Current Research Projects:

CA Futures

Most California entities responsible for land stewardship currently have no effective way of describing and evaluating climate futures, or of incorporating them into decision-making processes. So, in a collaboration across EEB, Computer Sciences, the CA Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, we are developing CA Futures: a state-of-the-art user-friendly tool that maps future species distributions, habitat connectivity and the predicted outcomes of land management interventions, using the best available biodiversity and landscape data. California Futures represents a leap forward in the computational power and ecological realism of climate futures projections, and will democratize who can access this information and participate in the state’s large land planning efforts. CA Futures will enable climate-resilient land conservation decisions that support both nature and people, and expand tribal co-leadership in California land conservation decision-making processes.

UC Center for Climate Adaptive Biodiversity Conservation

Rapid development and testing of climate change adaptation strategies to support the species that underpin the resilience and stability of whole ecosystems is critical to sustaining both California’s unique biodiversity and the fundamental social goods that it supports. However, our ability to tackle the threat of climate change is limited by scarce data on new climate-targeted conservation strategies, and a lack of coordination among researchers across disciplines, and between different sectors.  With an UC Multi-campus Research Programs and Initiatives (MRPI) planning grant, we are convening a new multi-campus collaboration (with UC Santa Cruz, UC Santa Barbara and UC Berkeley) to propel innovation and research on cutting edge approaches to adapting biodiversity to climate change. The proposed Center will bring together UC researchers, in collaboration with state agencies and community partners, to guide conservation planning in California terrestrial ecosystems, globally recognized for their high proportion of unique and imperiled biodiversity.

Living with Extremes – Predicting Ecological and Evolutionary Responses to Climate Change in a High-Altitude Alpine Songbird

The ability of wildlife  to cope with climate change depends on the capacity to do one or more of three things: move to suitable areas, adapt through evolution, or adjust behavior and physiology. Climate change can force mountaintop wildlife onto an “escalator to extinction” because no higher-elevation options exist. This project examines how two related mountaintop songbirds, the Brown-capped Rosy-Finch and the Sierra Nevada Gray-Crowned Rosy-Finch, have combined these strategies to specialize and persist in extreme alpine environments over time.

How do interacting global changes affect the dynamics and biodiversity of terrestrial ecosystems?

Ecosystem responses to climate changes:

  • How are North America’s highest-elevation breeding birds affected by climate and biodiversity changes?
  • How are climate and land use changes affecting treeline and forest ecotones in central Mexico’s volcanic arc?
  • How have California desert plant communities changed over half a century? Nitrogen pollution and exotics: How does nitrogen deposition influence plant invasions that threaten endemic-rich California serpentine grasslands?

What are the implications for ecosystem stewardship of global, directional environmental changes?

Conservation practice: How can we effectively steward nature through climate change?

  • What can we learn from past avian conservation translocations to guide decisions about future assisted range shifts?
  • How can riparian restoration in California maximize benefits to coastal stream communities and their users?
  • Adaptation planning: What can California’s agencies and land managers do with climate impact and vulnerability information to ensure effective ecosystem stewardship?
  • How can we mitigate stressors in North American alpine ecosystems to increase their capacity to adapt to climate change?
  • Ecosystem-based adaptation: How can ecosystem-based adaptation enhance societal resilience to climate change?

How do species losses affect the dynamics of wild ecosystems?

Ecosystem multifunctionality: How does biodiversity change influence multiple ecological processes at multiple scales?
Community disassembly: How is species’ vulnerability linked to their ecological roles through traits?

Past Projects

Anticipating species responses: Why are California valley oaks in decline, and what can they teach us about species conservation in a changing climate?
Extending policy: Can the Endangered Species Act address nitrogen deposition as a threat to biodiversity?
Climate change and ecosystem services: How does sea level rise affect the ability of Pacific estuaries to buffer coastal nitrogen pollution?
Biodiversity and ecosystem services: How do remnant forests sustain rural livelihoods in southwestern Ethiopia?
Species widowhood and taxon substitution: Can mutualists survive the loss of their obligate partners?
The Coyote Ridge biodiversity experiment: How do realistic and random species losses affect serpentine grassland ecosystems?
The Jasper Ridge Global Change Experiment: How do climate change (warming and increased precipitation), elevated CO2, and nitrogen deposition interact in their effects on California grassland diversity and functioning?
Ecosystem service valuation: What are the economic costs of tolerating tamarisk invasion in the U. S. Southwest?
Conservation philanthropy: How can the funding of conservation science be improved?
Island restoration: What are the effects of invasive animals and their eradication on island ecosystems?
Grassland restoration: Can seeding with key native species effectively reduce new exotic invasions in California grasslands?