Laura Huenneke, PhD

Laura Huenneke, PhD
  • Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs





Subject-matter expertise

  • Scientific education and research training
  • Sustainability in higher education
  • Biological diversity and ecosystem function
  • Environmental health concerns, especially of Native American communities


In July 2012, Dr. Laura Huenneke was appointed Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Northern Arizona University (NAU). She joined NAU in 2003 as Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences and Professor of Biological Sciences and served three years as Dean of Engineering & Natural Sciences before being named the first Vice President for Research in university history.

An environmental scientist at heart, Dr. Huenneke’s research interests pertain to the influence of biological diversity on ecosystem structure and function. As VP for research, she oversaw a campus shift from heavy reliance on state agency funding to more effective competition for federal funding. She also helped improve NAU’s recovery of indirect cost dollars, allowing the university to reinvest in research capacity.

A member of NAU’s Coordinating Committee for Campus Sustainability, Dr. Huenneke is also a leading voice on the effective communication of scientific and ecological understanding to the public, to K-12 educators and students and to policy-makers. In 1999, she was selected as one of the initial cohort of Aldo Leopold Leadership Fellows, a program promoting the development of communication and leadership skills among environmental scientists. In 2012 she was honored as one of the first Fellows of the Ecological Society of America (members recognized by the Society for service to the discipline).

Prior to coming to NAU, Laura spent 16 years at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, where she became Regents’ Professor and served five years as department chair in Biology. She served as Lead Investigator / Project Director for the NSF-funded Jornada Basin Long-Term Ecological Research Program, a consortium of multiple universities and federal agencies focused on desert ecosystem structure and function. 

Dr. Huenneke earned her Ph.D. in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology from Cornell University. She has served as a member of numerous Board of Directors, Board of Editors, Board of Trustees and Steering Committees throughout her career, and she is actively involved in numerous ecological and sustainability organizations and initiatives in the southwest.

Currently, Dr. Huenneke is the Lead Investigator for the Partnership for Native American Cancer Prevention, a $five year, $8.9 million National Institutes of Health (NIH) investment to build NAU's research and training capacity, which alleviates the unequal burden of cancer among Native Americans through research, training and community outreach programs. She also serves on the Board of Trustees of the Arizona Chapter of The Nature Conservancy.”

Selected research publications

  • Title: Biological feedbacks in global desertification
    Authors: Schlesinger, W., J. Reynolds, G. Cunningham, L.F. Huenneke, W. Jarrel, R. Virginia, & W. Whitford
    Publication date: 1990
    Publication: Science 247:1043-1048.
  • Title: Disturbance, diversity, and invasion: implications for conservation
    Authors: Hobbs, R.J. and L.F. Huenneke
    Publication date: 1992
    Publication: Conservation Biology 6(3):324-337. 
  • Title: Deserts
    Author: Huenneke, L.F.
    Publication date: 2001
    Publication: PP 201-222 in: O.E. Sala, F.S. Chapin and E. Huber-Sannwald, eds.  Global Biodiversity in a Changing Environment: Scenarios for the 21st Century.  Springer-Verlag, New York.
  • Title: Functional diversity revealed by removal experiments
    Authors: Diaz, S., A.J. Symstad, F.S. Chapin III, D.A. Wardle, and L.F. Huenneke
    Publication date: 2003
    Publication: Trends in Ecology & Evolution 18:140-146.
  • Title: Community response to removals of plant functional groups and species from a Chihuahuan Desert shrubland
    Authors: Buonopane, M., L.F. Huenneke, and M. Remmenga
    Publication date: 2005
    Publication: Oikos 110:67-80.
  • Title: Patterns of net primary production in Chihuahuan Desert Ecosystems
    Authors: Huenneke, L.F. and W.H. Schlesinger
    Publication date: 2006
    Publication: Ch 11, pp 232-246 in: Havstad, K.M., L.F. Huenneke, and W.H. Schlesinger, eds. 2006.  Structure and Function of a Chihuahuan Desert Ecosystem: The Jornada Basin Long-Term Ecological Research Site.  Oxford University Press, Oxford and New York.

*For a full list of research, please visit:

Awards and recognitions

  • Elected as Fellow, Ecological Society of America, 2012 (in recognition for service to discipline)
  • Named Regents’ Professor, New Mexico State University, 2003
  • AAAS – Southwest and Rocky Mountain (SWARM) Chapter President’s Award, 2000
  • Selected as member of initial cohort, Aldo Leopold Leadership Program, 1999
  • Donald Roush Award for Teaching Excellence, New Mexico State University, 1993
  • Sigma Xi (scientific research honor society), 2003
  • National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship
  • Danforth Foundation Graduate Fellowship
  • Andrew D. White (Cornell University) Fellowship

Special groups and committees

  • Arizona Bioscience Roadmap Steering Committee
  • Board of Directors,
  • The Arboretum at Flagstaff
  • Arizona Bioscience Industry Organization
  • Chihuahuan Desert Nature Park
  • Southern New Mexico Museum of Natural History
  • Sustainable Economic Development Initiative of Coconino County
  • University of Arizona’s Biosphere II
  • Board of Editors,
  • Ecological Applications, 1997 ‐ 2000
  • Journal of Ecology, 1994 ‐ 1998
  • Conservation Biology, 1987 ‐ 1993
  • Board of Trustees, The Nature Conservancy, Arizona Chapter
  • City of Flagstaff/Northern Arizona Economic Development Advisory Council; now member of Advisory Committee, Economic Coalition of Northern Arizona (ECoNA)
  • (Elected) Member‐at‐large, Governing Board, Ecological Society of America, 1996‐98
  • (Elected) Vice President for Public Affairs, Ecological Society of America, 2008‐2011


  • B.A., University of Missouri, summa cum laude, 1977
  • Ph.D., Cornell University, 1983

Web pages