Laura Thompson, Ph.D.

Laura Thompson is a Research Ecologist with the USGS National Climate Adaptation Science Center (NCASC). Her research focuses on responses of terrestrial species to changes in climate. The purpose of her research is to provide the management community with science-based information that can assist with decision making regarding adaptation options.


Laura received her Ph.D. in Environmental and Life Sciences at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario where she studied historical and contemporary genetic patterns of woodland caribou in the boreal forest regions of Ontario, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan. Laura also holds M.S. and B.S. degrees in Wildlife and Fisheries Science from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Her current research focuses on three themes:

  1. The ability of species to abate the impacts of climate change (“adaptive capacity”)
  2. Incorporating evolutionary considerations into climate adaptation
  3. Uncertainty of climate change impacts and use of decision-support techniques

Projects include:

Moose health in a changing environment

Can Evolution Help Wildlife Adapt to Climate Change? Exploring Evolutionary Adaptive Capacity (EVAC) and Bridging the Gap between Science and Management

Climate, the Boreal Forest, and Moose: A Pilot Project for Scenario Planning to Inform Land and Wildlife Management

Evaluating Adaptations of Desert Bighorn Sheep to Climate Change in the Southwestern U.S.

Adaptive Capacity: The Linchpin for Understanding and Addressing Species Vulnerability to Climate-Change Impacts

In addition, Laura is serving as an author with the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) on the Americas Assessment.  She also is serving as an author on the Fourth National Climate Assessment’s (NCA) chapter on biodiversity.


Thompson, L. M., M. D. Staudinger, and S. L. Carter.  2015.  Summarizing components of U.S. Department of Interior vulnerability assessments to focus climate adaptation planning.  U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2015-1110.

Staudinger, M. D., S. L. Carter, M. S. Cross, N. S. Dubois, J. E. Duffy, C. Enquist, R. Griffis, J. J. Hellmann, J. J. Lawler, J. O'Leary, S. A. Morrison, L. Sneddon, B. A. Stein, L. M. Thompson, and W. Turner.  2013.  Biodiversity in a changing climate: a synthesis of current and projected trends in the US.  Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 11:465–473.

van Manen, F. T., J. M. Nicholson, M. F. McCollister, L. M. Thompson, J. L. Kindall, and M. D. Jones.  2012.  Short-term impacts of a 4-lane highway on American black bears in eastern North Carolina.  Wildlife Monographs 181:1–35.

Carr, N. L., A. R. Rogers, S. R. Kingston, P. N. Hettinga, L. M. Thompson, J. L. Janusz-Renton, and P. J. Wilson.  2012.  Comparative woodland caribou population surveys on the Slate Islands Provincial Park, Ontario.  Rangifer 20:205-218.

Hoban, S. M., D. S. Borkowski, S. L. Brosi, T. S. McCleary, L. M. Thompson, J. S. McLachlan, M. A. Pereira, S. E. Schlarbaum, and J. Romero-Severson.  2010.  Range-wide distribution of genetic diversity in the North American tree Juglans cinerea: a product of range shifts, not ecological marginality or recent population decline.  Molecular Ecology 19:4876–4891.

Thompson, L. M., F. T. van Manen, S. E. Schlarbaum, and M. DePoy. 2006.  A Spatial Modeling Approach to Identify Potential Butternut Restoration Sites in Mammoth Cave National Park. Restoration Ecology 14:289–296.

Thompson, L. M., F. T. van Manen, T. L. King.  2005.  Geostatistical analysis of allele presence patterns among American black bears in eastern North Carolina.  Ursus 16:59–69