Austin Rutherford is a Ph.D. student in the School of Natural Resources and the Environment. He received his bachelor’s degree in biology from Indiana University. Before graduate school, Austin worked with the U.S. Geological Survey examining climate change impacts on biological soil crusts. His current research focuses on shrub encroachment as a form of rangeland desertification. Austin utilizes field-based experiments to investigate the critical seedling establishment phase of velvet mesquite shrubs in Sonoran Desert grasslands. These results will inform the development of an interactive software tool to allow land managers across the Southwest to evaluate their landscape’s susceptibility to shrub encroachment.