Research Areas

Applied Animal Ecology and Conservation

Someone releasing a fish into water

Faculty in the Applied Animal Ecology and Conservation research area in NRES seek to address local and global challenges in animal conservation. Our researchers are leaders in current conservation practices, and are engaged in a range of research activities related to the conservation of biodiversity, landscape connectivity, and climate change. In addition, we are committed to teaching and student engagement at both the graduate and undergraduate level. By using strong basic science to engage students in conservation challenges, the Applied Animal Ecology and Conservation area of NRES seeks to make a difference on a global scale.

Applied Animal Ecology & Conservation Researchers

Global Environmental Change

Terraced stops with fog and trees surrounding

Dramatic changes in the earth’s natural systems present one of the greatest global challenges to how humans manage complex landscapes for climate stability, clean and abundant water, biodiversity, and peaceful and thriving societies. NRES’s world-renowned faculty meets these grand challenges at the nexus of science and policy head-on through core and interdisciplinary research in both the natural and social sciences. Our diversity of approaches in meeting multi-faceted problems runs the gamut, from the study of ecosystem responses to human-induced changes in water, habitats, species, forests, and soils; policy design that incorporates the need to manage lands more sustainably; and connections between a changing environment and human health.

Global Environmental Change Researchers

Human Dimensions of the Environment

Person wading through water taking samples

In NRES, research into the Human Dimensions of the Environment tackles three main issues. Managing environments and resources to promote human well-being, encouraging sustainable behaviors through public policy, and improving how stakeholders and other entities interact to improve environmental decision making.

Human Dimensions of the Environment Researchers

Landscape and Ecosystem Ecology

rolling hill prairie

Research in this area focuses on effects of human activities on ecosystem processes (e.g., carbon and nutrient cycling) and native and exotic species distributions; maintaining habitat requirements and landscape connectivity for native species in human-dominated landscapes; influence of terrestrial ecosystems on water quality; and effects of multiple environmental stressors (e.g., air pollution, climate change, fragmentation) on ecosystem function.

Landscape and Ecosystem Ecology Researchers

Microbial Communities & Functions

students handling samples of soil

Microbial research at NRES includes nitrogen cycling microbes in natural and restored wetlands; beneficial microbial symbionts of bioenergy crops; microbial interactions with invasive plants and agricultural weeds; microbial sensitivity to environmental contaminants; and microbes associated with the skin and digestive tracts of livestock, cetaceans, and wildlife.

Microbial Communities & Functions Researchers

Restoration Ecology

Person surveying a marked off area of grass, with clipboard

Faculty and students in NRES are studying restored ecosystems to understand the process of ecosystem recovery and the implications for environmental practice and policy. Research in NRES includes studies on the responses of animals, plants and microorganisms to restoration, the effects of landscape history and context on ecosystem recovery, and the biogeochemical functions of constructed and restored ecosystems.

Restoration Ecology Researchers

Soil Science & Conservation

Person taking a soil sample outside

Even though robust, the soil resource often is degraded by poor management. We study the unique and broad chemical functionality of soil organic matter, nutrient cycles, microbial communities, as well as weathering and hydrology. Soils research at NRES leads us towards conservation of this key natural resource that is critical to the survival of mankind.

Soil Science & Conservation Researchers

Sustainable Agriculture & Agroecology

field of corn

NRES faculty apply ecological theory and systems analysis to understand and manage farming, food, and bioenergy systems to produce needed basic, environmental, social, and economic services. Research in sustainable agriculture and agroecology is applied in nature and often relies on participatory methods that engage the farmers, community and business groups, or consumers. Related research draws on our strengths in soil, water, and microbial sciences to apply ecological principles to solve problems in agriculture and to determine how farming methods and conservation practices influence ecosystem services, disease-pest-antibiotic resistance, and climate mitigation.

Sustainable Agriculture & Agroecology Researchers

Water Quality & Biogeochemistry

Bridge over a waterway

NRES faculty study how nutrients and chemicals are transported from agricultural fields to surface waters; their fate and impacts on streams; and ways to minimize this transport, both in-field and at the edge of fields. This includes studies on biofuels, bioreactors, wetlands, and agricultural production systems, with a focus on nitrogen and phosphorus biogeochemistry.

Water Quality & Biogeochemistry Researchers