Current Lab Members
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Heather Throop: Associate Professor
School of Earth and Space Exploration
AND School of Life Sciences (joint appointment)

BA: Carleton College
PhD: Stony Brook University
Postdoc: NOAA Climate & Global Change Fellow at University of Arizona

I study how carbon and nutrients cycle through plants, soils, and the atmosphere. Much my work addresses how these cycles respond to human-caused changes in the environment, such as climate change and changing human land use. My work is primarily based in arid and semi-arid environments. These 'drylands' contain a large and rapidly increasing portion of the world's human population, particularly in developing nations where human livelihoods are often tightly linked to sustainable use of drylands. My current projects include work in drylands sites in Arizona, New Mexico, eastern Oregon, Australia and Namibia.

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Kelly Gravuer:
Postdoctoral Researcher:
ASU/The Nature Conservancy NatureNet Fellow

BS: Brown University
MS: Lincoln University, New Zealand
PhD: University of California, Davis

I am interested in how ecosystem processes shaped by plant-soil-microbe interactions vary across gradients of climate and soil properties.  My current project investigates how initiatives to sequester carbon in rangeland and cropland soils may impact biodiversity, other ecosystem services, and long-term profitability of ranching and farming operations:  how can we optimize investments in soil carbon sequestration on these lands to achieve the greatest suite of benefits for nature and people, and how might optimal strategies differ under different climate and soil conditions?  Most of this work is focused in California, with the aim of informing state greenhouse gas reduction programs.

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Fransiska Kangombe: PhD student, Environmental Life Sciences

BS: University of Namibia, Namibia
BS: University of Pretoria, South Africa
MS: University of Pretoria, South Africa

In the broad sense-I am interested in everything botanical. I am fascinated by environmental triggers of reproductive events in plants, particularly flowering and how global change influences the timing of these life cycle occurrences, with emphasis on drylands flora. Flowering phenology is most interesting due to its implications for plant-animal interactions such as pollination and dispersal, thus ecosystem function and agricultural productivity. Some questions I am currently investigating include historical and future phenological trends and responses of dryland plants to global change and how their distributions may change over time. My quest on the search for answers to these questions involves looking into Herbaria cabinets, linking up with satellite friends, getting my hands dirty in the field and trialing it out in the greenhouse. My previous botanical adventures include surveying, mapping and monitoring vegetation as well as ethnobotany in Namibia.
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Natalie Melkonoff: PhD student, Biological Sciences

BS: Arizona State University

I am a second year PhD student working with Dr. Heather Throop out of ASU and Dr. Kevin Hultine out of the Desert Botanical Garden. I am broadly interested in plant physiology, plant/animal interactions, and conservation ecology. I am currently exploring questions related to native milkweed (Asclepias) plants and monarch butterflies. Through my work at ASU and Desert Botanical Garden, I am able to work very closely with this system and examine multiple factors in order to further understand the current and future ecological standing of these plants and the insects that utilize them.

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Edauri Navarro Perez: PhD student, Environmental Life Sciences

BS: University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras

I am a first year PhD student in the Throop lab. I am very interested in investigating how soils are modified by human impacts and how its biogeochemistry affects other ecosystems and climate. The research I have performed in the past has developed my interest in interdisciplinary topics. For example, I have researched bioenergy (algae) at New Mexico State University, as well as the effects of drought on tropical soils and wetland ecophysiology in Puerto Rico. I have also researched successional forestry in Belize, sexual behavior of the red-eyed tree frog in Costa Rica, and nitrogen cycling after fire in Alaska. I am very passionate about learning and I hope that with my research experience and curiosity, I can help to increase knowledge of how the Earth works and how we should treat it so we can have a more sustainable future.

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Brittney Monus: Masters student, Environmental Life Sciences

BS: Arizona State University

I am a second year Master’s student, studying soil microbes in dryland ecosystems. I am interested in investigating soil microbial responses to changes in precipitation, elevation gradients, and plant cover.
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Ashley Davis: Masters student, Plant Biology and Conservation

BS: University of Arizona

I am a first year Master’s student who is interested in plant ecology. My research interests are in understanding plant communities and their interactions with each other and their environment. I am also interested in what factors contribute to a species becoming invasive and how management strategies can be developed. I have worked previously with buffelgrass, yellow starthistle, and am now looking at working with mesquite. With various factors contributing to changes in plant communities, and subsequently ecosystems in general, I feel it is important to research and develop tools to maintain ecosystem functionality and biodiversity.

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Makena Farrell: Undergraduate Lab Assistant

I’m a third-year undergraduate student majoring in Conservation Biology and Ecology. I love plants and am interested in helping save the environment in any way that I can!

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Eliana Benites: Undergraduate Lab Assistant

I am a second-year undergraduate student studying geological sciences in the School of Earth and Space Exploration. I am new to ecosystem research, so I am very interested in learning more about the ecosystem processes that occur in drylands!

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Alicia Hyatt: Undergraduate Lab Assistant

I am a third-year undergraduate student studying astrophysics in the School of Earth and Space Exploration. I became involved with Dr. Throop’s lab after listening to a talk she gave, and was inspired by her and her research. I am very excited to be a part of the Throop lab and learn more about drylands.

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Nicole Hornslein: Research Technician

BS: Natural Resources Management, Colorado State University
MS: Forestry, Mississippi State University

I am broadly interested in investigating relationships between changes in climate and ecosystem function. I am curious about how processes change over time, and enjoy many aspects of field work and laboratory sample analysis. As a new resident of the desert southwest, I am learning more about drylands every day.

Lab Alumni
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Herman Campos
MS student at NMSU
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Jennie Demarco
Postdoc at NMSU
Now at University of Florida
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Hanna Lee
Postdoc at NMSU
Now at Bjerknes Center for Climate Research
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Quanita Daniels
Postgraduate Honors Student at Namibia University of Science and Technology
Now at Namibia Botanical Research Institute
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Daniel Hewins
NMSU, MS and PhD
Now Assistant Professor at Rhode Island College
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Jane G. Smith
Now Postdoc at University of Colorado
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Kathy Whitman
Now Assistant Professor at Western New Mexico University
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Mad Abu-Salem
Now PhD student at University of Jordan
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Elise Nghalipo
MS Student at Namibia University of Science and Technology
Now research assistant at Namibia University of Science and Technology