Staff and Affiliates
Merriam-Powell Center for Environmental Reseach (MPCER) functions as an
umbrella center within the university for researchers pursuing
cross-disciplinary research on a wide range of topics, including climate
change, biodiversity, and ecological informatics. In addition to its affiliated
research scientists, the MPCER supports a range of facilities and services. The
MPCER’s staff and affiliated researchers include the following people:
Thomas G. Whitham
Thomas Whitham is the Co-Executive Director of the Merriam-Powell Center for Environmental Research and Regents' Professor. Tom's research is focused on cottonwood riparian communities and pinyon-juniper woodlands. These studies emphasize plant-herbivore interactions and a community-level understanding of the consequences of plant genetics and environmental stress on keystone species.
Catherine "Kitty" Gehring is a Co-Executive Director of the Merriam-Powell Center for Environmental Research and Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences. Kitty's research focuses on plant-associated fungi and their influence on populations, communities, and ecosystems in basic and applied contexts.
Cobb is the Director for the Merriam-Powell Center for Environmental Research, supervising its day-to-day operations, including administrative activities and strategic planning. Neil’s research
interests include arthropod biodiversity and global climate change impacts.
Email Neil Cobb
Butterfield is an Assistant Research Professor in the Department of Biological
Sciences. His research interests include plant community ecology, plant functional
ecology, ecosystem ecology, and biogeography. Specifically, Brad’s research
focuses on the intersection between processes that regulate biodiversity and
the consequences of that diversity for ecosystem function, primarily in arid,
semi-arid, and alpine ecosystems.
Email Brad Butterfield
Karen Haubensak is an Assistant
Research Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences. Karen’s research
interests are plant-soil feedbacks in the context of invasive species, forest
regeneration efforts, and soil food webs. Karen will be teaching field and
lecture courses in soil ecology starting during the 2013 fall semester.
Email Karen Haubensak
Paul Heinrich is the Information Technology Manager for the Merriam-Powell Center. Some of Paul’s current projects include the development of
data management policy and tools, climate instrumentation, and other
infrastructure for the Southwest Experimental Garden Array (SEGA). He is also
working on technology integration and network coordination for the Southwest
Collections of Arthropods Network (SCAN). With more than 20 years of experience
in a wide array of information technology subjects, Paul also holds bachelor's
degrees in biology and physics and a master’s degree in quantitative ecology
from Penn State University.
Email Paul Heinrich
Nashelly Meneses is a Postdoctoral Research Associate and Program Coordinator of NAU’s Field Experience in Conservation Biology. She employs field, greenhouse, and molecular (DNA fingerprinting and sequencing) approaches to understand the genetic, environmental, and anthropogenic factors that affect plant-insect interactions in tropical and temperate forests.
> Email Nashelly Meneses
Lara Schmit is the Director Communications for the Merriam-Powell Center. She is responsible for the Center's public affairs and outreach activities, including web content development and media relations. Lara also coordinates scientific conferences and meetings for the Center, including the 12th Biennial Conference of Science and Management on the Colorado Plateau.
> Email Lara Schmit
Sommer is a Research Assistant Professor and the MPCER’s Director of Education.
His research and teaching interests include insect community ecology,
behavioral ecology, pollination ecology, and environmental and cross-cultural
education. Additionally, Stefan oversees the development of mission-based
educational programs and materials for NAU students, Native American
communities, and the general public.
Email Stefan Sommer
Amy Whipple works
on the development of experimental field research facilities such as the
Southwest Experimental Garden Array for the study of genetics and climate
change. She also works to develop research training activities for undergraduate
and graduate students. Amy’s research on evolutionary ecology currently focuses on
adaptation of plants to drought and climate change.
Email Amy Whipple
Jut Wynne is a Research
Ecologist for the MPCER and a Ph.D. candidate (ABD) in the Department of
Biological Sciences. His current research focuses on diversity and
distributional patterns of cave-dwelling arthropods in Arizona, New Mexico, and
Chile’s Easter Island. Jut is also investigating habitat selection of
cave-dwelling bats and insects in the southwestern United States. He is working
with resource managers in the Southwest and Chile to develop strategies to best
manage and protect sensitive cave resources.
Email Jut Wynne
Cave Ecological Research Website