The University of Arizona

Nathan Pierce | Global Change

Nathan Pierce

Research Interests: 

I am a PhD student in the School of Natural Resources and Environment with a minor in Global Change. My general interests lie in the effects of anomalous climate variability on plant and ecosystem ecology. I also follow my interest in science education through classroom-based K-12 outreach activities and the UA Certificate in College Teaching Program through the University of Arizona's Office of Instruction and Assessment.  

Abiotic drivers such as climate variability and land management decisions have driven a marked transition in semiarid grasslands and savannas in which unpalatable and noxious woody plants have proliferated at the expense of grasses and forbs. This transition is an indicator of desertification and carries with it multi-dimensional implications for carbon cycling, land-atmosphere interactions, biodiversity conservation, livestock production, and human livelihoods. We know surprisingly little about the mechanisms underlying these grassland-to-shrubland transitions. My research approaches this knowledge gap by investigating relationships between woody plants and grasses along a shrub encroachment gradient from the perspective of patch- and neighborhood-scale plant life form interactions. My experiments are designed to assess plant-plant interactions under scenarios of intensifying shrub encroachment in order to identify tipping points at which fine-scale variation in local biological patterns and processes are overwhelmed by the effects of broad-scale climate-related drivers. 

Major: 
School of Natural Resources & the Environment
PHD Major Advisor: 
Archer