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Impact Magazine

Plant & Wildlife Sciences Across the Map

Key: Red - Featured PWS Projects Orange -Other PWS Projects Green - World Map


Professor Ben Abbott is the principal investigator on a large National Science Foundation project in Alaska to investigate the effects of climate change in Arctic ecosystems. Because the soil in permafrost regions never gets above freezing, the organic material (mainly plant matter) never fully decompose. Over thousands of years, the permafrost zone has accumulated over a trillion tons of organic carbon. When it thaws, microbes begin breaking down the permafrost, releasing carbon dioxide and methane. If the permafrost zone starts to produce more greenhouse gas, it could change the climate system of the entire globe.

Beaver, Utah

Professor Loreen Alphix specializes in vulnerable alpine plant communities. In a collaborative effort between the United States Forest Service, Beaver Ranger District, Fishlake National Forest, and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Alphix is measuring the impact introduced goats have on the native alpine plant communities of the Tushars. The data will also inform management decisions regarding these non-native mountain goat populations. This study may have broader implications for conservation of other alpine plant communities where non-native species have been introduced.

Europe (England, France, and Italy)

Professors Greg Jolley and Phil Allen are creating a landscape design study abroad based upon some of the great gardens of Europe. The program seeks to link basic design principles with the distinctive features and plants of England, France, and Italy. Students will observe public gardens to learn essential design principles and gain an appreciation for the central importance of plants in our world and in society. They will then create designs for each region and learn how the history of landscape design affects contemporary landscape design and architecture.

Rabat, Morocco

Professors Rick Jellen, Jeff Maughan, and David Jarvis, as well as Nutrition, Dietetics & Food Science professor Mike Dunn, are involved in a project working to introduce quinoa into Morocco’s crop system. Since 2000, the team has partnered with Dr. Ouafae Benlhabib, a crop geneticist, to identify quinoa strains that are adapted to the variety of growing environments. Quinoa is primarily grown by families in many of these environments. The project has been a springboard for collaborations in a number of temperate, subtropical, and tropical locations throughout the world that want to produce quinoa.


Professor Paul Frandsen studies caddisflies, an order of aquatic insects, including some species that are able to survive at extreme elevations, like the Himalayas. Frandsen’s lab is collaborating with an international team from the Senckenberg Natural History Museum in Frankfurt, Germany, as well as Tribhuvan University and Kathmandu University in Nepal to uncover the genomic underpinnings of these extreme adaptations in caddisflies. They hope their research will unveil the genetic mechanisms that allow caddisflies to exist at such extreme elevations and provide insights into how these insects might respond to climate change.


Professor Tom Smith is conducting a study on sloth bear (Melursus ursinus) conflicts with humans in India. Although several papers have documented sloth bear attacks, few know how to avoid encounters with sloth bears or minimize injury in such encounters. Smith and his team interviewed 342 people who had either been attacked, witnessed an attack, or had encounters that did not result in an attack. The investigation revealed that all of the attacks were defensive-aggressive in nature with no evidence for predatorial motivations. People who made noise while in sloth bear country were less likely to be attacked. The data also revealed that some individuals who fought back during attack or ran away were killed, whereas there were no deaths among people who fell to the ground and did not fight back.