Thomas Whitham, PhD
- Professor, Ecology
- College of Engineering, Forestry and Natural Sciences
- Community and ecosystem
- Community ecology
- Impact of
climate change on communities
pioneer in community and ecosystem genetics, Dr. Whitham’s research is primarily
focused on the community-level understanding of the consequences of plant
genetics and climate change on foundation plant species and their dependent
communities. Foundation species that
serve as model study systems for this research include cottonwoods, pines and
eucalypts. For example, because
different cottonwood genotypes support different communities of microbes,
insects and understory plants, the impact of climate change on the genetic
structure of these trees has community and ecosystem consequences.
Whitham’s genes-to-ecosystem approach and his collaborative work with a team of
researchers is featured in the 2012 award-winning eco-documentary, “A Thousand
Invisible Cords: Connecting Genes to Ecosystems.” This film describes the 30-year scientific
journey to uncover how an entire ecosystem can be changed by one gene in one plant
or animal. An understanding of which, Dr. Whitham and his team say, is important
for decision makers who want to restore habitats, maintain biodiversity and
reduce the negative effects of climate change.
Whitham’s research team works with the Bureau of Reclamation, the National Park
Service, Arizona Game and Fish, Arizona Forestry, the Ogden Nature Center and
the Utah Department of Natural Resources to establish long-term and large-scale
restoration / scientific experiments that address fundamental issues of both
basic and applied value. His studies are funded primarily by the National
Science Foundation and the Bureau of Reclamation.
Regents’ Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at NAU, Dr. Whitham
is also a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and
a Fellow of the Ecological Society of America.
He is the Executive Director of the Merriam-Powell Center for
Environmental Research. In 2011, he received the prestigious Eminent Ecologist
Award by the Ecological Society of America — the group’s highest honor — for
his outstanding body of work.
- Title: A community and ecosystem genetics approach to conservation
biology and management.
Authors: Whitham, T.G., C.A. Gehring, L.M.
Evans, C.J. LeRoy, R.K. Bangert, J.A. Schweitzer, G.J. Allan, R.C. Barbour,
D.G. Fischer, B.M. Potts, and J.K. Bailey.
Publication date: 2010
Published: Molecular Approaches in Natural Resource Conservation and Management
(A. DeWoody, J. Bickham, C. Michler, K. Nichols, G. Rhodes and K. Woeste,
eds.), pgs. 50-73, Cambridge University Press
- Title: Extending genomics to natural communities and ecosystems.
Authors: Whitham, T.G, S.P.
DiFazio, J.A. Schweitzer, S.M. Shuster, G.J. Allan, J.K. Bailey, and S.A.
Publication date: 2008
Published: Science, Vol. 320, pgs. 492-495
- Title: A framework for community and ecosystem genetics: From genes to ecosystems
Authors: Whitham, T.G, J.K. Bailey, J.A.
Schweitzer, S.M. Shuster, R.K. Bangert, C.J. LeRoy, E. Lonsdorf, G.J. Allan,
S.P. DiFazio, B.M. Potts, D.G. Fischer, C.A. Gehring, R.L. Lindroth, J.C.
Marks, S.C. Hart, G.M. Wimp, and S.C. Wooley
Publication date: 2006
Published: NATURE REVIEWS GENETICS, Vol. 7, pgs. 510-523.
*For a more complete
list of Dr. Whitham’s research, please visit: http://www.poplar.nau.edu
Awards and recognitions
- Fellow of the Ecological
Society of America, 2012
Association for the Advancement of Science Fellow, 2011
Ecologist Award presented by the Ecological Society of America – the highest
award for a senior scientist, 2011
Graduate Students Outstanding Teacher/Advisor Award, 2001
Regents’ Professor by the Arizona Board of Regents, 1995
Graduate Students’ Outstanding Instructor Award, 1992-1993
Mercer Award presented by the Ecological Society of America – the highest award
for a junior scientist, 1980
Special groups and committees
of Directors of the Arboretum at Flagstaff
Advisory Board of EVOLTREE, European Union
of Interior, Importance of Conserving Hybrids Under the Endangered Species Act.
for Ecology and Ecological Monographs
Director of the Merriam-Powell Center for Environmental Research
Canyon Trust, Science Advisory Committee
NSF Panels and Review Boards
(Animal Plant Health Inspection Service), on the Community and Ecosystem
Consequences of Genetically Engineered Forest and Fruit Trees
Plant Pathology and Horticulture, Iowa State University, 1969
Zoology, Ohio State University, 1973
Biology, University of Utah, 1978