Thank you for your interest in graduate work at the Bren School at UCSB. You
will find more information about the Donald Bren School of Environmental
Science and Management at http://www.bren.ucsb.edu
and about my students, staff, research projects and publications at http://www.biogeog.ucsb.edu.
At the Bren School I teach graduate courses in Applied Ecology, Landscape Ecology, Conservation Planning, and Biodiversity Field Survey Methods. Research in my lab is concerned with large-scale patterns in and controls on the distribution of species and with developing strategies for conserving native biodiversity. We make heavy use of digital remote sensing, GIS, and spatial analytical methods to conduct this research.
Since July 2011 I have been the Director of the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) in downtown Santa Barbara. As a result, I will be teaching a limited schedule at the Bren School.
For the next several years I anticipate pursuing the following lines of
research in my lab:
1) Bringing conservation science and geographical analysis to regional and local land use planning.
Land use planning to conserve and manage scarce natural resources is an ever more important but contentious process. Bringing better knowledge about the distribution and ecology of species and ecosystems into this process is essential and especially challenging for agroecosystems. With funding from the California Energy Commission we are modeling potential effects of changes in crops and farming practices to generate renewable biofuel feedstocks on California’s wildlife species, water use, and other key environmental indicators. With industrial ecologist Roland Geyer, we are in the middle of a 2-year NSF project combining Life Cycle Assessment and GIS to model environmental implications of biofuels in California.
2011 the California Energy Commission funded a 2-year project to improve
understanding and modelling of cumulative ecological impacts of renewable
energy development in the California deserts.
2) Biotic response to climate change in California
We are part of a research group collaborating with Lee Hannah (Conservation International) to model plant species responses to climate change in California. The overall goal of the effort, which is being funded by the California Energy Commission and Conservation International, is to a create a complete hybrid modeling package capable of simulating both species and vegetation responses to climate and land use change, and their interaction, in multiple California vegetation (ecosystem) types.
In 2011 the National Science Foundation funded a 5-year collaborative
research effort to examine the relationships between topographically controlled
microclimatic variation, variation in tree species establishment and growth,
and microscale-to-regional impacts of climate change.
This project, Do microenvironments govern
macroecology?, is now in full swing. A summary
is available here.
3) Landscape ecology of California grasslands and oak woodlands
Together with Bruce Mahall (UCSB) and Claudia Tyler (UCSB), we are conducting long term research on the ecology and management of oak woodlands and grasslands, including large scale grazing experiments at UCSB's Sedgwick Reserve.
4) Ecology and restoration of riparian and floodplain ecosystems
Funded by the CALFED Bay Delta Program, we are participating in an interdisciplinary investigation, led by Tom Dunne (Bren School), of how restructuring and rescaling of a channel and floodplain to diminished flows influences physical processes, and how the altered physical conditions affect macroinvertebrates, fish, and floodplain plants. The main focus is on how river restoration affects the abundance and distribution of salmonid and non-salmonid fishes at critical life stages, initially at the scale of a single project reach (~1.4 miles of the Merced River).
5) Monitoring and assessment of national parks
We are just wrapping up a 2-year collaboration with the National Park Service to conduct a natural resource condition assessment for three parks in the Mediterranean and San Francisco Bay Area Vital Signs Monitoring Networks: Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, Pinnacles National Monument, and John Muir National Historic Site. The assessment characterized natural resources in these parks in terms of their setting and significance, provide an interdisciplinary evaluation of current condition status for park natural resources (spatial report-out, by park subareas), identified and documented critical resource data and knowledge gaps, and highlighted existing/emerging resource condition threats and stressors.
The lab currently includes 4 PhD students (2 in residence) and 2 postdoctoral researchers (1 in residence). We collaborate with many other individuals on campus and from around the world, and often have one or more domestic or international scholars in residence.
Every student is provided with a work station and networked desktop
computer. Normally students are supported on research grants or fellowships,
although occasionally students are employed as teaching assistants or
instructors on campus and several have been employed as research assistants at
At this time I do not anticipate taking on any new Ph.D. students in Fall 2013, but that could change depending on the level of my research funding. In evaluating applicants I consider educational background, research interests, academic record and letters of reference. The Biogeography Lab is very much a team effort and I am looking for students who are excited by scientific research and who enjoy working in a collaborative, interdisciplinary setting.
In general, because of the high cost of out-of-state tuition, I do not admit
foreign students unless they have some financial support. Also, I do not admit
Master's students, but do advise students and groups in the Bren School's MESM
Admission to the Bren School is ultimately decided by our graduate admission committees. I would encourage you to consult the Bren School website and to contact the graduate coordinator to learn more about application procedures. If possible, I would also encourage you to visit the campus and the Biogeography Lab.
Again, thanks for your interest.