I am a physiological ecologist who focuses on understanding the evolution of functional traits in plants and the impacts of climate change on ecosystems. I investigate physiological or plant-mediated processes from the spatial scale of cells to that of whole landscapes. A recent focus of my scholarship is understanding the dynamics of climate-ecosystem interactions and their influence in coupling of carbon and water cycles in arid landscapes, which encompass ~ 40% of Earth’s surface. I am interested in the plant processes underlying these coupling and how these patterns and mechanism are related to processes in diverse biomes from around the globe. I am excited to be involved in the newest UC Reserve site – the Steele-Burnand Anza Borrego Desert Research Center.
I lead the Center for Environmental Biology at the University of California, Irvine. This is an exciting program that focuses on landscape scale research that serves issues of conservation and ecosystem management. We work with the Natural Communities Coalition (formerly the Nature Reserve of Orange County) and a number of stakeholders (city, county, state, federal and non-profit groups) to bring academic research to environmental challenges. We partner with groups to focus on science literacy and public engagement using a number of programs.
I am the faculty director of the Sustainability Initiative at the University of California, Irvine. The Sustainability Initiative provides a platform for interdisciplinary scholarship on the critical climate, environment, and resource issues confronting society. The Initiative aims to infuse sustainability across the University of California, Irvine, empowering students and faculty with the rich institutional history of impactful research. The Sustainability Initiative promotes collaborations with diverse communities on and off campus in developing solutions to challenges affecting California and the globe.
From 2007 to 2012 I led the UA Biosphere 2, an interdisciplinary department in the UA College of Science. B2 serves as a center focused on research, outreach, teaching and life-long learning about Earth, its living systems and its place in the Universe. The program excels at understanding complex environmental systems using highly controlled experimental facilities, computational modeling, and observational arrays deployed in natural landscapes. This unit houses research faculty and professional staff focused on understanding how water works in the Earth system, synthesizing and incubating important topics in environmental science, and engaging a diverse stakeholder community in science, including decision makers, practitioners, K-12 educators and the public. The key experiment guiding the facility and program has finally come on-line and is producing science, even as we speak – The Landscape Evolution Observatory (LEO).
At the University of Arizona we developed a comprehensive education program across a range formal and informal settings by combining my traditional role as a faculty in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, with the teaching capabilities of the faculty in Biosphere 2, the Arizona Center for STEM Teachers, and the outreach opportunities I coordinate through UA Science: Flandrau, the science center at the University of Arizona. We focused on experiential learning across the ‘K-grey’ spectrum, using a number of techniques, including traditional coursework, intensive research experiences for graduate students, undergraduates, high school internships, and K-12 teachers, along with leadership courses, service learning, teacher training, and a range of informal science literacy programs. My goal is to bridge the developing gap between science and society by focusing on enriching experiences for the public and skill development in our professionals.
I attended Chaffey Community College from 1987 until 1990, where I fell in love with biology. I received a Bachelor’s of Science and Master’s of Science in Biology from California State University, San Bernardino in 1996, a PhD in Biological Sciences from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in 2000, and was a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Colorado before moving to Arizona in 2001. In 2012 I moved to the University of California, Irvine into the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.