Groundbreaking UM Climate Change Research Topic of New Book
MISSOULA – The groundbreaking climate change adaptation research of University of Montana faculty member L. Scott Mills is the focus of a new book by acclaimed young-adult author Sneed Collard III.
The book, “Hopping Ahead of Climate Change – Snowshoe Hares, Science and Survival,” describes Mills’ 18 years of research on snowshoe hares, seasonal coat color change and the potential for animals to adapt to climate change. It is intended for ages 10 and older.
Mills began the research while a wildlife biology professor at UM from 1995 to 2013. In 2013, he was recruited to North Carolina State University as a chancellor’s faculty excellence hire to coordinate universitywide research in global environmental change and human well-being. Mills returned to UM on Aug. 1 to assume the role of associate vice president of research for global change and sustainability and to continue his research.
The research project by Mills’ team described in “Hopping Ahead of Climate Change” focuses on his studies of snowshoe hares and other species worldwide that change their coat colors to match the seasons.
Mills has found that the seasonal color molt is driven by day length, so shorter winters under climate change could make animals in their white winter coats on brown snowless ground be “mismatched” and more vulnerable to predators. However, Mills also points out that adaptation is possible under the right conditions, offering hope and guidance for the future.
In addition to his work on hares and seasonal coat color change, Mills also conducts research on tigers and other species in Bhutan, elephants in India, cougars and elk in Wyoming, and Arctic foxes in Sweden.