Ecology and Conservation

SESES faculty lead research programs investigating biodiversity, ecosystem function, the ecological impacts of human activities, and strategies for ecosystem conservation and management. Our research spans local, landscape, and global scales, and natural and managed terrestrial and aquatic systems. Often collaborating across disciplines and between academic, government, and non-profit sectors, we examine ecological, cultural, and political dimensions of conservation planning.

Lab of Landscape Ecology and Conservation Biology (Tom Sisk, Clare Aslan, Brett Dickson)


Clare Aslan: I am a conservation biologist and community ecologist interested in the impact of global environmental change on local-scale ecological and socioecological systems. I study disruption and change in mutualistic networks (primarily pollination and seed dispersal) and the influence of ecological community shifts and management responses on resilience. I am interested in cross-jurisdictional conservation management and the relationship between social and ecological fragmentation. I am also Associate Director of the Landscape Conservation Initiative.

Tom Sisk is the Director of the Landscape Conservation Initiative. He works on current conservation challenges involving species impacted by environmental change at the landscape level. His work addresses these challenges through basic research in ecology, policy development, and the synthesis and application of research results to land and resource management.

Brett Dickson is a conservation biologist and planner using contemporary statistical modeling and inferential approaches in wildlife and landscape ecology.  Dickson is co-Director of the Lab of Landscape Ecology and Conservation Biology and is also president of and chief scientist for Conservation Science Partners, Inc.

Soil Ecology Lab (Nancy Johnson)


Researchers in the Soil Ecology Lab study how soil organisms respond to the environment and affect plant communities and ecosystem properties.

Aquatic Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation (Rebecca Best)


My students and I work on the evolutionary origins and the ecological consequences of biodiversity – from the roles that different species play in aquatic ecosystems, to the genetic variation within key species. I am especially interested in how both types of diversity move across the landscape in response to environmental stress.

Functional Ecology (Rachel Mitchell)


I use functional traits (physiological and morphological traits that impact fitness) to understand how species cope with perturbation and how communities of species assemble, coexist, and function.  I primarily work in plant communities, but trait-based approaches can be applied to a wide variety of organisms and systems.  

Gartersnake Research Project(Erika Nowak)


The NAU Gartersnake Team is a group of scientists and students working to assist with recovery of federally Threatened northern Mexican (Thamnophis eques megalops) and narrow-headed (T. rufipunctatus) gartersnakes in Arizona and New Mexico. Our research includes distribution and monitoring surveys, telemetric and ecological studies, captive husbandry and breeding of narrow-headed gartersnakes, and citizen science.

Plant Ecology and Conservation (Laura Huenneke)


As a plant ecologist and conservation biologist, I work to improve prospects for sustaining biodiversity and ecosystem services even as human impact and reliance on landscapes continue to expand. My work in several large multi-disciplinary programs, and in university and organizational leadership, has also supported my interests in STEM education, communication, and diversity.

Soil Biogeochemistry (Robert “Buck” Sanford)

Remote Sensing and Geoinformatics (Temuulen “Teki” Sankey)

Human-Environment Interactions (Kerry Grimm)