Glen MacDonald FRSC

Glen MacDonald headshot

Glen MacDonald FRSC

Distinguished Professor & Endowed Chair of Geography of California and the American West
Ladder Faculty

Office: 1255 BUNCHE


Phone: 51071

Curriculum Vitae



Glen MacDonald speaking at a podium



Glen Sproul dit MacDonald is a Distinguished Professor and holds the Endowed Chair in Geography of California and the American West at UCLA.  He holds an AB in Geography from UC Berkeley, M.Sc. in Geography from the University of Calgary and a Ph.D. in Botany with a Geology Minor from the University of Toronto.  He works on issues of climatic and environmental change and the impacts of such changes on ecosystems, fire, natural resources and human societies. Research interests include water resources and the Perfect Drought concept, the fate of coastal  wetlands in the face of climate change, California’s increasing wildfire risks, and nature-based climate solutions.  He has done some work on the  geography of  COVID-19 and responses to the pandemic in the United  States.  He also writes on John Muir’s legacy and the creation of a New Environmentalism in the 21st Century. Glen is particularly interested in bridging science and policy through his efforts and is a CO-PI of the Department of Interior’s Southwest Climate Adaptation Science Center. Glen has published over 190 peer-reviewed articles and an award winning book on biogeography. He has also published Op/Eds in the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle and Sacramento Bee. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Fellow of the American Geophysical Union, Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Guggenheim Fellow and was a Visiting Global Fellow at the University of St Andrews, a Visiting Fellow at St. Catherine’s College, Oxford and a Visiting Fellow and Life Member of Clare Hall, Cambridge.



B.A. Hons. University of California Berkeley Geography M.Sc. University of Calgary Geography Ph.D. University of Toronto Botany


I study climate change and its impacts on ecosystems and societies. In recent years I have been engaged in issues of sustainability and bridging the academic, governmental and business spheres to enhance efforts in sustainability. A specific interest is strategies to sustain Californian and Southwestern society and ecosystems in the face of growing human demands and climate change. I maintain very active field and laboratory research. In our lab we tackle a variety of climate change research topics using techniques that range from reconstructing past climate through the use of fossil pollen, fossil stomates, plant macrofossils, insect remains, tree-rings, geochemistry and historical records, to using satellite remote sensing and climate-environment modelling to look at current and future conditions.

Selected Publications

  • CCA (Council of Canadian Academies). (2022). Nature-Based Climate Solutions,
    Ottawa (ON): The Expert Panel on Canada’s Carbon Sink Potential, CCA. (Glen MacDonald Panel Chair). 
  • MacDonald, G.M. and Longcore, T., 2022. Geographic Patterns of COVID-19 Vaccination, Infection, and Mortality in the United States During Year Two of the Pandemic and the Influence of Political Orientation. In Coronavirus (COVID-19) Outbreaks, Vaccination, Politics and Society (pp. 341-355). Springer, Cham.
  • Dong, C., Williams, A.P., Abatzoglou, J.T., Lin, K., Okin, G.S., Gillespie, T.W., Long, D., Lin, Y.H., Hall, A. and MacDonald, G.M., 2022. The season for large fires in Southern California is projected to lengthen in a changing climate. Communications Earth & Environment, 3(1), pp.1-9.
  • MacDonald, G.,  2021. Climate Change: Geography’s Debt and Geography’s Dilemma, The Professional Geographer, DOI: 10.1080/00330124.2021.1915815
  • Fard, E., Brown, L.N., Lydon, S., Smol, J.P. and MacDonald, G.M., 2021. High-resolution sedimentological and geochemical records of three marshes in San Francisco Bay, California. Quaternary International.
  • Holmquist, J.R., Brown, L.N. and MacDonald, G.M., 2021. Localized Scenarios and Latitudinal Patterns of Vertical and Lateral Resilience of Tidal Marshes to Sea‐Level Rise in the Contiguous United States. Earth’s Future, p.e2020EF001804.
  • Leidelmeijer, J.A., Kirby, M.E., MacDonald, G., Carlin, J.A., Avila, J., Han, J., Nauman, B., Loyd, S., Nichols, K. and Ramezan, R., 2021. Younger Dryas to early Holocene (12.9 to 8.1 ka) limnological and hydrological change at Barley Lake, California (northern California Coast Range). Quaternary Research, pp.1-15.
  • MacDonald, G. 2021. Geographic Patterns of the Pandemic in the United States: Covid-19 Response Within a Disunified Federal System. Coronavirus (COVID-19) Outbreaks, Environment and Human Behaviour: International Case Studies, Springer. 451-467.
  • Glover, K.C., Chaney, A., Kirby, M.E., Patterson, W.P. and MacDonald, G.M., 2020. Southern California vegetation, wildfire, and erosion had nonlinear responses to climatic forcing during Marine Isotope Stages 5–2 (120–15 ka). Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology 35, p.e2019PA003628.
  • Harden, C.P., Luzzadder-Beach, S., MacDonald, G.M., Marston, R.A. and Winkler, J.A., 2020. Physical geography contributes. Progress in Physical Geography.
  • Hugelius, G., Loisel, J., Chadburn, S., Jackson, R.B., Jones, M., MacDonald, G., Marushchak, M., Olefeldt, D., Packalen, M., Siewert, M.B. and Treat, C., 2020. Large stocks of peatland carbon and nitrogen are vulnerable to permafrost thaw. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 117(34), pp.20438-20446.
  • MacDonald, G., 2020. Climate, Capital, Conflict: Geographies of Success or Failure in the Twenty-First Century. Annals of the American Association of Geographers, 1-21.
  • Thomson, M.J. and MacDonald, G.M., 2020. Climate and growing season variability impacted the intensity and distribution of Fremont maize farmers during and after the Medieval Climate Anomaly based on a statistically downscaled climate model. Environmental Research Letters 15
  • Glover, K.C., Chaney, A., Kirby, M.E., Patterson, W.P. and MacDonald, G.M., 2020. Southern California vegetation, wildfire, and erosion had nonlinear responses to climatic forcing during Marine Isotope Stages 5–2 (120–15 ka). Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology 35, p.e2019PA003628.
  • Avnaim-Katav, S., Almogi-Labin, A., Schneider-Mor, A., Crouvi, O., Burke, A.A., Kremenetski, K.V. and MacDonald, G.M., 2019. A multi-proxy shallow marine record for Mid-to-Late Holocene climate variability, Thera eruptions and cultural change in the Eastern Mediterranean. Quaternary Science Reviews 204, 133-148.
  • Brown, L.N., Rosencranz, J.A., Willis, K.S., Ambrose, R.F. and MacDonald, G.M., 2019. Multiple Stressors Influence Salt Marsh Recovery after a Spring Fire at Mugu Lagoon, CA. Wetlands, pp.1-13.
  • Dong, C., MacDonald, G., Okin, G.S. and Gillespie, T.W., 2019. Quantifying Drought Sensitivity of Mediterranean Climate Vegetation to Recent Warming: A Case Study in Southern California. Remote Sensing, 11(24), p.2902.
  • Dong, C., MacDonald, G.M., Willis, K., Gillespie, T.W., Okin, G.S. and Williams, A.P., 2019. Vegetation Responses to 2012‐2016 Drought in Northern and Southern California. Geophysical Research Letters 46, 3810-3821.
  • Rosencranz, J.A., Thorne, K.M., Buffington, K.J., Overton, C.T., Takekawa, J.Y., Casazza, M.L., McBroom, J., Wood, J.K., Nur, N., Zembal, R.L. and MacDonald, G.M., 2019. Rising Tides: Assessing Habitat Vulnerability for an Endangered Salt Marsh-Dependent Species with Sea-Level Rise. Wetlands 2019, 1-16.
  • Thomson, M.J., Balkovič, J., Krisztin, T. and MacDonald, G.M., 2019. Simulated impact of paleoclimate change on Fremont Native American maize farming in Utah, 850–1449 CE, using crop and climate models. Quaternary International, 507, 95-107.
  • Wang, J., Song, C., Reager, J.T., Yao, F., Famiglietti, J.S., Sheng, Y., MacDonald, G.M., Brun, F., Schmied, H.M., Marston, R.A. and Wada, Y., 2018. Recent global decline in endorheic basin water storages. Nature Geoscience, 11(12), p.926.
  • Gallego-Sala, A., Charman, D., Brewer, S., Page, S., Prentice, I., Friedlingstein, P., Moreton, S Amesbury, M., Beilman, D., Björck, S., Blyakharchuk, T., Bochicchio, C., Booth, R., Bunbury, J., Camill, P., Carless, D., Chimner, R., Clifford, M., Cressey, E., Courtney-Mustaphi, C., De Vleeschouwer, F., de Jong, R., Fialkiewicz-Koziel, B., Finkelstein, S., Garneau, M., Githumbi, E., Hribjlan, J., Holmquist, J., Hughes, P., Jones, C., Jones, M., Karofeld, E., Klein, E. Kokfelt, U., Korhola, A., Lacourse, T., Le Roux, G., Lamentowicz, M., Large, D., Lavoie, M., Loisel, J., Mackay, H., MacDonald, G., Makila, M., Magnan, G., Marchant, R., Marcisz, K., Martínez Cortizas, A., Massa, C., Mathijssen, P., Mauquoy, D., Mighall, T., Mitchell, F., Moss, P., Nichols, J.,  Oksanen, P., Orme, L., Packalen, M., Robinson, S., Roland, T., Sanderson, N., A. Sannel, B., Silva-Sánchez, N., Steinberg, N., Swindles, G., Turner, T., Uglow, J., Väliranta, M., van Bellen, S., van der Linden, M., van Geel, B., Wang, G., Yu, Z.,  Zaragoza-Castells., J.  & Zhao, Y. 2018. Latitudinal limits to the predicted increase of the peatland carbon sink with warming. Nature Climate Change 8, 907–913
  • Holmquist, J.R., Windham-Myers, L., Bliss, N., Crooks, S., Morris, J.T., Megonigal, J.P., Troxler, T., Weller, D., Callaway, J., Drexler, J., Ferner, M.C., Gonneea, M.E., Kroeger, K.D., Schile-Beers, L., Woo, I., Buffington, K., Breithaupt, J., Boyd, B.M., Brown, L.N., Dix, N., Hice, L.,. Horton, B.P., MacDonald, G.M., Moyer, R.M., Reay, W., Shaw, T., Smith, E., Smoak, J.M.. Sommerfield, C., Thorne, K., Velinsky, D., Watson, E., Wilson, K., & Woodrey, M.  2018. Accuracy and Precision of Tidal Wetland Soil Carbon Mapping in the Conterminous United States. / Scientific Reports, 8, 9478.
  • Okin, G. S., Dong, C., Willis, K. S., Gillespie, T. W., & MacDonald, G. M. 2018. The impact of drought on native Southern California vegetation: Remote sensing analysis using MODIS-derivedtime series. Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences, 123. https://
  • Thorne, K., MacDonald, G., Guntenspergen, G.,  Ambrose, R.,  Buffington, K., Dugger, B., Freeman, C., Janousek, C., Brown, L.,  Rosencranz, J., Holmquist, J.,  Smol, J., Hargan, K. and Takekawa, J.  2018. U.S. Pacific coastal wetland resilience and vulnerability to sea-level rise. Science Advances. Vol. 4, no. 2, eaao3270 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aao3270
  • Leeper, R., Rhodes, B., Kirby, M., Scharer, K., Carlin, J., Hemphill-Haley, E., Avnaim-Katav, S., MacDonald, G., Starratt, S. and Aranda, A., 2017. Evidence for coseismic subsidence events in a southern California coastal saltmarsh. Reports, 7. 44615.doi:  10.1038/srep44615
  • Loisel J, MacDonald GM, Thomson MJ (2017) Little Ice Age climatic erraticism as an analogue for future enhanced hydroclimatic variability across the American Southwest. PLoS ONE 12(10): e0186282.
  • MacDonald, G. M., Moser, K.A., Bloom, A. M., Potito, A.P., Porinchu, D.F., Holmquist, J.R., Hughes, J. and Kremenetski, K.V. 2016. Prolonged California aridity linked to climate warming and Pacific sea surface temperature. Nature.Com/Sci. Rep. 6, 33325;
  • Philben, M., Holmquist, J., MacDonald, G., Duan, D., Kaiser, K. and Benner, R. 2015. Temperature, oxygen, and vegetation controls on decomposition in a James Bay peatland, Global Biogeochem. Cycles, 29, 729–743. doi:10.1002/2014GB004989
  • Willis, K. S., Beilman, D., Booth, R. K., Amesbury, M., Holmquist, J., & MacDonald, G. 2015. Peatland paleohydrology in southern West Siberian Lowlands: Comparison of multiple testate amoeba transfer functions, sites, and Sphagnum δ13C values. The Holocene, DOI: 10.1177/0959683615585833.
  • Holmquist, J. R., Reynolds, L., Brown, L. N., Southon, J. R., Simms, A. R., & MacDonald, G. M. 2015. Marine radiocarbon reservoir values in Southern California estuaries: Interspecies, latitudinal, and interannual variability. Radiocarbon, 57, 449–458 DOI: 10.2458/azu_rc.57.18389.
  • Armitage, D., de Loë, R. C., Morris, M., Edwards, T. W., Gerlak, A. K., Huitema DIson RLivingstone DMacDonald GMirumachi NPlummer R, & Wolfe, B. B. 2015. Science–policy processes for transboundary water governance. Ambio, 1-14.
  • Hargan, K.E., K.M. Rühland, A.M. Paterson, S.A. Finkelstein, J. Holmquist, G.M. MacDonald, W. Keller, and J.P. Smol. 2015. The influence of water table depth and pH on the spatial distribution of diatom species in peatlands of the Boreal Shield and Hudson Plains, Canada. Botany 93(2): 57-74. DOI:10.1139/cjb-2014-0138.
  • Hargan, Kathryn E., Kathleen M. Rühland, Andrew M. Paterson, James Holmquist, Glen M. MacDonald, Joan Bunbury, Sarah A. Finkelstein, and John P. Smol. 2015. Long-term successional changes in peatlands of the Hudson Bay Lowlands, Canada inferred from the ecological dynamics of multiple proxies. The Holocene 25, no. 1: 92-107.
  • Zhang,Z., Y. Xue, G. MacDonald, P. M. Cox, and G. J. Collatz. 2015. Investigation of North American vegetation variability under recent climate: A study using the SSiB4/TRIFFID biophysical/dynamic vegetation model, Journal of Geophysical  Research. Atmosphere 120, doi:10.1002/2014JD021963.
  • Reinemann, S. A., Porinchu, D. F., MacDonald, G. M., Mark, B. G., & DeGrand, J. Q. 2014. A 2000-yr reconstruction of air temperature in the Great Basin of the United States with specific reference to the Medieval Climatic Anomaly. Quaternary Research, 82(2), 309-317.
  • Holmquist, J. R. and MacDonald, G.M.. 2014. Peatland succession and long-term apparent carbon accumulation in central and northern Ontario, Canada. The Holocene 24, 1075-1089.
  • Buermann, W., Parida, B., Jung, M., MacDonald, G.M., Tucker, C.J. and Reichstein, M.  2014, Recent shift in Eurasian boreal forest greening response may be associated with warmer and drier summers, Geophysical Research. Letters 41, 1995–2002, doi:10.1002/2014GL059450.
  • Holmquist, J.R., MacDonald, G.M., Gallego-Sala, A.V. 2014. Peatland Initiation, Carbon Accumulation, and 2 ka Depth in the James Bay Lowland and Adjacent Regions. Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research, 46(1), 19-39
  • Yu, Z., J. Loisel, M. R. Turetsky, S. Cai, Y. Zhao, S. Frolking, G. M. MacDonald, and J. L. Bubier, 2013. Evidence for elevated emissions from high-latitude wetlands contributing to high atmospheric CH4 concentration in the early Holocene, Global Biogeochemical Cycles, 27, 131–140, doi:10.1002/gbc.20025.
  • MacDonald, G.M., Beilman D.W. , Kuzmin, Y.V., Orlova, L.A., Kremenetski, K.V., Shapiro, B., Wayne, R.K. and Van Valkenburgh, B. 2012. Pattern of extinction of the woolly mammoth in Beringia. Nature Communications DOI: 10.1038/ncomms1881 (PDF)
  • Pau, S. , MacDonald, G.M. and Gillespie, T.W. 2012. A Dynamic History of Climate Change and Human Impact on the Environment from Keālia Pond, Maui, Hawaiian Islands. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 102, 748-762. (PDF)
  • MacDonald. G.M. 2011. Potential influence of the Pacific Ocean on the Indian summer monsoon and Harappan decline. Quaternary International 229, 140–148. (PDF)
  • MacDonald, G.M. 2010. Climate Change and Water in Southwestern North America Special Feature: Water, climate change, and sustainability in the southwest Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 107 , 21256-21262; doi:10.1073/pnas.0909651107(PDF)
  • MacDonald, G.M. 2010. Global warming and the Arctic: a new world beyond the reach of the Grinnellian niche? The Journal of Experimental Biology 213, 855-861
  • MacDonald, G.M. 2010. Some Holocene paleoclimatic and paleoenvironmental perspectives on Arctic/Subarctic climate warming and the IPCC 4th Assessment Report. Journal of Quaternary Science 25, 39-47.
  • Tingstad, A.H. and MacDonald, G.M. 2010. Long-Term Relationships Between Ocean Variability and Water Resources in Northeastern Utah. JAWRA Journal of the American Water Resources Association 46, 987–1002.
  • Woodhouse, C.A., Meko, D.M., MacDonald, G.M., Stahle, D.W. and Cook, E.R. 2010. Climate Change and Water in Southwestern North America Special Feature: A 1,200-year perspective of 21st century drought in southwestern North America Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 107, 21283-21288; doi:10.1073/pnas.0911197107
  • Beilman, D.W., MacDonald, G.M., Smith, L.C. and Reimer, P.J. 2009. Carbon accumulation in peatlands of West Siberia over the last 2000 years. Global Biogeochemical Cycles 23, GB1012, doi:10.1029/2007GB003112.
  • MacDonald G.M., Porinchu D.F., Kremenetski K.V., Rolland N., and Kaufman D.S. 2009. Paleolimnological evidence of the response of the central Canadian treeline zone to impacts of radiative forcing and hemispheric patterns of temperature change over the past 2000 years. Journal of Paleolimnology 41, 129–141 DOI 10.1007/s10933-008-9250-2.
  • MacDonald, G.M., Kremenetski, K.V. and Hidalgo, H. 2008. Southern California and the Perfect Drought: simultaneous prolonged drought in Southern California and the Sacramento and Colorado River systems. Quaternary International 188, 11-23 doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2007.06.027
  • MacDonald. G.M., Kremenetski, K.V., Smith, L.C. and Hidalgo, H. 2007. Recent Eurasian river discharge to the Arctic Ocean in the context of longer-term dendrohydrological records. Journal of Geophysical Research 112, G04S50, doi:10.1029/2006JG000333.
  • MacDonald, G.M. Kremenetski. K.V. and Beilman, D.W. 2007. Climate change and the northern Russian treeline zone. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. doi:10.1098/rstb.2007.2200.
  • MacDonald, G.M. 2007. Severe and sustained drought in Southern California and the west: Present conditions and insights from the past on causes and impacts, Quaternary International 173-174, 87-100 doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2007.03.012.
  • PERFECT DROUGHT – MacDonald, G.M., Hidalgo, H. and Rian, S. 2005. Southern California and the Perfect Drought. Published in “Colorado River Basin Climate”. Special Publication of the California Department of Water Resources (PDF)
  • MacDonald, G.M., Beilman, D.W., Kremenetski, K.V., Sheng, Y., Smith, L.C. and Velichko, A.A. 2006. Rapid early development of the circumarctic peatlands and atmospheric CH4 and CO2 variations. Science, 314: 385-388. (PDF)
  • MacDonald, G.M. and Case, R.A. 2005. Variations in the Pacific Decadal Oscillation over the past millennium. Geophysical Research Letters. 32: L08703, doi10.1029/2005GL022478. (PDF)
  • Smith, L.C., Sheng, Y., MacDonald, G.M. and Hinzman, L.D. 2005. Disappearing arctic lakes. Science 308: 1429. (Discover Magazine Top 100 Science Stories of 2005) (PDF)
  • Smith, L.C., MacDonald, G.M., Velichko, A.A., Beilman, D.W., Borisova, O.K., Frey, K.A., Kremenetski, K.V., and Sheng, Y. 2004. Siberian peatlands a net carbon sink and global methane sourse since the early Holocene. Science 303: 353-356. (PDF)
  • MacDonald, G.M. 2002 Biogeography: Space, Time and Life. John Wiley and Sons, New York. 518 p. (Cowles Award Winner)(PDF)

Grants & Awards

Karl Butzer Award PCSG American Association of Geographer (2020) Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (2019) Visiting Global Fellow – University of St Andrews (2019) Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2016) Member National Academy of Sciences (2015) Fellow of the American Geophysical Union (2015) James J. Parsons Distinguished Career Award (2015) Rockefeller Bellagio Residency (2012) UC Distinguished Professor (2011) Visiting Fellow – St. Catherine’s College, Oxford (2009) 2008 Guggenheim Fellow (2008-2009) Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (2006) Atlas Award of the UCLA Friends of Geography in recognition of his service to the Department and FOG (Nov. 2006) Henry C. Cowles Award for Excellence in Publication for the book “Biogeography – Space, Time and Life ” published by John Wiley and Sons (2004) Astor Visiting Lecturer – Oxford (2003) Visiting Fellow and Life Member of Clare Hall – Cambridge (1989) University of Helsinki Medal  (1995) Henry C. Cowles Award for Excellence in Publication (1999) UCLA Distinguished Teaching Award  (2001) McMaster Teaching Excellence Award (1987)

Graduate Students

Elizabeth Fard (Geography) Jessie George (Geography Jiwoo Han (Geography) Jason Kindinger (Geography) Scott Lydon (Geography) Lisa Martinez (Geography) Ben Nauman (Geography)