Staff and Affiliates

The 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 Whitham

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.

Kitty Gehring

Catherine Gerhing

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. 

Neil Cobb

Neil 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
> Web page 

Brad Butterfield

Brad Butterfield 

Brad 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
> Web page 

Karen Haubensak

Karen Haubensak

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

Paul Heinrich

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

Nashelly Meneses

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

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 

Stefan Sommer 

Stefan 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
> Web page   

Amy Whipple 

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

Jut Wynne 

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