Researcher focuses on restoring disturbed ecosystems

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Bob Shriver, an assistant professor with the Department of Natural Resources & Environmental Science, is focusing his teaching and research on understanding and predicting how local plant populations’ demographic traits, such as survival and growth rates, respond to climate, disturbance and human management. 

As part of the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology & Natural Resources, Shriver’s work centers on restoration ecology, or the practice of restoring damaged and destroyed ecosystems and habitats through human intervention. This coming fall, he is teaching a course on the principles of restoration ecology and is planning a spring graduate course on ecological forecasting. This class will teach students to predict how ecological processes respond to climate change and human management.

 

In addition to teaching classes, Shriver is also conducting research as part of the College’s Experiment Station unit on the barriers to recovering plant populations after disturbances. As part of this work, he is studying how to restore big sagebrush in the Great Basin region after the populations are disturbed or destroyed by wildfire. He is hoping this research informs new strategies to improve sagebrush restoration outcomes across the region by using hands-on research such as testing new planting techniques. 

“The College and the Department are delighted to have Bob come on board,” Claus Tittiger, acting chair of the Department, said. “He has quickly settled in to build his research and teaching programs, and we’re excited by the positive impact he brings to UNR.”

Another one of his research projects involves predicting where pinyon-juniper woodlands will expand into other ecosystems, and how these woodlands are shifting due to climate change. Pinyon-juniper woodlands have expanded into lower elevation environments in the last century, especially in the Great Basin, although climate change may create a tipping point where these woodlands begin to contract. With this work, Shriver is hoping to identify where these large ecosystem changes could occur in the future and inform land managers about the best practices for handling these changes.   

After graduating from Duke University with his doctorate in ecology, Shriver completed post-doctoral research with the U.S. Geological Survey in Arizona, where he began studying rangeland restoration. Additionally, he studied how plant productivity and forage production respond to climate variation at Utah State University. Throughout all of his studies, he focused his work on climates and ecosystems in the West.

“I was really interested in staying in the Western U.S. after my post-doctoral studies,” Shriver said. “I chose the University because I was able to continue working in the ecosystems that I know and love.”

Looking forward, Shriver is planning to continue his teaching and current projects. Most of his future research projects will be focused on similar topics, as the environment continues to shift with climate change and human disturbance.

 



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