Daniela's masters project focuses on changes in tundra vegetation resulting from climate change. Specifically, she is looking at the effects increasing shrubs are having on alpine and arctic tundra. Although shrubs are part of the native tundra vegetation, they have recently been increasing in both size and cover due to increasing nutrient availability in the soil resulting from climate warming. We chose to find out more about the effects of climate change in the tundra because the climate is changing more rapidly there than in any other parts of the globe.
Alejandro is a MS student in biology. His research focuses on a phenomena, termed the “greening of the Arctic”, an increase in vegetation productivity in northern ecosystems partially created by an increase in deciduous shrub growth in arctic and alpine tundra, which has the potential to alter habitat for animals, permafrost thaw, carbon storage, and soil ecosystem properties and processes. His project focuses on the mechanism in which shrubs alter ecosystem functioning, from either through their biophysical structure or increased litter deposits. I designed an experiment which separated the effects of physical shrub presence and litter quantity in a experiment on a alpine plateau in the southwest Yukon, Canada. He plans to finish his MS degree in the coming year.
Austin Roy is a PhD student in Ecology and Environmental Biology. His research interests involve understanding how small mammals manipulate their environments to affect landscape level changes. Austin's current research involve understanding the role of small mammals (voles and lemmings) in nutrient cycling in the arctic. This project involves examining the effects of different densities of small mammals on environmental variables such as soil nutrients, soil microbes, and vegetation cover in three arctic tundra locations (Toolik Lake, Nome, and Barrow). This research is important to understanding how ecosystem functions may change in a rapidly changing environment.
Kathleen Schaeffer is a first year PhD student at the University of Texas at El Paso. She is currently studying the effects of large scale land restoration practices on desert soils in the Chihuahuan Desert. After graduation, she wants to pursue a career in ecosystem conservation or restoration.
Jennifer is spending her senior year studying biogeochemical responses to severe and prolonged drought in a New Mexican arid grassland, in collaboration with Scott Collins (University of New Mexico). Jennifer will join the lab as a Masters student this fall. Her research will focus on determining the critical loads of nitrogen deposition in grasslands at Carlsbad Caverns National Park. The park has been experiencing increased levels of N-deposition from nearby oil and gas wells. The study will experimentally determine the levels at which we begin to observe effects due to increased N on ecosystem structure, specifically , exotic plant invasion and biogeochemical cycles.
Isabelle is working with Daniela Aguirre on the effects of litter quantity on ecosystem properties in alpine tundra. She is currently finishing her BSc in Biology at UTEP.
Former Lab Members
Vanessa Gonzales (Undergraduate Researcher)
Vanessa was involved in projects in the Yukon Territory, working on the WARM experiment, the long-term fertilization experiment and litter addition experiments. Vanessa is currently finishing up her BSc at the University of Alaska Anchorage.
Max Zaret (Undergraduate Researcher)
During the summer of 2017 Max was an NSF REU student studying shrub encroachment in the Chihuahuan desert. He is currently a senior at Indiana University completing a senior honors thesis focused on plant microbe interactions in prairie plants. Outside of school he enjoys hiking, kayaking and fishing
Xavier Soto (Undergraduate Researcher)
Xavier was a REU student with the Chihuahuan Desert Biodiversity REU program. Xavier's project looked at the factors that may impact grass restoration to desert ecosystems after a shrub removal management program.
Samantha Pena (Undergraduate Researcher)
Samantha worked with Alejandro Benhumea looking at how increasing litter abundance affects microbial enzyme activity. She is currently finishing her Bachelors in Environmental Biology and looking at options for graduate school.
Scott Reza (Undergraduate Researcher)
Scott worked with Alejandro Benhumea in the Yukon Territory on the WARM projects and the litter addition experiments. With other undergraduate students, Scott also conducted a project looking at how soil and microbial stoichiometry changes along an altitudinal gradient.
Jacqueline Mackenzie (Undergraduate Researcher)
Jacqueline was a University of British Columbia undergraduate student who worked with us in the Yukon Territory on the WARM experiment. With other undergraduate students, she also conducted a project looking at how soil and microbial stoichiometry changes along an altitudinal gradient.
Mayra Melendez (Undergraduate Researcher)
Mayra worked with our research group in the Yukon Territory - she was key in getting the WARM projects set up at this site. Mayra also conducted a project looking at the effects of long-term grass removal on ecosystem properties, and is currently writing up the manuscript for this project.Mayra graduated with a BS in Biology from UTEP and is just finishing up a stint working at a greenhouse in Fairbanks, Alaska.
Luis DelVal (Undergraduate Researcher)
Luis worked on a project examining the effects of long-term vole exclosures on ecosystem properties in Alaskan Tundra. He was awarded the "Best Poster in Environmental Science" at the COURI undergraduate research symposium. Luis is currently finishing up his BSc in Environmental Science at UTEP.
Jacqueline Alfaro (Undergraduate Researcher)
Jacqueline worked on a project examining the effects of long-term vole exclosures on ecosystem properties in Alaskan Tundra. Jacqueline recently completed her BSc in Environmental Science at UTEP.
Allison Nawman (Undergraduate Researcher)
Allison worked on a project examining the effects of warming on soil phosphorus in many types of arctic tundra. Allison is currently a STEM teacher at HSA and teaches advanced placement environmental systems, environmental engineering, and chemistry. She is also a graduate student in Education at UTEP
Kathleen Roman (Undergraduate Researcher)
Kathleen was a REU student with the Chihuahuan Desert Biodiversity REU program.Kathleen examined differences in soil properties between areas inhabited by shrubs (Creosote and Mesquite) and the bare areas in between the shrubs. Kathleen currently volunteering in a 10 month program with AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps: FEMA Corps to provide disaster relief in communities across the country
Daniel Morrow (Undergraduate Researcher)
Daniel looked at how vole herbivory and hay piles impact the soil in Alaskan Tundra, including soil nutrients and microbial processes.He recently graduated with his BS from UTEP, and is currently looking at options for both graduate school and employment.
Dennise Drury (Undergraduate Researcher)
Dennise worked with our research group in the Yukon Territory on long-term experiments. She also conducted an observational experiment looking at how soil properties change along a shrub density gradient in alpine tundra - the manuscript for this project is currently under review. Dennise is currently employed at the Pacific Northwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center and is responsible for coordinating the program operations, activities, communications and the small grants program.
Anna Crofts (Undergraduate Researcher)
Anna worked with us for two summers in the Yukon Territory. In her first summer she conducted an observational experiment looking at how soil properties change along a shrub density gradient in alpine tundra - the manuscript for this project is under review. In the second summer she looked at the effects of long-term grass removal on ecosystem properties. Anna is currently undertaking a Masters of Science at Memorial University, where she is examining early life stage constraints on alpine range expansion of boreal conifers in Newfoundland, Canada."
Ali Ford (Undergraduate Researcher)
Ali was a REU student with the Chihuahuan Desert Biodiversity REU program. She conducted a project looking at the impacts of Salt Cedar removal using biocontrol agents on soil properties. Ali is currently pursuing her masters degree at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is studying tame and aggressive foxes at the Russian Institute of Cytology and Genetics as a part of the Farm Fox Experiment. Her research includes analyzing glucocorticoid dynamics as a measurement of stress in the foxes as well as looking at the impact of selection for human-directed tameness and aggressiveness on conspecific behavior in silver foxes.