Graduate and Undergraduate students work on a wide variety of projects ranging from modeling population growth of understory species to quantifying the variation in, and importance of, seed embryo size.

Rachel M. Mitchell

Assistant Professor

  • B.S. University of Arizona – 2006
  • PhD University of Washington – 2013
  • NSF Postdoctoral Fellow – Duke University – 2014-2017

Email me: rachelmm (at)

Graduate Students

Heidi Goodrich

MS Student – Northern Arizona University
National Forest Foundation Conservation Connect Fellow

Heidi was raised in the Bay Area of California, and received her BS in Environmental Science from the University of New Mexico in 2017. After graduation, she worked in ecological restoration of forests and river systems in the Pacific Northwest, as well as ecological assessment and monitoring across Northern California and Nevada. Her desire to inform land management decisions led her to pursue a MS at NAU. Heidi’s research interests are on wildfire disturbance regimes, their effects on plant communities, and response to increased drought stress with climate change..

Ethan Taber

PhD Student
NSF Graduate Research Fellow

Ethan grew up in rural Oklahoma, but moved west and earned a BA in Environment and Sustainability at Western Colorado University. After a few years working in the northern Rockies, the desire to further his education led him to NAU. Ethan’s main research interests involve plant community responses to the effects of a changing climate, specifically involving wild land fire and reduced snowpack.

Madeleine (Maddie) Wallace

MS Student

Maddie received her BS in Environmental Sciences from the University of Portland in 2020. After graduation, she spent a few years doing ecological restoration in the Willamette Valley ecoregion, working in grassland, oaks woodland, riverine, and wetland habitats. Her passion for restoration and desire to learn more about how land management decisions are made inspired her to pursue an MS in Natural Resources at the University of Arizona.  Maddie’s research interests involve plant community response to climatic changes, specifically drought response and resilience in restoration species.

Katerina Sacoman

MS Student

Katerina grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico and received a BS in Ecology from the University of Arizona in 2022. Spending time working on conservation projects with both local government entities and non-profit organizations in the Tucson area led her to continue her studies in Tucson and pursue an MS in Natural Resources at the University of Arizona. Katerina’s research interests include drought and flooding impacts on riparian vegetation communities.

Ian Winick

PhD Student

Ian grew up on the shores of Long Island Sound in Connecticut. He earned his BS in Biology at Queen’s University and his MPS in Natural Resources and the Environment at Cornell University. Ian is broadly interested in native plant conservation from the species scale to the landscape scale. His previous work was on the restoration ecology of a rare perennial herb in the Finger Lakes region of New York. His current research is focused on the functional resilience of native plant communities in the context of changing climate and land use, with the goal of informing thoughtful, research-driven land stewardship.

Elwin Jay “EJ” Salac

Lab Logo Designer

Northern Arizona University B.S. Environmental Sciences

Our Logo was designed by Elwin Jay “EJ” Salac. Elwin Jay “EJ” Salac is an alumnus of Northern Arizona University’s Environmental Sciences program and has also spent a bit of time doing freelance graphic art. Born and raised in the Sonoran Desert surrounded by the natural scenery and exposed to a whole lot of Bob Ross, the environment and nature continues to be a big portion of their work in both the areas of graphic design and painting. EJ takes graphic art commissions, and can be reached at elwin.jay.salac (at),

Undergraduate Students

We are currently looking for motivated undergraduates in the FunEco Lab. Please reach out if you would like to gain research experience!

Lab Alumni

  • Ashlee Wolf (2018-2020)- Plant Conservation and Restoration Specialist, BLM
  • Tyler Annetts (2018-2020) – Ecological Site Specialist, NRCS
  • Ella Samuel (2019 – 2021) – Research Ecologist, USGS
  • Mallory Decker (2020-2021) – Interns2Scholars intern
  • Paige Thompson (2019-2021) – Interns2Scholars; HURA fellow; NASA Space Grant
  • Zoe Klein (2020-2022) – Mono Lake Committee

Pets of FunEco

Clockwise from top left: Dexter the schnauzer, Janet the cat, Midge the Border Terrier, Xochi the border collie/husky, Woody the majestic pound pup.

Want to work with us?

I am always interested in highly motivated students from diverse backgrounds, institutions, and disciplines! Please email me a brief introduction, a statement of research interests and experiences, and an unofficial transcript! My goal is to help you reach your career goals, so students interested in careers inside and outside of academia are encouraged to apply!

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