Monday, December 2, 2013

Travel grants enable Yao Liu, a Botany student, to travel to University of Wisconsin – Madison to conduct Quaternary research

Yao Liu, PhD student in Botany & the Program in Ecology, in Professor Steve Jackson’s lab, is expanding the search for past novel and disappearing climate states globally and into the deeper past. Climate change can trigger the reshuffling of species into communities with no modern analog. Current work has linked no-analog communities and climates at continental scales.

Yao is assessing the emergence of no-analog communities during warmer-than-present time periods, such as the last-interglacial (the Eemian, ~ 120,000 years ago), to evaluate how no-analog climates and high climate velocities are related to community shuffling.

Areas in red indicate end-21st-century climates with no close analog
in late 20th-century climates. From Williams et al. 2007
Yao Liu received support from the Botany Northen Fellowship and the Shlemon Center Student Travel Grant for traveling to University of Wisconsin – Madison in November 2013. There she collaborated with Dr. John W. (Jack) Williams, who is conducting foundational, high profile research aimed at understanding the relationship between novel climates and no-analog communities.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Professor Reiners wins ESA's top honors

UW Botany Professor William Reiners received the Eminent Ecologist Award, the highest honor from the Ecological Society of America that recognizes a senior ecologist who has made an “outstanding body of ecological work or sustained ecological contributions of extraordinary merit.”

He received this award during the Ecological Society of America’s (ESA) 98th Annual Meeting held in the Minneapolis Convention Center, MN (Aug 4-9, 2013).

Read the full story at University of Wyoming’s Public Relations office website.

Additional photos from the awards ceremony are on our Google+ photo albums

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Dr. Dan Tinker's work highlighted in WyoFile

Dr. Dan Tinker's research on the 1988 Yellowstone fire is highlighted in WyoFile (Sept 9, 2013).

Dr. Dan Tinker (second from left) with his research team
Excerpt from the article:
"Tinker’s work, which includes years of data collection from the park — some of which has already been published — will eventually incorporate the use of a supercomputer to show how forests respond and regenerate after a fire, how the landscape changes over time and how it could burn again. The three-dimensional fire simulations will show how these young forests might burn and how that is different from old forests.
- Kelsey Dayton" 
Read the complete story at:

To learn more about his research and fellow researchers, visit The Tinker Lab for Forest & Fire Ecology

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Professor David Williams is the new head of the Botany Department

Professor David Williams was appointed as the new head of the Botany Department. He holds joint appointment in the Departments of Botany and Ecosystem Science & Management.  He is also Faculty Director of the Stable Isotope Facility in the Berry Biodiversity Conservation Center and is on the faculty in the Program in Ecology.

David Williams grew up in central Texas in Austin. He developed a fascination for nature and botany working in the nursery business and exploring the karst landscape of the Texas Hill Country. He earned a BA with a major in Botany at the University of Texas in Austin in 1985 and MS in Rangeland Ecology at Texas A&M University in College Station in 1988. He then moved to Pullman, Washington to continue his graduate studies at Washington State University where he earned his PhD in Botany in 1992.  Following postdoctoral studies at the University of Utah, Professor Williams joined the faculty at the University of Arizona in 1995 where he served as Assistant and Associate Professor in the School of Renewable Natural Resources.  He joined the faculty at the University of Wyoming in 2003.

Professor Williams has authored or co-authored over 80 peer reviewed journal articles and book chapters in plant biology and ecology. His research investigates plant-environment interactions in terrestrial environments of the world with particular focus on savannas, grasslands and deserts. Major research questions of societal importance address the potential responses of water-limited ecosystems to changes in climate, atmospheric chemistry and vegetation composition.

He is happily married (25 years now) to Rene¹ Williams, a former CPA turned artist and tennis addict. David and Rene¹ have three sons: Austen (23), Tanner (21) and Cullen (17), who all love Wyoming and the outdoors.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

"Mean seeds" and their role in grass awn migration disease in sporting dogs

Grass awn migration disease that affects sporting dogs is thought to have increased over the past few decades.

Short bristles found at the end of the grass seeds, especially in unmoved and natural grasslands, can infect sport dogs and at times they can be fatal.

Sharp pointed part of the barbed seed can travel into the dog's body and lodge themselves in many vital organs causing serious infections resulting in its death.

Dr. William Lauenroth received a grant from the Canine Health Foundation to assess the impact of this disease and also create a list of the problem green seeds and their planting frequency in the marginal croplands of the US.

Canada wild rye (photo courtesy: US Fish & Wildlife Service

Listen to Dr. Lauenroth talk about this disease, challenges associated with diagnosing it, and planting patterns of Canada wild rye, a grass with sharp pointed seed with awn in the marginal croplands in the US Midwest.

Access the podcast at the Canine Health Foundation's website -

Friday, August 9, 2013

Training at UW leads to faculty positions for two researchers

Zach Gompert (UW Ph.D. 2012, Program in Ecology) and Tom Parchman (postdoctoral research 2008-2013) recently accepted assistant professorships at universities in the western U.S.  Zach was hired as an evolutionary biologist at Utah State University and Tom was hired as a genome biologist at the University of Nevada-Reno.  Both were very successful in their research while in Alex Buerkle's lab in Botany, where they developed their research expertise in computational biology and evolutionary genetics.

Zach (pictured above) plans to continue his research on butterfly evolution in Wyoming and for years to come is likely to be a regular research visitor to the UW-National Park Service Research at AMK Ranch in Grand Teton National Park.
Tom (pictured above) will continue to work on bird-pine coevolution and lodgepole population genetics, as well as population genetics of fish species that are threatened by hybridization with non-native species.

To learn more about the research conducted by Alex Buerkle and his team, please visit his lab's website.

--- Contributed by Dr. Alex Buerkle

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Christopher Deaderick talked about regrowth following Mountain Pine Beetle infestation in conifer forests

For the past decade, Mountain Pine beetles (MPB) have invaded millions of hectares of forest in Colorado and Wyoming, causing extensive conifer mortality.

While it is commonly believed that growth rates of subcanopy trees increase following removal of overstory trees, limited empirical data exist to confirm this.

Tree ring data can provide insights into such growth releases, as well as chronological occurrence of past climate and disturbance events and the severity and frequency of these events.

Christopher Deaderick, majoring in Biology and Environment and Natural Resources (ENR), was selected for the 2013 McNair Scholar. His research focused on examining the magnitude and timing of growth release of subcanopy trees following MPB-induced overstory mortality, with the objective of estimating the differences in growth release among cohorts (vertical tree canopy layers) and among tree species.

Christopher presented his research in the 21st annual McNair Scholars Research Symposium in UW Wyoming Union on July 29, 2013. McNair Scholars program prepares undergraduate students to pursue graduate studies by providing opportunities to define goals, engage in research, and develop the skills and student/faculty mentor relationships critical to success at the doctoral level.”

Dr. Daniel Tinker (Associate Professor, Botany Department) was Christopher’s research mentor. Dr. Tinker’s research focuses on forest & fire ecology.  For further information visit his lab’s website.

--- Contributed by Christopher Deaderick

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Adam Grasmick presents his Research Work in the 21st Annual McNair Scholars Research Symposium

Adam Grasmick, Botany major, described his research on leaf anatomy and morphology of Tillandsia complanata, a widespread epiphytic species from the Bromeliaceae. Very little is known about leaf structure differences in bromeliads in relation to light exposure, and his research is one of the first studies to address this question.

Bromeliads are ecologically important epiphytic and terrestrial monocots in the New World tropics and subtropics and play an important role in sustaining the biodiversity. These specimens were collected from the Cloud forest in the Napo Province, Ecuador.

Adam’s presentation was one of the twelve talks delivered in the 21st annual McNair Scholars Research Symposium in UW Wyoming Union on Monday, July 29, 2013. McNair Scholars program prepares undergraduate students “to pursue graduate studies by providing opportunities to define goals, engage in research, and develop the skills and student/faculty mentor relationships critical to success at the doctoral level.”  Dr. Greg Brown (Chair, Botany Department) is serving as Adam’s mentor for this research project.

--- Contributed by Adam Grasmick

Friday, April 12, 2013

Eighth graders measure and analyze the spectral reflection pattern of live and dead plant leaves

Fifty-seven, eighth grade students at Laramie Junior High School learned how earth surface objects interact in the visible and invisible regions of the electromagnetic spectrum (light) and measured and analyzed spectral properties of live and dead plant leaves.

Students in the first batch are
collecting spectral data (Apr 2, 2013)
Describing the value of this hands-on exercise, Mr. Ron Whitman, eighth grade physical sciences teacher, said, “[M]y approach to teaching science has always been having the students experience the practical applications of science. Ramesh Sivanpillai from the University of Wyoming in Laramie has been presenting information about remote sensing to my classes for several years.  My 8th grade physical science class is an introductory class for physics and chemistry. One of the topics discussed is electromagnetic waves. Ramesh presented information to my classes for two, 90 minutes sessions. Ramesh introduces the electromagnetic spectrum with a very informative power point presentation. Most of the two 90 minute sessions the students get to use … spectrometers to measure and eventually calculate the percent reflectance of particular wavelengths emitted by dead vs. living deciduous leaves and dead vs. living coniferous needles. This year the students got to plot their data on a computer spreadsheet and have the program calculate and graph the data. Wow! This was awesome. Students compared their own data and other student’s data and discussed what was similar, different and reasons for error. In my assessment of the two 90 minute sessions my students continue to be excited about remote sensing and the tools, both simple and complex, that are able to detect different frequencies of the electromagnetic spectrum.”

Students in one of the three classes are entering their data in spreadsheet
to calculate and graph reflectance values of live and dead leaves (Apr 10, 2013)
Students’ feedback highlighted different aspects of this lecture and hands-on exercise (NOTE: for privacy, students are identified by their initials):

Verifying that all numbers were entered correctly
(Class period 3: Apr 10, 2013)
This experiment helped to understand chapter 6 by showing how the colors change…” - DG
This helped me understand color more. The effects of man can affect earth so much.” – CM
It helped me understand that not all light is visible to us as humans. It helped me understand that nothing has a true color it is just what color we see it in, how our eyes work.” - HS
This hands-on exercise helped me understand colors and the interaction of radiation and it was fun.”- NM
This exercise taught me that different colors reflect different amounts of light, and dead and live deciduous and coniferous trees do too.” – MS
This hands-on exercise helped me to understand the interaction of electromagnetic radiation better because we had the chance to look at real results and also examples. I learned a lot.” – LC
This activity helped me to understand how things may differ in a way we may not be able to understand at first glance. I also learned how to use Excel.” – BC
“…I learned about all the actual colors of things like leaves and flowers. This experiment was really enjoyable.” – IW
This helped because after doing the hands-on activities and seeing them in the graph compared to everyone else, I saw and understood how light reflects and how the basics of remote sensing works.” – TN
This hands-on exercise helped me to understand the interaction of electromagnetic radiation by showing me that it is used in everyday life by a lot of different careers. It was interested and showed me science is more than formulas.” – AM
This event was conducted on April 2, 3, 9 and 10 as part of AmericaView’s Earth Observation Day activities aimed at introducing teachers and students to remote sensing science and applications.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Botany graduate student, David Reed, wins the prestigious Outstanding Student Paper Award at the 2012 AGU annual meeting

David Reed, a PhD student in Brent Ewers’ Plant Physiological Ecology lab, won an Outstanding Student Paper Award (OSPA) for his poster titled "Contrasting ecosystem drivers of mass and energy fluxes at upper and lower elevation sagebrush steppe sites" presented at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) 2012 annual meeting in San Francisco.

AGU awards OSPAs “to promote, recognize and reward undergraduate, Master’s and PhD students for quality research in the geophysical sciences.” These awards are a “great honor for young scientists at the beginning of their careers.” The AGU annual meeting is one of the largest meetings with more 20,000 scientists and students in attendance and only the 3-5% of the student presenters in each session is awarded an OSPA.

David received his award in the session "Climatic Controls on Net Ecosystem Exchange." Dr. Ewers (Botany Associate Professor), Dr. Pendall (Botany Associate Professor), and Dr. Kwon (former Botany Postdoctoral Research Associate in Ewers lab) were co-authors of this poster.

To learn more about the research conducted by Brent Ewers and his students, please visit the lab's website.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Laramie middle- and high-school students’ work showcased in 2012 AmericaView Fall Technical Meeting

Posters prepared by Laramie K-12 students on display in the main 
atrium of the USGS EROS Data Center, Sioux Falls, SD

Three K-12 students from Laramie had a busy summer measuring surface temperatures of natural and man-made features and the spectral reflectance values of leaves. These research activities were part of WyomingView's Earth Observation Day activities. Their findings were showcased in the 2012 AmericaView Fall Technical Meeting in Sioux Falls, SD.

Arundathi Nair, an 5th grader in the Spring Creek Elementary School explored whether man-made surfaces (roads and concrete pavement) were hotter than a natural surface (grass lawn).  Her measurements taken at 10 am, 1 pm, and 6 pm revealed that temperature of all surfaces rose to their maximum values at 1 pm.  The temperature of the road was higher than that of concrete pavement.  Grass surface had the lowest temperature, which led her to conclude that man-made surfaces were hotter than natural surfaces.

Tire mulch mat installed in this park recorded an 
average temperature of 65°C (150 °F) at noon, while the
average temperature of the grass lawn and concrete
pavement were 
34°C and  25°C respectively
Sarah Arulsamy, an 8th grader in the Laramie Junior High School was also interested in how different urban features absorbed radiation at different times of the day.  She measured the surface temperature of concrete sidewalks, grass lawns, asphalt roads and tire mulch in a park (right) at 8 am, 12 am, 4 pm, and 8 pm.  She measured each features at four locations (except tire mulch which was measured at only one location) in her neighborhood on five days.  Her research revealed that the temperature of roads and pavement were higher than grass lawns at any time of the day.  She noticed that the surface of the tire mulch in the playground recorded the highest temperature 65°C (150 °F) at noon.

Changes in the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index 
values of aspen and cottonwood leaves sampled in Laramie, WY

Mrudhula Baskaran a 10th grader at Laramie High School monitored spectral reflectance changes in aspen and cottonwood leaves.  Using an Alta II Reflectance Spectrometer she measured the spectral reflectance values of 10 leaves from each tree and computed the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI).  She repeated these experiments on the 24th August, and the 2nd and 9th of September, 2012.  While the NDVI values of aspen trees declined during this period, the cottonwood trees showed no change.  This study helped her to see the relationship between the changes in leaf color and reflectance.

Thanks to Dr. Alan Buss, University of Wyoming, for loaning the infrared thermometer and Alta Spectroradiometer, and Dr. Kevin Czajkowski, University of Toledo, for providing the infrared thermometer used in these studies.