Core context for the research we do is appreciating that ecologists and physiologists have long sought to understand how organism-environment interactions influence the distribution and abundance of species and the overall biological diversity observed across the biomes on Earth. As threats to biodiversity hasten from land-use and climate related changes there is an urgent need and growing interest in applying fundamental approaches and novel tools towards enhancing our understanding about the interface between organisms and their environments – past, present and future. A central goal of researching this interface is using this understanding to not only deepen basic understanding about plant-environment interactions but to provide foundational information needed to mitigate the unprecedented impacts and losses to the Earth’s biota.

The Dawson lab research group applies the tools of physiological and evolutionary plant ecology, ecosystem science, stable isotope biogeochemistry as well as climate and hydrological analyses, the use of remote sensing products, and the application of modeling towards the study and interpretation of the plant-environment interface. Investigations cover a wide array of study systems, organisms, and questions. We draw upon a variety of empirical and theoretical methods and merge these with direct observations of plants and their environments, a wide range of monitoring tools and approaches, and the application of experimental manipulations as avenues for improving our understanding of how the ecophysiological characteristics of plants are shaped by and respond to the environments they inhabit. Projects pay special attention to how aspects of plant form and function combine to permit adaptation to environmental variation, whether naturally or anthropogenically imposed, and how plants and their unique traits influence the structure and function of the communities and ecosystems they compose or that they have membership with. The past decade (or more) many projects have been structured around global environmental, climate and land-use change as foundational themes. These and other themes outlined above provide the intellectual rationale for the studies we undertake and the questions we are asking.

Please use the links to the right to learn more about our research themes.