John W. (Jack) Williams

Position title: Department Chair, Professor


Phone: (608) 265-5537

550 North Park St
Department of Geography
University of Wisconsin
Madison, WI 53706



Ph.D., Department of Geosciences, Brown University, 1999 M.Sc., Department of Geosciences, Brown University,1996 B.A., Department of Geology, Oberlin College, 1993


Paleoecology, Paleoclimatology, Novel Ecosystems, Vegetation Dynamics, Global Climate Change, Quaternary Environments.

Research Areas

Paleoecology, Paleoclimatology, Vegetation Dynamics, Global Climate Change, Quaternary Environments.


Geog/NIES 120: Global Physical Environments
Geog/GeoSci/AOS 335: Climatic Environments of the Past
Geog/AOS/NIES 332: Climate Change: Science and Impacts
Geog/GeoSci 523: Quaternary Vegetation Dynamics


Center for Climatic Research


* indicates student or postdoc in lab

Munoz, S.E., Gruley, K.E., Massie, A., Fike, D.A., Schroeder, S., & Williams, J.W. (2015) Cahokia’s emergence and decline coincided with shifts of flood frequency on the Mississippi River. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. On-line Early Release

Blois J. L.*, Williams J. W., Fitzpatrick M. C., Jackson S. T., and Ferrier S. (2013) Can space substitute for time in predicting climate-change effects on biodiversity Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Ordonez A.* and Williams J. W. (2013) Climatic and biotic velocities for woody taxa distributions over the last 16,000 years in eastern North America. Ecology Letters. doi:10.1111/ele.12110.

Williams J. W., Blois J. L.*, Gill J. L.*, Gonzales L. M.*, Grimm E. C., Ordonez A.*, Shuman B., and Veloz S.* (2013) Model systems for a no-analog future: Species associations and climates during the last deglaciation. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences DOI: 10.1111/nyas.12226

Veloz S.*, Williams J. W., He F., Liu Z., and Otto-Bliesner B. (2012) No-analog climates and shifting realized niches during the late Quaternary: Implications for species distribution models. Global Change Biology DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2011.02635.x.

Goring S. J.*, Williams J. W., Blois J. L., Jackson S. T., Paciorek C. J., Booth R. K., Marlon J. R., Blaauw M., and Christen J. A. (2012) Deposition times in the northeastern United States during the Holocene: establishing valid priors for Bayesian age models. Quaternary Science Reviews 48: 54-60.

Williams J. W., Kharouba H. M., Veloz S.*, Vellend M., McLachlan J. S., Liu Z., Otto-Bliesner B., and He F. (2012) The Ice Age Ecologist: Testing methods for reserve prioritization during the last global warming. Global Ecology & Biogeography 22, 289-301. DOI: 10.1111/j.1466-8238.2012.00760.x

Brewer S., Jackson S. T., and Williams J. W. (2012) Paleoecoinformatics: Applying geohistorical data to ecological questions. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 27: 104-112.

Blois, J. L.*, Williams, J. W., Grimm, E. C., Jackson, S. T., and Graham, R. W. (2011) A methodological framework for improved paleovegetation mapping from late-Quaternary pollen records. Quaternary Science Reviews 30: 1926-1939.

Williams, J. W., Blois, J. L.*, and Shuman, B. N. (2011) Extrinsic and intrinsic forcing of abrupt ecological change: Case studies from the late Quaternary, Journal of Ecology 99: 667-677.

Williams, J. W., Tarasov, P. A., Brewer, S., and Notaro, M. (2011) Late-Quaternary variations in tree cover at the northern forest-tundra ecotone. Journal of Geophysical Research – Biogeosciences 116: G01017.

Williams, J.W., Shuman, B., Bartlein, P.J., Diffenbaugh, N.S. and Webb, T., III (2010) Rapid, time-transgressive, and variable responses to early-Holocene midcontinental drying in North America. Geology 38: 135-138.

Gill, J. L.*, Williams, J. W., Jackson, S. T., Lininger, K.*, and Robinson, G. S. (2009). Pleistocene megafaunal collapse preceded novel plant communities and enhanced fire regimes. Science 326: 1100-1103.

Williams, J. W. and Jackson, S. T. (2007) Novel Climates, No-Analog Plant Communities, and Ecological Surprises: Past and Future. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 5: 475-482

Williams J. W., Jackson S. T., and Kutzbach J. E. (2007) Projected distributions of novel and disappearing climates by 2100AD. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 104: 5738-5742.

Jackson, S. T. and Williams, J. W. (2004) Modern analogs in Quaternary paleoecology: Here today, gone yesterday, gone tomorrow? Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences 32: 495-537.

Williams, J. W., Shuman, B. N., Webb, T., III, Bartlein, P. J., Leduc, P. (2004) Late Quaternary vegetation dynamics in North America: Scaling from taxa to biomes. Ecological Monographs 74: 309-334. (Editor’s Choice in Science, May 21, 2004)

Williams, J. W. (2003) Needleleaved and broadleaved tree cover distributions in North America since the Last Glacial Maximum. Global and Planetary Change 35: 1-23.

Williams, J. W., Shuman, B. N., Webb III, T. (2001) Dissimilarity analyses of late-Quaternary vegetation and climate in eastern North America. Ecology. 82: 3346-3362.


Institute for Advanced Study Fellow, Durham University

Cozzarelli Prize, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Bullard Fellow, Harvard University
Romnes Faculty Fellowship
Aldo Leopold Leadership Program Fellow
Honored Instructor Award
Pickard Mid-Career Award, Department of Geography
Phillip Certain College of Letters & Science Dean’s Distinguished Faculty Award
Reid Bryson Distinguished Professor of the Climate, People, and Environment Program
William Skinner Cooper Award, Ecological Society of America


Yue Wang (PhD)Kevin Burke (PhD) Scott Farley (MSc) David Fastovich (MSc) Allie Jensen (MSc)