Established in 1979, the Cottonwood Ecology Group is an interdisciplinary and international research team interested in the genetic basis of community structure and ecosystem processes. As its name suggests, the group focuses on cottonwoods, a species that disproportionately influences a much larger community of understory plants, insects, microbes, birds, and mammals. One of the group's basic findings is that the genetics of individual trees play an important role in defining the larger community of organisms and ecosystem processes such as decomposition and nutrient cycling. The group's findings have important implications for addressing climate change and other challenges facing natural systems.