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Edward J. Cushing

Emeritus faculty

Graduate Faculty Memberships

Conservation Biology; Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior; Natural Resources Science and Management; Quaternary Peleoecology; Plant Biological Sciences


Research Interests

Ecology and paleoecology of vegetation and landscapes; phytogeography; Quaternary vegetation history of Minnesota and Indonesia; pollen and spore morphology and analysis.




Landscapes and their history fascinate me. The sweep of a prairie, the intimacy of a wooded glen, the profusion of plants on a tropical mountainside - these fill me with awe and curiosity. What made that hill, this hollow? Why does the vegetation and soil differ here from over there, and how are they changing? Why do these plants grow in this place but notin that one? What did this place look and feel like 100 or 1000 or 10,000 years ago? Will it ever be that way again?

Answering such questions is like puzzling out a mystery story. Clues come from analyzing present patterns of distribution, from piecing together former patterns from fossil pollen and other bearers of history, and always from striving to understand how the biology, the geology, the climate, and the people of the landscape have interacted.

My students and I work in two very different landscapes and cultures: temperate Minnesota and tropical Indonesia. What we learn in one inevitably raises more questions about the other. For me, the joy of answering those questions is matched by the joy of stimulating curiosity about them in others.

Selected Publications

Wheeler, G.A., E.J. Cushing, E. Gorham, G.B. Ownbey, and T. Morley. 1992. A major floristic boundary in Minnesota: An analysis of 180 taxa occurring in the western and southern portions of the state. Can. J. Bot. 70:319-333.

Eyster-Smith, N.M., H.E. Wright, Jr., and E.J. Cushing. 1991. Pollen studies at Lake St. Croix, a river lake on the Minnesota/Wisconsin border. U.S.A. Holocene 1:102-111.

Shane, L.C.K. and E.J. Cushing, eds. 1991. Quaternary landscapes. University of Minnesota Press. 229 pp.

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