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.
Jennifer is a MS student in Biology - her research focuses 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. Read an article she wrote about the project for the NPS here. Jennifer spent her senior year studying biogeochemical responses to severe and prolonged drought in a New Mexican arid grassland in my lab in collaboration with Scott Collins (University of New Mexico).
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 Utqiaġvik). This research is important to understanding how ecosystem functions may change in a rapidly changing environment.
Kathleen Schaeffer is a PhD student in Ecology and Environmental Biology. 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.
This summer Allison will be working with Team Vole in Utqiaġvik.
Esmerelda spent the summer with Team Vole running our first season at Utqiaġvik. She also conducted a project examining how leaf traits change when herbivores are excluded from plant communities. She is currently finishing her BSc in Biology at UTEP.
Violeta has worked in the lab over the past year assisting with the freezer full of samples Team Vole brought back from Alaska. She is currently completing a BS in Environmental Science at UTEP. This summer she will be a CDB-REU student in our lab studying the effects of drought on seasonal N patterns in agricultural systems.
Cynthia-Rae has worked in the lab over the past year as a MERITUS research student, studying how shrub presence in the alpine tundra affects N mineralization rates in the soil. She is currently completing a BS in Biology at UTEP. This summer she will be working with Team Vole in Utqiaġvik.
Erick will be working in the lab this summer as a SURPASS student research student examining how the time since shrub removal may affect soil carbon in a Chihuahuan Desert ecosystem.
Former Lab Members - Graduate Students
Alejandro Benhumea (MS)
Alejandro graduated with his MS in Biology in 2018. His research focused 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, using an experiment on a alpine plateau in the southwest Yukon, Canada.
Former Lab Members - Undergraduate Researchers
Isabelle is working with Daniela Aguirre on the effects of litter quantity on ecosystem properties in alpine tundra. She also conducted a project examining how leaf traits change when plant communities are warmed. She is currently finishing her BSc in Biology at UTEP.
Rebecca was a summer student with the CDB-REU program and spent the summer examining nutrient limitation in soil microbial communities at Carlsbad National Park. She just graduated with a BS in Biology at Chatham University.
Sonia was a summer student with the CDB-REU program and spent the summer examining how large scale shrub removal effects inorganic soil carbon. She is currently finishing up a BS in Food Science at the University of Arkansas.
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.
During the summer of 2017 Max was an NSF REU student studying shrub encroachment in the Chihuahuan desert. He is about to begin a PhD program in Ecology at the University of Minnesota.
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 worked with Alejandro Benhumea looking at how increasing litter abundance affects microbial enzyme activity. This past spring Samantha graduated with a bachelors in Environmental Science with a concentration in biology. Looking forward she hopes to attend graduate school to obtain a masters in Marine biology.
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 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 worked with our research group in the Yukon Territory and in Alaska - she was key in getting the WARM projects set up. Mayra also conducted a project looking at the effects of long-term grass removal on ecosystem properties which was recently published in Journal of Ecology. Mayra graduated with a BS in Biology from UTEP. Mayra made a video of her time with us in Alaska.
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 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 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 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 looked at how vole herbivory and hay piles impact the soil in Alaskan Tundra, including soil nutrients and microbial processes.He graduated with his BS from UTEP, and is now a High School biology teacher in El Paso.
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 - this work is published in Arctic Science. 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 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 - this work is published in Arctic Science. In the second summer she looked at the effects of long-term grass removal on ecosystem properties with Mayra Melendez, and published a manuscript on this work in Journal of Ecology. Anna completed a MS at Memorial University, and is now a PhD student at Universite de Sherbrooke.
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.