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Miles Silman

Director of the Center for Energy, Environment and Sustainability and Professor of Biology

Biography

As a conservation biologist, Miles Silman has been a leader in the sustainability movement since beginning his doctoral research more than 20 years ago. Silman’s work centers on understanding species distributions, biodiversity, and the response of forest ecosystems to climate and land use changes over time. His research on the impact of climate change on species migrations in the Peruvian Amazon was published in Science and used to brief Senator John McCain
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As a conservation biologist, Miles Silman has been a leader in the sustainability movement since beginning his doctoral research more than 20 years ago. Silman’s work centers on understanding species distributions, biodiversity, and the response of forest ecosystems to climate and land use changes over time. His research on the impact of climate change on species migrations in the Peruvian Amazon was published in Science and used to brief Senator John McCain for Senate hearings on the topic. His current projects look at the responses of high diversity Andean and Amazonian forests to climate change in terms of species migrations, extinction, and ecosystem alteration. His work on carbon cycles and biodiversity controls are used to fund conservation efforts and create economic and social value for local participants. He is co-founder of the Andes Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research Group and is a Ran and Frank Bell Jr. Faculty Fellow. He is also founding director of the Wake Forest Center for Energy, Environment, and Sustainability (CEES). The interdisciplinary center promotes critical thinking and effective action across the fields of renewable energy, biodiversity and ecosystem conservation, environmental policy, human behavior, social influence, enterprise, and environmental markets. Silman can address sustainability topics ranging from simple tips for minimizing one’s environmental footprint to complex global policy issues such as green energy. Scientific topics include tropical forest ecology, species extinctions due to human activity, climate change and paleoecology. He and his family live on a small farm where they raise cows, chickens, pigs and goats, and embody his own personal take on sustainability: “living in the world, but not using it up.”

Areas of Expertise

Tropical Ecology
Tropical Biodiversity
Community Ecology
Plant Evolution
Plant Ecology
Techniques in Mathematical Biology
Advanced Ecology
Sustainability
Climate Change

Media

Education

Duke University: Ph.D., Zoology
University of Missouri-Columbia: B.A., Biology

Media Appearances

The Weekender: The hacker edition
Triad City Beat
11/19/2015
The Conference of Parties brings CEOs and powerful minds from all over the world together to discuss climate change. Miles Silman, John Knox and Justin Catanoso (a biologist, lawyer and journalist, respectively) are Wake Forest faculty members who attended last year’s conference in Peru...
Mallette named associate vice chancellor at WSSU
Winston-Salem Journal
11/13/2015
Wake Forest faculty experts Miles Silman, John Knox and Justin Catanoso will provide a tour of the likely trajectory of these climate talks, which will be held Nov. 30 to Dec. 11 in Paris...
Feature: How the Amazon became a crucible of life
Science
10/28/2015
“There are no species that have ranges that extend the entire gradient,” says Miles Silman of Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, an ecologist who studies cloud-forest trees. Just moving up and down the mountain, he says, “you accrue a lot of diversity.” The cloud forest is the roiling core where all these species mix, mingle, compete, and diversify, he says. “It’s the hottest of all biodiversity hotspots.”...

Articles

Benchmark map of forest carbon stocks in tropical regions across three continents
1/1/1970
Developing countries are required to produce robust estimates of forest carbon stocks for successful implementation of climate change mitigation policies related to reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD). Here we present a ...
48,000 years of climate and forest change in a biodiversity hot spot
1/1/1970
A continuous 48,000-year-long paleoecological record from Neotropical lower montane forest reveals a consistent forest presence and an ice-age cooling of∼ 5 to 9 C. After 30,000 years of compositional stability, a steady turnover of species marks the 8000- ...
Dominance and distribution of tree species in upper Amazonian terra firme forests
1/1/1970
Amazonian forests are the largest and most diverse in the tropics, and much of the mystery surrounding their ecology can be traced to attempts to understand them through tiny local inventories. In this paper we bring together a large number of such inventories scattered ...
Tree species distributions in an upper Amazonian forest
1/1/1999
Not a single tree species distribution in the Amazon basin has been reliably mapped, though speculation regarding such distributions has been extensive. We present data from a network of 21 forest plots in Manu National Park, Peru, totaling 36 ha and sited over an ...
Seed dispersal near and far: patterns across temperate and tropical forests
1/1/1970
Dispersal affects community dynamics and vegetation response to global change. Understanding these effects requires descriptions of dispersal at local and regional scales and statistical models that permit estimation. Classical models of dispersal describe local ...