Erick Lundgren

Feral Earth Research

I am an ecologist who uses a variety of quantitative macroecological and field based approaches to study introduced species and novel ecosystems. I am interested in studying these phenomena in the context of Earth's history and with an eye to the influence of cultural values on how we interpret biotic change.

My work contributes to ongoing debate regarding two competing worldviews. One view holds that ecosystems are artifacts of ancient, community-wide coevolution, functioning as a carefully tuned Eden. Others argue that ecosystems are fundamentally dynamic and that their properties emerge from mechanistic processes, such as predation and disturbance. This debate is perhaps older than the science of ecology and has cultural and religious ties to notions about 'nature' and our place in it.

Most of my research at the moment concerns wild donkeys, horses, and other introduced megafauna. These animals have been excluded from the umbrella of conservation concern despite the severe endangerment of megafauna globally, and of these species in their native ranges (Lundgren et al. 2018, Ecography).

By studying introduced megafauna as any other wildlife (Lundgren et al. 2021, Science) remarkable things emerge: wild donkeys and horses dig wells to groundwater, sustaining water availability in global drylands (Lundgren et al. 2021, Science); introduced megafauna share close functonal similarity with extinct species globally, suggesting that they restore lost Earth System functions (Lundgren et al. 2020, PNAS); and despite myths to the contrary, predation by mountain lions on feral donkeys is widespread and is associated with altered donkey activity patterns and reduced impacts on desert wetlands (Lundgren et al. 2022, Journal of Animal Ecology).

Some current research projects include: