Current Research

We actively collaborate with multiple local and international initiatives. Each of these funded multi team collaborations provides travel, field work, and research support as well as many opportunities for collaboration for postdocs, graduate students, and undergraduates as well as lab collaborators.

Lab research is currently focused on the following areas:

  • Scaling in biology and allometry
  • Forecasting the fate of biodiversity and the biosphere
  • Trait-based ecology as a foundation for a more predictive ecology and biodiversity science
  • Biodiversity informatics 
  • Macroecology of biodiversity gradients 
  • The ecology and evolution of plant functional and physiological integration
  • Long-term monitoring of populations, ecological communities, and ecosystems – Tropical and temperate forests and high alpine environments.


Conservation International (CI) and six  international universities have announced the launch of a

Spatial priorities for species in response to climate change. Areas in blue represent areas in each country that are most effective at representing plants and vertebrates in both current climates and in future climate projections.

team of scientists that will provide tropical countries with the information needed to avoid extinctions due to climate change.  The project, Spatial Planning for Protected Areas in Response to Climate Change (SPARC), will use a big data approach to plan for effective conservation in the coming decades by modeling the climate change response of over 100,000 species in tropical ecosystems on three continents.  SPARC will model the effect ofScreen Shot 2020-12-29 at 6.24.16 PM climate change on rare tropical plant and animal species.  This will allow governments, scientists and conservationists to identify regions and ecosystems that, if protected, preserve biodiversity and critical ecosystems.  The goal is to build networks of protected areas that reduce extinctions due to climate change, at the same time delivering clean water, tourism opportunities and numerous other benefits to people.


Now funded by NSF Advancing Biodiversity Informatics, this iPlant/Cyverse and NCEAS working group has developed a standardized workflow and informatics engine for the integration, access, and discovery of disparate Screen Shot 2020-12-29 at 6.27.29 PMsources of botanical information. The BIEN working group is a BIEN_2012conduit for standardizing, integrating others people’s data so as to do repeatable Science. Further, the working group is utilizing these standardized data to the create several deliverables including geographic range maps for all plant species, an integrated trait database, and a species-level phylogeny for Embryophytes of the New World.

BIEN is a network of ecologists, botanists, and computer scientists working together to document global patterns of plant diversity, function and distribution.

Here via the BIEN you will find access to:

  • Georeferenced plant observations from herbarium, plot, and trait records;
  • Plot inventories and surveys;
  • Species geographic distribution maps;
  • Plant traits;
  • A species-level phylogeny for all plants in the New World;
  • Cross-continent, continent, and country-level species lists.

Access Data – See the data overview page to access public data, request access to private data, and find data tools and products.

The Forest MacroSystems Network 

 A National Science Foundation funded project on the experimental effects of temperature big-21on biodiversity. The purpose of this project is to generate and test theory for how temperature impacts biodiversity through its effect on biochemical processes and metabolic rate. A combination of standardized surveys in the field and controlled experiments in the field and laboratory measure diversity of three taxa — trees, invertebrates, and microbes — and key biogeochemical processes of decomposition in six cropped-10816249174_61c063170b_o1.jpgforests distributed along a geographic gradient of increasing


temperature from cold temperate to warm tropical.  This ambitious, multi-pronged, highly integrated program of theoretical and empirical research takes advantage of the special expertise at the three collaborating institutions — University of New MexicoUniversity of Arizona, and University of Oklahoma.

Bridging Biodiversity and Conservation Science

The Prof. Enquist is a core faculty participant in the program. The BBCS will mentor postdoctoral researchers through collaborative, interdisciplinary teams to create novel synthetic research in biodiversity and conservation science and other fields of study, specifically public health, epidemiology and emerging diseases; public policy, public administration, and governance; national security; or informatics.

NERC GEM – TRAIT or better known as CHAMBASA –

 In 2013, the GEM-TRAIT project will focus on a series of forest plots along an elevational transect – from treeline in the

DSC_5844Andes down to the Amazon. This project, in collaboration with the ABERG group aims to collect primary data on tree functional diversity. Over the next five years, the GEM-TRAIT protocol will be applied across all of the GEM plots across the globe headed by Prof. Yadvinder Malhi at Oxford University, UK with collaborators B.J. Enquist, Greg Asner, Miles Silman, and Sandra Diaz.  This ambitious field campaign will result in the first global dataset linking tropical tree diversity to ecosystem function. We will also work with the world’s most cutting-edge airborne remote sensing technology to explore how functional diversity and ecosystem function scale andvary at landscape scales. The first and probably most ambitious traits campaign, in the Peruvian Andes, kicked off in April 2013 and continued until November 2013. It has been named CHAMBASA (CHallenging Attempt to Measure Biotic Attributes along the Slope of the Andes). Chambasa is slang for “a lot of work” in Spanish.

Visualizing the Future of Our Forests 

In collaboration with the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, the Institute for the Study of Planet Earth, and iPlant, we are using informatics and high performance computing to visualize future forecasts of our forests. Our site, was released April 2015. It is still being updated and improved. Here you can discover and learn how given current and projected future climate and land use changes, how will our western fo4545rests change and what will our western forests come to look like?  Why Forest Forecatsts? We wanted to come up with a set of novel visualization tools but the challenge is to overcome computational limitations and disciplinary boundaries to provide useful forecasts for land managers, the general public, and for education. More specifically, given projected rates of climate change and the natural history of species there is much uncertainty in just what western landscapes, forests, cropped-untitled3.jpgand ecosystems will look like. While we can model single-species changes, advancing more complicated models for community- and forest-level is much more complicated due to unforeseen effects of species and abiotic interactions and novel climates. Perhaps more importantly, climate change is difficult for the public to understand – especially what climate change means for your ‘backyard’. Scientists, agencies, NGOs and land managers need access to ways and tools to easily communicate results and climate change forecasts to the public.  Goals: (i) To utilize new computational techniques and collaborative networks to integrate massive amounts of data from forest surveys, species observations, and the latest climate change simulations to provide detailed geographic forecasts; (ii) to build cyberinfrastructure with a web portal front end for the visualization and exploration of climate and forest change scenario at local and regional scales.

NSF – Developing integrated trait-based scaling theory to predict community

Forest carbon stocks in the southern Peruvian Amazon – from collaborator Greg Asner, Carnegie Airborne Observatory

change and tropical forest function in light of global change. Starting late 2015, this National Science Foundation funded collaborative project, based at the University of Arizona, collaborates with the labs of Van SavageGreg Asner, and Lisa Patrick Bentley.  Our work will build on and integrate theory with the sub-disciplines of ecosystem ecology, remote sensing, ecophysiology, and Earth systems science. Our overarching objective is to leverage disparate and novel data sources, new technical advances in remote sensing together with an empirically-tested theoretical framework to gain a more mechanistic trait and metabolic based understandingcropped-img_17331.jpg of the effects of drought and temperature on tropical tree mortality and productivity.

NSF – Universal hydraulics of the flowering plants.  

A National Science Foundation project, led by  Jarmila Pitterman, with collaborators including Van Savage, is assessing the diversity andevolution of xylem hydraulic strategies and the evolution of whole-plant water transport scaling.

NETI – Network for Ecological Theory Integration.

An international working group focused on developing more “efficient” theories in ecology, and for the application of such theories to understand the phenomenology of complex ecological systems from local to the biosphere scale, their response to human driven changes (i.e.

Created with GIMP on a Mac

climate change) and to guide efforts to set-up of experiments and to design large-scale monitoring programs. We represent several different perspectives in theoretical ecology, who have come together inspired by the progress that each perspective has made, with the goal of pursuing linkages and integration between our perspectives that can accelerate progress towards a more predictive science via a general theory of biodiversity.

Department of Energy – Experimental assessment of the controls of watershed function –

This work is focused in and around the Rocky Mountain Biological Lab, in Gothic Colorado. This Watershed Function Scientific Focus Area (SFA) to quantify how cropped-14420037617_c3cde4a489_o1.jpgperturbations to mountainous watershed—floods, drought, fire and early snowmelt—impact the downstream delivery of water, nutrients, carbon, and metals. Researchers will observe and DSC_0929model watershed response to perturbations over seasonal to decadal timeframes, and from genome to watershed scales.

FunCaB – The role of Functional group interactions in mediating climate change impacts on the Carbon dynamics and Biodiversity of alpine ecosystems (FunCaB) and the Plant Functional Trait Courses.

Funded via the Norwegian National Science Foundation. Led by Vigdis Vandvik at the DSC_2963University of Bergen, Norway, this project brings together and international collaborative research network.  Alpine regions contribute important ecosystem functions and services, and are at the same time particularly vulnerable to the ongoing climate change. FunCaB, aims at understanding alpine biodiversity and carbon (C) dynamics under climate change. Specifically, we will disentangle the roles of and interactions between graminoids, forbs, woody and non-vascular plants and bacteria vs. fungi communities under climate change.Objectives: (i) Experimentally assess the effects of temperature and precipitation on the composition and functional groups of alpine ecosystems; (ii) Quantify the impacts and contributions of directDSC_3174

The role of Functional group interactions in mediating climate change impacts on the Carbon dynamics and Biodiversity of alpine ecosystems (FunCaB)

climatic effects vs. indirect effects (through changes in interactions among functional groups); (iii) Use an Earth System Model to understand the patterns functional diversity and consequences for ecosystem C dynamics and climate feedbacks under different future climate scenarios. To explore these questions, FunCaB will combine gradient studies, field experiments and model simulations.

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