Texas Tech University

Climate & Ecology

John ZakZAK

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 functioning.

Rodica Gelca

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 van GestelNatasja

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 Griffis-Kyle 

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 to stressors.

Blake Grishamchicken

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 SmithSarah

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.