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In our lab, we study interactions between terrestrial ecosystems, the global climate system, and other drivers of global change. We tend to focus on plants, but as many of our colleagues remind us, we cannot forget about other players in the ecosystem, including insects, vertebrates, and soils. We use a combination of empirical studies at multiple scales and modeling to answer our questions. Through our work, we hope to improve our understanding of how terrestrial ecosystems regulate climate and global change. We use this work to improve the reliability of future projections of our ever-changing world.

Below is list of some ongoing projects in the lab. We are always looking to start new collaborations! Please reach out if you'd like to collaborate on a project.



Physiological acclimation to environmental change

Key lab members: Nick Smith, Lizz Waring

We are interested in understanding how plants adjust physiologically to environmental changes. We are attacking this problem from multiple angles. First, we are working to develop a theory of physiological acclimation to environmental change. We are also using empirical studies to further examine the mechanisms underlying these responses from the leaf to the whole plant.

Photo: Cotton growing under varied light and nitrogen conditions to explore mechanisms of acclimation.



The impact of nutrients on physiology and competitive outcomes

Key lab members: Nick Smith, Lizz Waring, Leah Ortiz

In collaboration with the Nutrient Network, We are examining how nutrient addition influences plant physiological processess and how this might feedback to influence competitive outcomes. As such, we have set up a NutNet site in Lubbock. At the site, we have many species co-occurring with vastly different physiological strategies. The experiment here, and the comparison to other NutNet sites around the world, will be used to help us understand how these strategies are influenced by nutrient (N, P, K) addition and how these changes may impact plant community structure.

Photo: Evan falling into the mesquite during the Fall 2018 NutNet harvest.



The influence of nutrient acquisition strategies on plant responses to global change

Key lab members: Nick Smith, Evan Perkowski

We are interested in understanding how nutrient acquisition strategies, and plant interactions with belowground symbionts in particular, may influence long-term responses to global change. Should nutrient acquisition strategy be part of the plant functional type framework of Earth System Models?

Photo: Soybean root nodules formed by bacterial symbiont.



Land management feedbacks to global change

Key lab members: Nick Smith, Risa McNellis, Dinah Borlaug

Producers have a plethora of options available for managing their land. Options are typically chosen with yield and costs in mind. These options may have large consequences for feedbacks to climate. In fact, some may benefit yield, reduce cost, and result in a negative feedback to climate change! We are interested in understanding what those net positive land management decisions are and communicating this to a broad audience.

Photo: Hypothesized effect of different land management practices on climate, yield, cost, energy use, and water use.