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
  • CV

Email me: rachel.mitchell (at)

Graduate Students

Tyler Annetts

Masters Student

After six years as an aircraft mechanic in the United States Air Force, I began my academic career with the completion of my BS at the Ohio State University where I studied environmental science and restoration ecology. I then moved to the high desert Ponderosa pine system of the Colorado Plateau to study community and trait-based ecology with Rachel Mitchell at Northern Arizona University where my current research focuses on quantifying the effects of climate on two perennial bunchgrass species. I am developing integral projection models that will be used to predict survival and growth of these two species (Festuca arizonica and Muhlenbergia montana) in response to changing environmental conditions. My research project leverages a long-term, 100+ year data set and in turn contributes to a legacy of ecological study that has taken place in the forests around Flagstaff.

I am broadly interested in community ecology and the role that modelling plays in preparing us for the ecological and societal implications of anthropogenic climate change.  Following the completion of my MS this semester, I will be joining the Tonkin Lab at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand where I will be modeling riverine ecosystem response to stream flow alteration.

Ella Samuel

Masters Student
Wyss Scholar

Ella Samuel is currently pursuing her Master’s in Environmental Science & Policy at Northern Arizona University. Her graduate research with Dr. Rachel Mitchell involves measuring plant functional traits at a common garden site and associated field sites throughout the Southwest to understand local adaptation and climate resiliency of three priority restoration species. She hopes her research will inform land management and restoration practices in the Southwest. Her research is supported by the New Mexico Bureau of Land Management State Botanist, Zoe Davidson, and she collaborates with USGS Research Ecologists, Dr. Rob Massatti and Dr. Daniel Winkler.

Ella received her B.A. in Human Ecology from College of the Atlantic. Prior to moving to the Southwest, Ella contributed to research projects pertaining to plant ecology and climate change in Maine, California, and Greenland, and was a restoration intern for the Elwha Restoration Project. For the past few years, she worked at the New Mexico Bureau of Land Management and was a contractor for the Institute for Applied Ecology Southwest Program. Ella is very passionate about botany and conservation and hopes to pursue a career in conservation and policy following her graduate degree.

Ashlee Simpson

Masters Student

Ashlee is broadly interested in vegetation dynamics of arid ecosystems, especially in relation to management and restoration practices. Her thesis research is focused on how grassland plant communities near the North Rim of the Grand Canyon respond to livestock exclusion following a legacy of historic overgrazing. Additionally, she is investigating relationships between seed traits and germination for a suite of native grassland/steppe species to inform restoration seeding practices. She enjoys exploring wild places, botanizing, and reading science fiction.

Ethan Taber

Masters Student

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 wildland fire and reduced snowpack.

Undergraduate Students

Paige Thompson

NASA Space Grant Recipient 2020-2021
HURA Fellow 2020-2021
I2S Intern 2019-2020

My name’s Paige Thompson, I’m an undergraduate at Northern Arizona University working on an Environmental Science with an emphasis in Biology as my Major with a minor in Anthropology. I’m passionate about the outdoors, herbalism, anything botany related, and reading. I’ve also begun to dip my toes into the world of plant and seed traits. 

Want to work with us?

I am always interested in highly motivated students! Please email me a brief introduction, a statement of research interests and experiences, and an unofficial transcript!

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