John is the Associate Dean for Research in the College of Arts and Sciences. He is
a microbial ecologist who has dedicated much of his career to the Chihuahuan Desert,
at Big Bend National Park, Texas, and the Jornada LTER, in New Mexico, but also the
woods in Fort Benning, Georgia. His main research interests lies in determining how
climate variability and human disturbances regulate soil microbial diversity and activity.
Soil microbes play a vital role in ecosystems, and therefore, understanding their
dynamics in response to environmental perturbation helps to predict future ecosystem
Rodica is a computational biologist. She uses statistical models to assess climate
change impacts on surface waters and their aquatic biotic communities. She examines
trends in air temperature, precipitation, and water quality parameters, finds which
of the climate variables are important for predicting water quality, and then based
on those predictors she predicts future surface water quality based on climate projections.
As an example, she has evaluated how golden algae bloom in Texas water reservoirs
will respond to shifts in climate as predicted by climate models. Other interests
involve the impact of pollution on the environment, from contaminants in playa lakes
to the environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing in West Texas.
Natasja is a global change ecologist and has worked in deserts, grasslands, forests
and Antarctica. She is interested in how climate change will affect nutrient cycles,
soil carbon storage, microbial ecology and plant physiology. At Big Bend National
Park she has examined the effect of daily temperature range on desert ecosystem function.
She is also interested in biogeographical patterns of soil microbes: what predictors
are important to determine the distribution of microbial populations. Her research
has also shown the degree to which soil microbes can adapt to their temperature environment.
Microbes play key roles in ecosystems, from decomposition of organic material and
thereby releasing nutrients, to capturing C and N from the atmosphere. Therefore,
it is important to understand their responses to climate change.
Kerry is a wetland ecologist. She works at the nexus of population ecology, landscape
ecology, animal behavior, and conservation biology to ascertain how various wetland
dependent taxa, from invertebrates and amphibians to birds and mammals, respond to
changes in wetlands as these may shift in distribution, hydroperiod and water quality
as a result of anthropogenic stressors, including climate change and agricultural
runoff. Wetlands in arid climates are key to maintaining biodiversity in an otherwise
arid system. Wetlands also aid in migration of waterfowl that use these wetlands as
stopping points. Therefore, wetlands have important ecosystem function for visiting
and resident organisms, and thus it is important to know the fate of wetlands in response
Blake is a wildlife biologist focused on bird conservation and management. Specifically,
Blake's research focuses on the relationship between environmental variables and thermal
tolerances of nesting lesser prairie-chickens. These birds already live at the limits
of thermal tolerance, thereby being particularly vulnerable to a warmer climate. Blake
is also involved in other bird species, those associated with water, such as waterfowl
and Sandhill Cranes. He assesses the role of the National Wildlife Refuge System for
Sandhill Crane conservation and develops monitoring protocols for these birds. (Photo
courtesy: Dr. Jerod Foster).
Nick is a global change ecologist who studies the impact of ongoing global changes
on the world's flora and their resulting feedback to climate. Nick is particularly
interested in the ability of plants to acclimate to changes expected in the future.
His lab conducts research all over the world, but are also interested in local impacts.
His studies combine lab, field, and simulation techniques to examine biosphere-atmosphere
feedbacks at different scales.