Research Projects

Out lab applies trait-based approaches across ecosystems to understand community assembly, coexistence, resilience and ecosystem function in the face of climate change and anthropogenic disturbance.

Investigating Interactions between Climate and Disturbance

Helicopters drop water over the Museum Fire. Photo: Tyler Annetts

In 2019, 2000 acres of Ponderosa Pine forest burned just north of NAU. Beginning in 2020, we will establish warming chambers across this burn. This mixed-severity fire provides a unique opportunity to investigate the impacts of climate change on trait-based community assembly and ecosystem function across a burn gradient. Ethan Taber will build his Masters around this project.


Vegetation Dynamics on the North Rim

A panoramic view of the House Rock Valley. Photo: Tyler Annets

Tucked between the Kaibab and Paria Plateaus, the House Rock Valley is a quintessential arid grassland. Like much of the western United States, this area has experienced continuous grazing since the arrival of European settlers. Our group is studying the impacts of this grazing on biodiversity using a set of long- and medium-age grazing exclosures. Ashlee Simpson’s Masters degree is focused on this system.


The Role of Intraspecific Variation for Resiliency

Common garden located on New Mexico Land Conservancy lands outside of Sante Fe, NM. Photo: Ella Samuel

Variation in key plant traits can vary substantially between populations of the same species. This variation may contribute to species establishment, growth, and survival under changing and less predictable conditions. We are quantifying variability in seed and plant traits in key restoration species to understand how we might better leverage this variation to bolster restoration and seed-collection efforts. This is the focus of Ella Samuel’s Masters, and Paige Thompsons Interns-to-Scholars project.


The Nutrient Network (NutNet)

Ethan Taber collects data at our NutNet Site, 2019.

We have been long-time members of the Nutrient Network, helping to establish and monitor some of the original plots in Washington State. In 2018, we established the first set of NutNet plots in Arizona, along with Brad Butterfield.


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