Travis E. Huxman

Ecology & Evolutionary Biology



Research Areas and Projects

I.  Since I moved to southern California we have begun to work on a number of projects associated with restoration ecology and conservation biology in settings ranging from coastal sage scrub right on the ocean-front to the hyper-arid systems of Borrego Springs.   In many of these projects, we are applying our functional trait perspective of understanding how plants work to tackle specific challenges in composing resilient plant communities.  Important partners in this work are California State Parks (Crystal Cove State Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, County of Orange, Nature Reserve of Orange County, City of Irvine, City of Newport Beach, and the Irvine Ranch Conservancy).  A much more detailed description of some of these projects can be found at the Center for Environmental Biology research page.

II.  An area that we are expanding concerns issues of water sustainability in areas with complex trade-offs.  In a developing project in Borrego Springs, housed out of the new Steele/Burnand Anza-Borrego Desert Research Center, we are working with anthropologists, sociologists, economists, hydrologists, atmospheric scientists (and us ecologists) to understand potential opportunities and constraints on long-term ground water sustainability.  The community of Borrego Springs is interesting, in that it’s water use mirrors the western U.S. water use by sector (agriculture, household use, etc.), but it is an island in terms of infrastructure connectivity.  Thus, it represents a unique setting to look at the trade-offs forcing conflict in planning for a resilient water future.  Here we are working with several centers at UCI, along with the Borrego Water Coalition, and a number of community groups from the region.

III. I am growing in my interest in developing citizen science driven projects.  I’m intrigued by the idea that different stakeholders (than the traditional professional scientist) can contribute unique insights into research projects.  Thus, I’m working with the School of Education and the Crystal Cove Alliance to bring a number of different publics into an assessment of water balance for a protected watershed that has high visibility in the community.

IV. I continue to work on the legacy research projects that we began in Arizona, focused on ecosystem water, carbon and energy exchanges over different landscapes to understand the consequences of vegetation change for the goods and services important to society.  With colleagues at the USDA-ARS in Tucson and the University of Arizona, we continue to use eddy covariance to measure the fine time-scale responses of ecosystems to weather in order to test ecosystem theory in new and exciting ways.  Of course not being on-site anymore, I rely heavily on my colleagues Russ Scott and Greg Barron-Gafford for collaboration, but some of our sites have over a decade of data now, that allow us to really start to gain insight into how these ecosystems work.

V.  One of my main goals in the early part of my career was to focus on linking physiological ecology to population biology by developing an understanding of the functional traits that matter to fecundity and life-cycle dynamics.  One of the joys of my life has been a collaboration with Larry Venable, using a desert annual plant system at the Desert Laboratory at Tumamoc Hill, in Tucson.  Here we developed a fantastic understanding of how key species in this system work, and what traits matter.  We not only focused on what matters to year-to-year variation in population dynamics, but how those dynamics and traits set the stage for competitive interactions and the long-term processes that influence species coexistence. We still actively work on this project and many of the themes and questions are being translated to the restoration and conservation science described above.

VI.  At the University of Arizona I led a group of interdisciplinary scientists who were interested in developing new tools for carrying out science in an integrated fashion.  We re-visioned the Biosphere 2 facility to house a community experiment – the Landscape Evolution Observatory.  Over a seven year period we developed a design, engaged the broader research community, connected diverse disciplines through theory and modeling, and built an amazing experiment.  The data is now just coming off of this new facility and it will shortly make big waves in the earth sciences – stay tuned!


Funded Proposals

NSF – OISE, US – Mexico workshop on shared and paired drylands.  $37,791 Meeting Grant, PI (Hutchinson), Co-PI (Huxman, Lopez-Hoffman, Flessa).  8-20-2011 to 8-19-2012, % effort 1.0%.

NSF – Geochemistry, Plant-microbe-mineral interaction as a driver for rock weathering and chemical denudation, $424,623 Research Grant, PI (Donstova), Co-PI (Huxman, Chorover, Mayer, Perdrial).  9-01-10 to 8-31-13, % effort 4.0%.

NSF – Ecology, Individual function and community processes in desert annuals, $575,000 Research Grant, PI (Venable), Co-PI (Huxman).  9-01-09 to 8-31-12, % effort 4.0%.

SFAz – Arizona Center for STEM Teachers at the Biosphere 2, $1,500,000, Training Grant, PI (Meystre), Co-PI (Huxman) 1-1-2009 to 5-31-2012, % effort – 6.0%.

NSF – Instrumentation and Facilities, Upgrade of weighing lysimeter facility for studying ecosystem and vadose zone dynamics in arid environments, $263,557, Facilities Grant, PI (Tuller), Co-PI’s (Huxman, Rasmussen, Schaap).  1-01-08 to 12-31-09, % effort – 0.125 months

NSF – Ecology, Phenotypic constraints and community structure: linking intraspecific and interspecific trade-offs, $377,331 Research Grant, PI (Angert), Co-PIs (Huxman, Venable), 1-01-07 to 12-31-10.  % effort – 2.0%

SFAz – Strategic Investment in ARENA (the ARizona ENvironmental ARray), $181,320, Research Grant, PI (Huxman – UofA), Co-PIs (Grimm – ASU, Huenneke – NAU) 1-1-2007 to 12-31-2007, % effort – 2.0%.

DOE-NICCR – Synthesis of existing datasets to explore the implications of altered precipitation for carbon and water dynamics in desert ecosystems of the southwestern US, $394,860, Research Grant, PI (Ogle, University of Wyoming), Co-PIs (Huxman – UofA, Smith – UNLV, Tissue – Texas Tech, Loik – UC Santa Cruz) 9-1-06 to 8-31-09, % effort – 2.0%  ($31,350 to UofA).

USDA CREES – Ecohydrological Training to Address Semiarid Forest Ecosystem Health and Restoration, $243,300 Training Grant, PI (Breshears), Co-PIs (Huxman, Brooks, Guertin). 8-01-07 to 7-31-10, % effort – 2%.

TRIF – Water Sustainability Program Center Directed Initiatives, Enhancing the Semiarid Ecohydrology Array (SECA) Flux Tower Network, $17,599, Research Grant, PI (Breshears), Co-PIs (Huxman – UofA, Scott and Goodrich – USDA-ARS) 7-1-2006 to 6-30-2007, % efforts – 2%.

NSF – Physics, SGER: Motility, Mixing and Multicellularity, $199,997 Research Grant, PI (Goldstein), Co-PI (Huxman, Kessler).  11-01-05 to 10-31-06, % effort – 4.0%

USDA CREES – Multidisciplinary Training in Ecohydrology for Addressing National Watershed Needs, $276,000 Training Grant, PI (Breshears), Co-PIs (Huxman, Brooks, Guertin). 8-01-05 to 7-31-08, % effort – 2%.

NSF – Ecology, Individual function and community processes in desert annuals, $450,000 Research Grant, PI (Venable), Co-PI (Huxman).  1-01-05 to 12-31-07, % effort 4.0%.

NSF – Ecosystems, Collaborative Research: Sensitivity of ecosystems processes to precipitation across a grassland to shrubland vegetation transition in the southwestern U.S., $400,000, Research Grant, PI (Huxman).  8-01-04 to 7-31-07, % effort – 8.0%

NSF – Ecology, Collaborative Research:  Vulnerability of semi-arid grasslands to encroachment by woody plants: the role of grass invasions, seasonal precipitation, and soil type $142,753, Research Grant (UTenn Lead Insitution), PI (Huxman).  9-01-04 to 8-31-07, % effort – 8.0%

NSF – Ecology, A model for species interactions:  costs and benefits of linked herbivory / pollination in Datura wrightii and Manduca sexta, $450,000, Research Grant, PI (Bronstein), Co-PIs (Huxman & Davidowitz).  9-01-03 to 08-31-06,  % effort – 8.0%

VPR – Faculty Small Grants, Sensitivity of precipitation-driven ecosystem processes to vegetation and climate change, $10,000, Research Grant, PI (Huxman).  05-14-03 to 08-15-04, % effort – 3.0%

NSF – SHARA Sci. & Tech. Center – Sustainability of semi-arid Hydrology and Riparian Areas, $13,000,000, PI (Shuttleworth and others), Participant (Huxman). 6-1-03 to 12-31-07, % effort – 4.0%

NSF – DMUU – Management of ecosystems in the US Southwest and related areas of northern Mexico in the context of complex uncertainties.  $77,513, Meeting Grant, PI (Moorehouse – UofA), Co-PIs (Overpeck, Huxman, Cornell, deSteigeur – UofA).  06-01-04 to 05-31-2004. % effort – 2.0%

International Arid Lands Consortium, Relative contribution of biological soil crusts to ecosystem CO2 flux, $40,000, Research Grant, PI (Huete – UofA), Co-PIs (Huxman – UofA).  05-01-02 to 10-30-04. % effort – 8.0%