Jackie Hatala Matthes
Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences, Wellesley College

Jackie Hatala Matthes
Ecologist investigating ecosystem disturbances, including insect and pathogen outbreaks and climate change.

My research focuses on feedbacks between ecosystem processes, climate change, and land-use change. I am fascinated by the complexity of ecosystems, and I work to better understand the mechanisms governing how ecosystems respond to multiple interacting disturbances. Two examples of these disturbances include interactions among insect and pathogen outbreaks and global climate change, and feedbacks between wetland restoration, hydrology, and the global carbon cycle. I am particularly interested in understanding how disturbances affect the carbon balance within ecosystems, which in turn plays an important role in controlling the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. To study these topics, I use a multi-disciplinary approach that combines short-term laboratory studies and long-term field measurements with satellite and aerial imagery analysis and ecosystem-climate computational modeling.

Through my teaching I work to help students appreciate ecosystem ecology as the complex coupling between the Earth’s organisms and their physical environment. I teach a lecture section for introductory Organismal Biology, which provides a foundation for understanding organism-environment interactions, and an advanced Ecosystem Ecology course that develops skills in field data collection and long-term spatiotemporal data analysis. I also teach Biological Modeling, where students acquire the computational skills to simulate complex biological systems, from microscopic cells to global ecosystems. In all of my courses, I enjoy discussing the critical role that humans play within ecosystems, especially in our current era of rapid global change.

I am also an advisory faculty member within the Environmental Studies program at Wellesley. As a global society we face a great challenge in providing services and reducing inequality for the world’s rapidly growing population, while conserving the ecosystem services (clean water, climate moderation, etc.) that sustain us. This challenge is inherently interdisciplinary, and I enjoy collaborating with students, colleagues, and practitioners from other fields to think about questions surrounding ecosystem management.

In my free time I enjoy cooking with family and friends, hiking through forests and cities, and discovering new fun things in our backyard with my son and husband.