Research

Merriam-Powell Center for Environmental Research (MPCER) scientists undertake research projects that build understanding of significant environmental challenges, including climate change and biodiversity loss. These projects result in datasets, maps, and other project products that are made available through websites. MPCER research efforts are supported by a range of sponsors, including Arizona’s Technology and Research Initiative Fund (TRIF), the National Science Foundation, and cooperative agreements with federal land management agencies such as the National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service.

Ongoing Research Projects 

Southwest Experimental Garden Array

The Southwest Experimental Garden Array, or SEGA, is a new genetics-based climate change research platform that allows scientists to quantify the ecological and evolutionary responses of species exposed to changing climate conditions. SEGA has begun to create a system of 10 gardens along a steep elevation gradient in northern Arizona that includes conditions ranging from desert to alpine forest. By planting the same plant species and genotypes in different environments, scientists can identify which ones perform best and are most likely to survive changing conditions.

Southwest Collections of Arthropods Network

The Southwest Collections of Arthropods Network (SCAN) website is the central data portal for the SCAN project, which is a National Science Foundation supported effort to bring together 10 arthropod collections at universities and museums throughout this region to create a virtual information network on ground-dwelling arthropods. The website allows users to search collections, access an image library, and explore other projects. Northern Arizona University’s Colorado Plateau Museum for Arthropod Biodiversity is one of the participating collections.

Northern Mariana Islands Program

The Northern Mariana Islands research program is an initiative that fosters collaborations among NAU researchers and resource managers in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands to design, implement, and evaluate progressive species and habitat conservation strategies through research. The initiative also provides course instruction and field experiences in conservation biology to graduate and undergraduate students. This website provides information about the program's people, courses, and research. Students undertake research projects in conjunction with natural resource managers and scientists.

Recent Northern Arizona Research

Beaver Creek Environmental Atlas

The Beaver Creek Watershed is in the Central Arizona Highlands and superb example of a typical Southwestern hydrologic system.  The Beaver Creek Environmental Atlas is an interdisciplinary educational resource that provides a wealth of information on various aspects of the Beaver Creek Watershed, including archeology, biology, climate, geology, conservation, and land use. This website also includes maps of the watershed’s geological features, soils, vegetation, and much more.  The Beaver Creek Watershed Atlas provides educational resources and promotes research coordination and collaboration.

C. Hart Merriam Elevation Gradient

The C. Hart Merriam Elevation Gradient website focuses on the San Francisco Peaks elevation gradient, a mountainous area in northern Arizona with six life zones corresponding to differing elevations. This website contains information on the archaeology, biology, climate, geology, hydrology, conservation, land use, and weather of the San Francisco Peaks elevation gradient. Information is also available about research and educational activities. Other features include virtual tours of various locations along the gradient and detailed maps.

Greater Grand Canyon-Peaks Ecosystem

The Greater Grand Canyon-Peaks website is a comprehensive educational portal for anyone seeking to deepen his or her understanding of this region, providing information about wildlife, vegetation, life zones, and land use. Maps and a bibliography are also provided. The Greater Grand Canyon-Peaks Ecosystem spans an area that climbs from the desert floor to summit of Humphreys Peak in northern Arizona, ensuring that the landscapes, plant communities, wildlife, and habitats of the region exhibit tremendous diversity. 

Northern Arizona Environmental Research Database 

The Northern Arizona Environmental Research Database (NERD) project is the result of a collaborative effort between Northern Arizona ecological researchers, Coconino National Forest, and the Rocky Mountain Research Station to track scientific research being conducted within the Coconino National Forest. This website serves provides information for research scientists interested in conducting research on the Coconino National Forest. Resources include contact information, online permit form, and a list of research sites.

Other Recent Research

Rocky Mountain Research Station Representativeness Atlas

The Rocky Mountain Research Station Representativeness Atlas is an online mapping tool that allows the user to view detailed information about each of the Experimental Forests and Ranges and Research Natural Areas in the intermountain West. The data were compiled for an assessment of how representative the 14 Experimental Forests and Ranges (EF&Rs) administered by the Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Research Station are of the region’s natural landscapes. Climatic and ecological data are provided in a range of formats, including Excel files, shapefiles, and figures.

Climate Change Impacts at NAU

The Climate Change at NAU website serves as an interdisciplinary network of faculty, staff, and students actively engaged in climate change activities at Northern Arizona University. This website connects people across campus with one another and the wider community, while also demonstrating the university’s to reducing its carbon footprint.

Drought Impacts on Regional Ecosystems Network

The Drought Impacts on Regional Ecosystems Network (DIREnet) website is a portal to data, published research, news, and data related to the effects of drought and potential climate change on the Southwest’s forests and woodlands. This website was part of a larger DIREnet project that was designed to foster and facilitate research, bring scientists and land managers together to plan and conduct research, and promote the cross pollination of research and education through workshops, symposia, and student training.  

Colorado Plateau All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory

The Colorado Plateau All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory website provides an overview of ongoing projects to inventory all taxa in national parks and monuments, including invertebrates, fungi, algae, lichens, and microbes. These inventories will provide the basis for developing conservation management plans that will help preserve biodiversity.  

Pinyon-Juniper Woodland Information Network (PJWIN) 

The Pinyon-Juniper Woodland Information Network (PJWIN) website was created to provide users with a comprehensive source of data and information about pinyon-juniper woodlands on the Colorado Plateau. This information, including distribution maps for woodland species and drought-related pinyon mortality, was created to support enhanced natural resource decision making on the Colorado Plateau. PJWIN is a collaborative project of the Southwest Information Node, Merriam-Powell Center for Environmental Research, and Bureau of Land Management.  

Drought Impacts on New Mexico Middle Rio Grande Basin Vegetation

The Drought Impacts on New Mexico Middle Rio Grande Basin Vegetation website provides results and maps of research to examine the effects of drought-related tree mortality on pinyon-juniper woodland ecosystems of the Middle Rio Grande Basin, New Mexico.

Database of PJ Woodland Treatments

The Database of PJ Woodland Treatments (PJ-Wood) is a searchable online resource that archives pinyon-juniper manipulations on Bureau of Land Management lands across the Colorado Plateau. The website provides access to treatment data, including location, methods, geographic and ecological descriptions, administrative designations, cooperators, and financial data for more than 800 treatment sites. The database also includes photographs, downloadable GIS data, and a dynamic map search.

Sagebrush Treatment Inventory Project

The Sagebrush Inventory Project collected data on about 60 percent of sage treatments conducted since the 1940s on Bureau of Land Management lands on the Colorado Plateau. The collected data, which includes photographs, has been incorporated in the Database of PJ Woodland Treatments. Geospatial data layers are also available.

Bryce Canyon National Park: 50 Years of Forest Succession

The Bryce Canyon National Park: 50 Years of Forest Succession website provides access to data collected during five surveys of permanent vegetation plots in Bryce Canyon National Park that span 50 years. The plots were originally established in the late 1950s by Hayle Buchanan to monitor forest successional change. The Merriam-Powell Center for Environmental Research conducted the fifth survey of the plots in 2007. These data provide a quantitative description and a pictorial record of plant successional changes over the last 50 years.