The first g2p2pop workshop, Navigating Climate Change, will be held in Flagstaff, Arizona from September 19-21, 2018. On day 1, four speakers will be featured. Dr. Scott Goetz, Dr. Andrew Richardson, Dr. Tom Whitham, and Dr. Stephen Jackson.
Dr. Tom Whitham is a Regents’ Professor of Biological Sciences at Northern Arizona University and serves as Co-Executive Director of the Merriam-Powell Center for Environmental Research.
Part of Dr. Whitham’s research focuses on how underlying genetics shapes and impacts the local ecosystem. In a recent study published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, Dr. Whitham and colleagues investigated how genetic variation in a foundational tree and its herbivore aphid interact. They found that the two genotypes interacted to impact arthropod community structure, but this interaction was dependent on the abundance of aphids.
In another study, Dr. Whitham and colleagues investigated how foundational tree genotype impacts the mutualistic fungal species in drought conditions. They found that specific tree and fungal genotypes were able to tolerate drought conditions better than others and that these associations held over multiple tree generations. These results suggest that there is a genetic basis to these traits.
Additionally, Dr. Whitham creates ecological niche models to better predict species distributions. In a recent study published in Global Change Biology, Whitham and colleagues incorporated genetic data to these models, which improved the accuracy of the existing models by about 12-fold. The model also showed that existing populations that are adapted to specific niches are likely to diverge further in niche as the climate changes.
Dr. Whitham’s research suggests additional ways in which we can examine community dynamics and how these communities may be differentially impacted by climate change.