Merriam-Powell Center for Environmental Research (MPCER) promotes environmental
research and education to understand critical environmental processes and the
implications of change resulting from human activities. Through both cross-disciplinary research
and education, the MPCER is helping to expand the scientific knowledge and
understanding needed to develop effective strategies for meeting environmental challenges,
including climate change and biodiversity loss.
When the MPCER was established in 1998,
it initially focused its efforts on the Colorado Plateau, a
province that covers portions of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah. The Colorado Plateau is home
to spectacular natural treasures and a diverse range of cultures. For example, it has the greatest concentration of National Park Service units in the
country, including Grand Canyon, Zion, Arches, and Mesa Verde National Parks. This region is also is the ancestral home to the Hopi, Navajo, Havasupai, Hualapai, White
Mountain Apache, and Kaibab Paiute.
this region supports vast biological treasures, its resources are under
increasing pressure from both human and climatic forces. Climate change and its
effects, including drought and wide-spread tree die-offs, as well as pressures
to develop natural resources leave the plateau facing tremendous environmental
challenges in the future. For example, as of 2012, an estimated 2.5 million acres of pinyon
pine and juniper trees in the Southwest have been killed as the result
primarily of drought and pine beetles in the past 15 years.
An important element of MPCER's vision has been a focus on scaling up, or transferring what has been learned locally to regional and global settings. Today,
MPCER researchers are working throughout the United States and in places that are as far flung as
the Mariana Islands, a group of islands found south of Japan in the Pacific
Ocean that form a Commonwealth of the United States.
Building research and education infrastructure
As the MPCER grew, it became clear that
important infrastructure was needed to not only address pressing research questions,
but also to improve educational opportunities and workforce development. As the result of collaboration
with other institutions and organizations, the MPCER has been instrumental in
creating facilities and services that support research and education, including
the Merriam-Powell Research Station, Colorado Plateau Biodiversity Center, and
the Geospatial Research and Information Laboratory. Additionally, MPCER is
affiliated with a wide range of partners that provide critical support to the
research and educational communities.
is a theme that runs through all of MPCER’s efforts, including its emphasis on
cross-disciplinary research and program and project development. Importantly,
the MPCER fosters collaborations among not only scientists, but also public and
private land managers and educators. The Southwest Experimental Garden Array, or SEGA, is a good example of the
MPCER’s cooperative approach. The 10 gardens in the array will be established
in partnership with the Arboretum at Flagstaff, National Forest Service,
National Park Service, Babbitt Ranches, The Nature Conservancy, and Walnut
Creek Center for Education and Research.
MPCER takes its name and its inspiration from two pioneering researchers: C. Hart
Merriam, who developed the life zone concept for
describing areas with similar plants and animals on the basis of observations
made while doing surveys on northern Arizona’s San Francisco Peaks, and John Wesley Powell, who led the first expedition to
successfully navigate and survey the Colorado River through Grand Canyon. In
honor of the contributions of both of these outstanding scientists, the MPCER
seeks to carry on their tradition of bold scientific inquiry and practice of
working with many different people to help advance all people.