Neil Cobb


Research Professor and Director, Merriam-Powell Center for Environmental Research
Phone: 928-607-4075
Office: PET330
More info: Merriam-Powell Center for Environmental Research; Colorado Plateau Museum of Arthropod Biodiversity 

Research/teaching interests

  • arthropod biodiversity
  • ecological gradients
  • climate and land-use change

Academic highlights

  • PhD: Northern Arizona University, Biology, 1993
  • MS: Northern Arizona University, Biology, 1989
  • BS: Oregon State University, Entomology, 1981

My current research interests include:

  1. ecological patterns in arthropod biodiversity and the processes that mediate biodiversity
  2. population and community responses to ecological gradients
  3. climate change impacts on species distributions

Although my research is not limited to specific taxa I primarily work on arthropods and vascular plants.

Through Colorado Plateau Center for Biodiversity, I am interested in documenting arthropod biodiversity across environmental gradients.

The Biodiversity Center specializes in developing regional arthropod biodiversity databases for the Colorado Plateau that can be incorporated into species distribution-climate change models.

My teaching interests cover the fields of entomology and ecology. 

In addition to my research faculty appointment in the Department of Biological Sciences, I serve as the Director of the Merriam-Powell Center for Environmental Research. The Merriam-Powell Center promotes environmental research, education, and outreach, which provides me with unlimited opportunities to interact with faculty and students from multiple departments from computer science to geography.

Submitted/In Press (2000-20015)

Breshears D.D., J.P. Field, D.J. Law J.C. Villegas, C.D. Allen, N.S. Cobb and J.B. Bradford. 2015. Rapid Broad-scale Ecosystem Changes and Their Consequences for Biodiversity. Climate Change and Biodiversity, 2nd Ed.; T. E. Lovejoy & L. Hannah, Eds.; Yale Univ. Press. (Accepted with revisions).

Redmond, M.D., N.S. Cobb, M.J. Clifford, and N.N. Barger 2015.  Woodland recovery following drought-induced tree mortality across an environmental stress gradient. Global Change Biology doi: 10.1111/gcb.12976.

Krause, C.M. N.S. Cobb and D.D. Pennington. 2015. Range shifts and extinction risk under future scenarios of climate change: Dispersal ability matters for Colorado Plateau endemic plants.  Natural Areas Journal. 35(3):428-438 doi:

Redmond, M.D., E.S. Golden, N.S. Cobb, and N.N. Barger. 2014. Vegetation Management across Colorado Plateau BLM Lands: 1950–2003. Rangeland Ecology & Management, 67(6):636-640.

Smith, D.S., J. Burton, J.S. Higgins, and N.S. Cobb. 2014 Bee diversity and abundance along an elevational gradient in northern Arizona.  (Provisionally accepted, The Colorado Plateau V: (van Riper, C., III, B. and T. D. Sisk, Eds). University of Arizona Press, Tucson, AZ).

Blaker E.A., J.P. Strange, R. James, and N.S. Cobb. 2014. PCR reveals high prevalence of non-sporulating Nosema bombi (Microsporidia) infections in bumble bees (Bombus) in northern Arizona. (In Press, Journal of Invertebrate Pathology).

Delph R.J., M.J. Clifford, P.L. Ford, and N.S. Cobb. 2014. The Impact of Pinyon Pine Mortality on Ground-Dwelling Arthropod Communities. 74(2):162-184. doi:

Higgins, J.E, N.S. Cobb, S. Sommer, R.J. Delph, and S.L. Brantley. 2014. Ground dwelling arthropod responses to successional endpoints from burned to old growth pinyon-juniper woodland. Ecosphere 5:1-29.

Redmond, M., N.S. Cobb, M.E. Miller, and N.N. Barger.  2013 Long-term effects of range improvement treatments on vegetation structure in piñon -juniper woodlands of southern Utah. Forest Ecology and Management 305, 120–128.

Clifford, M.J., Royer, P.D., D.D. Breshears., and N.S. Cobb.  2013 Precipitation thresholds and drought-induced tree die-off: insights from patterns of Pinus edulis mortality along a latitudinal environmental stress gradient. New Phytologist. doi: 10.1111/nph.12362.

Erica Fleishman, Jayne Belnap, Neil Cobb, Carolyn Enquist, Karl Ford, Glen MacDonald, Mike Pellant, Tania Schoennagel, Lara Schmit, Mark Schwartz, Suzanne van Drunick, Anthony Westerling, Alisa Keyser, and Ryan Lucas., 2012. Natural Ecosystems. Chapter 8, in: Assessment of Climate Change in the Southwest United States: a Technical Report Prepared for the U.S. National Climate Assessment. A report by the Southwest Climate Alliance [Gregg Garfin, Angela Jardine, Robert Merideth, Mary Black, and Jonathan Overpeck (eds.)]. Tucson, AZ: Southwest Climate Alliance.

Royer, P.D., D.D. Breshears., C.B. Zou, N.S. Cobb, and S.A. Kurc.  2012. Density-dependent effects of evergreen woody plants in rangelands: Ecohydrological implications for soil microclimate and potential soil evaporation.  Rangeland Ecology and Management, 65(1):11-20. 2012 DOI: 10.2111/REM-D-11-00007.1)

Guardiola-Claramonte M., P.A. Troch, D.D. Breshears, T.E. Huxman, M.B. Switanek, M. Durcik, and N.S. Cobb.  2011. Stream flow in semi-arid basins unexpectedly decreases after drought-induced tree die-off.  Journal of Hydrology, 406: 225-233.

Lindsay, D.L., P. Bailey, R.F. Lance, M.J. Clifford, R. Delph, and N.S. Cobb.  2011. Effects of a nonnative, invasive lovegrass on Agave palmeri distribution, abundance, and insect pollinator communities.  Biodiversity & Conservation, 20:3251–3266. DOI 10.1007/s10531-011-0133-x

Clifford, M.J., N.S. Cobb, and M. Buenemann.  2011.  Long-Term Tree Cover Dynamics in a Pinyon-Juniper Woodland: Climate-Change-Type Drought Resets Successional Clock.  Ecosystems, 14, 949-962. DOI: 10.1007/s10021-011-9458-2

Royer, P.D., N.S. Cobb, M.J. Clifford, C. Huang, , D.D. Breshears, J.C. Villegas, and H.D. Adams. 2011Rapid regional-scale die-off of woody plants and consequent effects on environment: extreme event alteration of overstory attenuation of solar radiation. Journal of Ecology,  99, 714-723  DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2745.2011.01804.x

Royer, P.D., D.D. Breshears., C, B. Zou, N.S. Cobb, and S.A. Kurc. 2010Ecohydrological energy inputs in semiarid coniferous gradients: Responses to management- and drought-induced tree reductions. Forest Ecology and Management, 260, 1646–1655.

Wu, Z., Z. Hongjun, C. Krause, and N.S. Cobb.  2010. Climate change and human activities: a case study in Xinjiang, China. Climatic Change, 99, 457-472.

Garfin, G.M., J.K. Eischeid, M. Lenart, K.L. Cole, K. Ironside, and N.S. Cobb. 2010. Downscaling climate projections to model ecological change on topographically diverse landscapes of the arid Southwestern United States. In: The Colorado Plateau IV: Shaping Conservation Through Science and Management (van Riper, C., III, B. F. Wakeling, and T. D. Sisk, Eds). University of Arizona Press, Tucson, AZ. 368 pp..

Allen C.D, A.K. Macalady, H. Chenchouni, D. Bachelet, N. McDowell, M. Vennetier, T. Kitzberger, A. Rigling, D.D Breshears, E.H. Hogg, P. Gonzalez, R. Fensham, Z. Zhang, J. Castro, N. Demidova; J.-Hwan Lim, G. Allard; S.W Running, A. Semerci, and N. Cobb.  2010   A Global Overview of Drought and Heat-Induced Tree Mortality Reveals Emerging Climate Change Risks for Forests.  Forest Ecology and Management 259, 660–684.  DOI: 10.1016/j.foreco.2009.09.001.

Floyd, L.M., M. Clifford, N.S. Cobb, D. Hanna, R. Delph, P. Ford, and D. Turner. 2009.  Relationship of stand characteristics to drought-induced mortality in three southwestern pinyon–juniper woodlands. Ecological Applications, 119, 1223-1230)

McDowell, N., W.T. Pockman, C. Allen, D.D. Breshears, Neil Cobb, Thomas Kolb, J. Plaut, J. Sperry, A. West, D. Williams and E.A. Yepez.  2008. Mechanisms of plant survival and mortality during drought: why do some plants survive while others succumb to drought?  New Pytologist, 178: 719–739.

Clifford, M.J. M.E. Rocca, R. Delph,; P.L. Ford,N.S. Cobb . 2008. Drought and Bark Beetle Outbreak in Southwestern Pinyon-Juniper Woodlands.  In: Gottfried, Gerald J.; Shaw, John D.; Ford, Paulette L., compilers. 2008. Ecology, management, and restoration of piñon-juniper and ponderosa pine ecosystems: combined proceedings of the 2005 St. George, Utah and 2006 Albuquerque, New Mexico workshops. Proceedings RMRS-P-51. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station.

Trotter, R.T, N.S. Cobb, and T.G. Whitham.  2008.  Arthropod community diversity and trophic structure: A comparison between extremes of host drought-stress.  Ecological Entomology, 33: 1-11.

Turner, C.E., W. H. Romme, J. Chew, M.E. Miller, G. Leavesley, L. Floyd-Hanna, G. San Miguel, N.S. Cobb, R. Zirbes, R. Viger, and K. E. Ironside. 2007. The FRAME Project—A Collaborative Modeling Approach to Natural Resource Management at Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado. Proceedings of the Ninth Biennial Conference of Research on the Colorado Plateau, Arizona Press, Tuscon, AZ.

Wynne J.J., C.A. Drost, N.S. Cobb, J.R. Rihs. 2007.. Cave Dwelling Invertebrates of the Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona. (In Press), Proceedings of the 8th  Biennial Conference of Research on the Colorado Plateau, University of Arizona Press.

Classen A. T., J. Demarco, S. C. Hart, T. G. Whitham, N. S. Cobb, and G W. Koch. 2006. Impacts of herbivorous insects on decomposer communities during the early stages of primary succession in a semi-arid woodland.  Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 39:972-982.

Cobb N.S.2005. Review: Issues in Sampling Techniques, Design, and Theory in Studying Forest Insects. Ecology, 86: 3133-3134.

Breshears, D.D., N.S. Cobb, P.M. Rich, K.P. Price, C.D. Allen, R.G. Balice, W.H. Romme, J.H. Kastens, M.L. Floyd, J. Belnap, J.J. Anderson, O.B. Myers, and C.W. Meyer. 2005.  Regional vegetation die-off in response to global-change type drought.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 102(42):15144-1548.

Classen A. T., J. Demarco, S. C. Hart, T. G. Whitham, N. S. Cobb, and G W. Koch.  2005 Insect infestations linked to shifts in microclimate: important climate change Implications.  Soil Science Society of America Journal, 69:2049-2057.

Schuster, T.D. N.S. Cobb, T.G. Whitham, and S.C. Hart. 2005. Long-term pinyon litterfall dynamics in response to soil stress and herbivory. Ecosystems 8(1) 62-72.

Anderson, J.J. and N.S. Cobb.  2004.  Tree cover discrimination in panchromatic aerial imagery of pinyon-juniper woodland.  Photogrammetric Engineering and Remote Sensing, 70(9): 1063-1068).

Chapman S., N.S. Cobb, Hart S.C., Whitham T.G., Koch G.W.  2003.  Insect herbivory increases litter quality and decomposition rates: an extension of the acceleration hypothesis.  Ecology: 84: 2867–2876.

Trotter, T.R., N.S. Cobb, and T.G Whitham.  2002.  Herbivory, plant resistance, and climate in the tree ring record:  Interactions distort climatic reconstructions.  Proceeding of the National Academy of Science, 99:10197-10202.

Cobb, N. S., R.T. Trotter, and T.G. Whitham.  2001.  Herbivore Induced Sex Change in Pinyon Pine.  Oecologia, 130:78-87.

Ogle, K., T.G. Whitham and N.S. Cobb.  2000.  Tree-ring variation in pinyon pine predicts likelihood of death following record drought.  Ecology, 81:3237-3243.

 Marques, E.S., P.W. Price, and N.S. Cobb. 2000.  Resource abundance and insect herbivore diversity on woody fabaceous desert plants.  Environmental Entomology, 29:696-703.