoliths is actually well established in the literature and has been applied in other parts of the world that have rivers supporting salmon runs. However, this approach has not been widely applied in Alaska. This is partly because there have been insufficient measurements of the strontium isotope composition of waters from rivers and streams in Alaska. Our study will generate strontium isotope compositions for waters from six major tributaries that open into the Eastern Bering Sea and are major birth and rearing rivers of salmon. All of the funds in this proposal are dedicated to supporting fieldwork and research to be conducted by a new graduate student (Sean Brennan) in the Water and Environmental Research Center (WERC) at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF). We seek correlation between the strontium isotope composition of river water and otoliths in juvenile salmon in these different river waters. The ultimate goal of our study is to develop a technique, based on the hydro-geochemistry of otoliths to relate salmon stocks to the rivers they originated from, which will have practical applications in the management of salmon resources.
  • • Understanding the role of environmental change on the long- term population dynamics of one surviving and two extinct arctic mammals (National Science Foundation-OPP) The Arctic is the most sensitive of the planet’s ecosystems to climate change. Recent increases in the rate of environmental change in the Arctic pose considerable challenges to the survival of culturally and economically important, arctic-adapted species such as caribou. An ability to disentangle the roles of extrinsic processes, such as climatic or anthropogenic changes to the arctic habitat, and intrinsic processes, such as density-dependent resource limitation, in the dynamics of populations would provide key insights for conservation and management of the arctic biota. However, such efforts have thus far been hindered by the scarcity of long-term data for natural populations. Here, contemporary evolutionary and ecological approaches are integrated for the first time to produce long-term reconstructions of the population dynamics of one surviving and two extinct and arctic mammals: steppe bison, horses, and caribou. To achieve this, the largest, most densely sampled ancient DNA data sets to date will be produced, focusing on two environmentally distinct arctic localities with exceptional chronological control and detailed paleoenvironmental records going back at least 250,000 years. These data will provide the first opportunity to directly evaluate the role of environmental change on the long-term dynamics and extinction risk of arctic fauna. A near-continuous time series detailing changes in the size and structure of bison, horse and caribou populations will be generated, spanning one complete glacial/interglacial cycle and several periods of major environmental change. Novel analytical techniques will be developed to (a) significantly extend the temporal range of paleogenetic reconstructions
  • (b) incorporate geographic and ecological data (e.g. stable isotope analyses) explicitly into demographic analyses
  • and (c) detect and quantify the role of intrinsic and extrinsic processes in the fate of natural populations of large herbivores. In addition, a detailed analysis of evolutionary information in mitochondrial DNA sequences will be performed, using high-throughput sequencing technology and novel experimental methodology to develop the first comparative temporal data set of complete mitochondrial genomes for sympatric (spatially and temporally) species. In addition, understanding how species respond to previous periods of climate change may improve our ability to forecast and mitigate adverse consequences of contemporary climate change for extant arctic species. Although the scientific consensus on climate change is clear, information available to the public is often less so. One aim of this proposal is to increase public knowledge of climate change through public lectures, community meetings, the development of an educational exhibit at the Beringia Interpretive Centre, and the creation of a website hosting the paleoecological database and information accessible to the public about the results of the research. We will illustrate how periods of climate change, such as the transition period just prior to the last glacial maximum, was accompanied by dramatic periods of population growth or decline, local extinctions and changing vegetation communities. These lectures and meetings are expected to reach a wide audience, including Alaskan Native and First Nations people. The proposed research provides training opportunities to graduate and undergraduate students at institutions with established resources to recruit under- represented groups in science including Alaskan Natives (UAF) and women and minorities (PSU: WISER and MURE). Another goal of this research is to develop and make available a comprehensive paleoecological database of for two sites in eastern Beringia. This will include 1000 dated (radiocarbon and/or tephrochronology) bones from horses, steppe bison and caribou, linked to stable carbon isotope composition and morphological measurements as well as consensus and cloned mitochondrial DNA sequences. This database will be an invaluable resource for researchers interested in the preservation and decay of aDNA, the reconstruction of past population dynamics and arctic ecology. In addition, this research will result in novel extensions to the popular, freely available, phylogenetic inference software BEAST, which will enable deeper time reconstructions of demographic history and therefore a much broader diversity of scientific applications.
  • • TRACKING THE SEASONAL CONTRIBUTION OF ALGAL FATTY ACIDS TO THE ARCTIC MARINE SYSTEM (National Science Foundation-OPP) Record minima for summer sea ice in the Arctic have recently occurred. The Bering Sea has one of the highest seasonal sea ice regimes in the Arctic and one of the highest rates of observed change. Cascading effects of seasonal changes in sea ice are expected to influence primary production and propagate through marine ecosystems in the Arctic. Our project involves a transformative approach to better track the complex seasonal interdependencies between arctic marine primary production and arctic marine food web components in the Bering Sea. We are tracking the seasonal, proportional contributions of specific biomarkers derived from the two main primary producers sea ice algae and open ocean phytoplankton into higher trophic levels (sympagic, pelagic and benthic invertebrates and ice seals) in the Bering Sea. The overall goal of this project relates to providing an exceptional level of ecological detail by: 1) tracing the seasonal inputs of specific fatty acid biomarkers deriving from sea ice alga and open ocean phytoplankton through the marine food web using sophisticated fatty acid profiling and novel compound-specific stable isotope analyses (CSIA)
  • 2) tracing the seasonal (spring and summer) changes in the proportions of these biomarkers in sympagic, pelagic and benthic arctic marine invertebrates
  • 3) investigating the presence of these seasonally derived biomarkers in ice seals, which are an important subsistence resource to Alaskan Native communities in the region. Our detailed and seasonal perspective will contribute to ongoing food web studies in the Bering Sea (e.g., the Bering Ecosystem Study and Bering Sea Integrated Ecosystem Research Program - BEST/BSIERP, funded by the NSF and North Pacific Research Board), including research being conducted by the Center for Alaska Native Health Research (CANHR) on marine subsistence resources used by Alaskan Native communities.
  • Water and Environmental Research Center , UAF
  • Alaska Stable Isotope Facility
  • Institute of Marine Science UAF, UAF
  • Institute of Northern Engineering
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