Principal Investigator - Janneke Hille Ris Lambers
Janneke HilleRisLambers
I received my Ph.D. from Duke University in 2001 (working with James S. Clark). While at Duke, my field work took me to the Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory in western North Carolina (an LTER site), where I studied differences among temperate tree species in seed dispersal, seed banking and density-dependent mortality, and how those differences contribute to diversity-maintenance.  I then worked with David Tilman at the Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve (another LTER site associated with University of Minnesota). There, I studied how declining diversity and species identity influences productivity and the impacts of global change on seed production. In a subsequent postdoc at University of California, Santa Barbara (working with Jonathan Levine), I focused on the factors that allowed Mediterranean annual grasses to dominate over the diverse California annual grasses and forbs as well as the contributions of niche and neutral processes to the coexistence of Serpentine annuals.  I arrived at University of Washington in 2006.

I am a plant community ecologist broadly interested in: 1) the maintenance of species diversity and 2) how global change (climate change, invasive species, nitrogen deposition, etc) alters the structure and function of plant communities.  I approach questions of interest with observational studies, manipulative experiments, and statistical modeling, working in a variety of habitats (North Carolina, Minnesota, California, Washington). Check out the Research page on this website for more information.

Graduate Student - Leander D.L. Anderegg

Leander DL AndereggI am broadly interested in the ecological impacts of climate change, with a current focus on tree species range shifts. Given the rapidity of current and projected environmental changes, we have neither the time nor the resources to study every species that may require conservation action over the coming century. I seek to understand biogeographic patterns by understanding the nature of range constraints so that we can predict which tree species are likely to experience range shifts and where range shifts will occur, even in the absence of detailed demographic data. For example, where are tree ranges more likely to be biotically constrained vs. abiotically constrained? How do ecotypic variation and phenotypic plasticity influence range boundaries? How do range constraints scale from elevational ranges to latitudinal ranges? I address these questions by combining physiological, ecological, and biogeographic data.

As a native of Colorado, I grew up camping, hunting and fishing in the mountains of the Southwest where I witnessed first hand the ecological impacts of anthropogenic climate change. I began my research career as an undergraduate at Stanford University, studying the causes and consequences of recent drought-induced trembling aspen tree mortality in the Colorado Rockies. The results of this research (aspen forests are becoming increasingly physiologically vulnerable to drought and high temperatures, making future die-offs likely) launched me into a broader exploration of how climate change will affect the major forests of the western US. I joined the lab in 2012.


Graduate Student - Ian Breckheimer

Ian BreckheimerHow do gene flow and local adaptation interact to define niche boundaries and geographic ranges? Answering this question is critical if we want to successfully manage ecosystems under climate change.  The climate optima of many species are expected to shift north by 700km and up in elevation by 800m over the next century due to climate change, putting tremendous pressure on plants to adapt or migrate. Despite these challenges, some recent models predict that long-distance dispersal of pollen may allow some species to rapidly adapt in place to shifting climates.  These predictions depend strongly on assumptions about phenology, gene-flow and local adaptation that are poorly constrained by data.  I intend to use molecular tools, common-garden experiments, and experimental crosses to determine how gene flow and hybridization influences current and future distributions of Mimulus guttatus and Mimulus tilingii (monkey flower species with contrasting altitudinal distributions).  

Originally from North Carolina, I’m joining the lab in 2012 after completing a masters degree with the Landscape Ecology and Biogeography group at UNC Chapel Hill.


Graduate Student - Meera Sethi

Meera SethiIf no man is an island, neither is any plant, insect, bird, bacterium, or other form of life on earth. From birth to death, all organisms are caught up in a complex network of interactions—both positive and negative—with other living things. For some, these relationships are important enough to play a role in determining vital outcomes like survival, reproductive success, and distribution range limits. What will happen to individual species and to communities if a warming planet induces significant shifts in biotic interactions? I am coming to the Hille Ris Lambers lab with a broad interest in this question. I am particularly curious about the impacts of climate change on multitrophic interactions involving three (or more!) parties and spanning different abiotic niches, such as the aboveground-belowground relationships we see among plants, soil microbes, and insect herbivores/pollinators. In multitrophic interactions, indirect effects can occur where the effect of one species on another is mediated by a third. I am looking forward to working on designing ways of observing, quantifying, and experimentally manipulating such indirect effects. 

I was born and raised in Singapore, and made my way to Seattle by way of Boston, Chicago, and Berkeley. In that time I earned a B.A. in Comparative Literature and an M.A. in Children’s Literature and Teaching, and worked as a middle school humanities teacher and a textbook editor before finally giving in to my late-blooming love of science. Since 2007 I have been a freelance science writer and since 2011, a serial field technician on ecological research projects in Sweden, Alaska, and California. I am joining the lab in 2015 and am thrilled to be part of this smart, happy, productive group of researchers.

My blog is here.

Graduate Student - Elli Jenkins TheobaldElli Jenkins Theobald

As a community ecologist, I am intrigued by the natural world and perplexed by the impacts humans are having on it. Specifically, I am interested in the biological implications of climate change. As the climate has warmed, many plant species have shifted their ranges both pole-ward and up in elevation, and these shifts are not projected to cease. However, biotic interactions can also determine species range limits, making climate-induced shifts less likely. My research is focused on three questions related to this broad observation: 1) What role does pollination play in determining plant species distributions? 2) Could an interaction between elevation and phenology (both flowering phenology and insect activity) enhance or slow climate-induced range shifts? 3) By modeling changes in snow duration are we able to predict past and future flowering phenology and range limits?

Using a strong elevational and climate gradient on Mount Rainier I will try to answer these questions and assess a few of the many potential biological implications of a warmer world. 

I am a Washington State native thus I came home to join the Hille Ris Lambers lab in 2010. Before graduate school, I was an Oakland public school teacher, teaching middle school and high school science. I graduated in January of 2006 with a degree in Biology and Environmental Science from Colby College (in Maine).  As an undergrad I was involved in a number of research projects including surveying vegetation recovery on Mount Saint Helens, investigating the pollination regime of a Costa Rican weed, and studying habitat-specific behavior in Black Capped Chickadees.  As a part of the Hille Ris Lambers lab, I have the opportunity to build on both my research and teaching experiences, and I am thrilled to be here.


Undergraduate Researcher - Alec Baird
Alec BairdI joined the lab in 2013 and assisted Dr. Steve Kroiss with his work on sapling growth rates across climatic gradients on Mt. Rainier. Currently, I am co-advised by Dr. Janneke Hille Ris Lambers and Dr. Liz Van Volkenburgh, and co-mentored by Leander Love-Anderegg (PhD Candidate) and Melissa Lacey (PhD Candidate).I am broadly interested in modifications in plant form and function in response to key climatic as well as biotic constraints (such as competition).

My own project aims to identify variation in Populus tremuloides (trembling aspen) leaf morphology and physiology across the species' elevational range. More specifically I want to address how specific leaf morphology and physiology interact to mediate function, survival, and growth in P. tremuloides in the face of increasing drought. Further, how might adaptive traits and the variation in adaptive traits function in influencing current and future range distributions?

I plan to graduate spring of 2016 and continue on to graduate school to pursue my Phd in plant biology, with central themes being tree ecophysiology and the ecological impacts of climate change.


Undergraduate Researcher - Myesa Legendre-FixxMyesa Legendre-Fixx
Alec BairdI am an oceanography major currently working towards declaring a degree in ecology, evolution and conservation biology. I am incredibly interested in both fields, particularly how oceanic systems and land-based communities are responding and will continue to respond to climate change. I am intrigued by the big picture of nature and how the components, both abiotic and biotic, exist as a tumultuous, violent, and beautiful system. The studies of oceanography and ecology are both ways of studying our world through a broad scope. Oceanographers take an interdisciplinary approach, investigating how abiotic factors such as currents and nutrients affect marine life and ocean processes. In the same way, ecologists are interested in how communities interact, function and change, rather than the mechanics of how an individual exists. Climate change is already affecting both marine and terrestrial ecosystems. It is important to learn what these changes will be in order to better take care of our resources and planet. 

During my time here at the University of Washington, I’ve done a variety of research and internships in completely different environments. I’ve worked in a biological oceanography lab, on the research vessel R/V Thompson on the open ocean, at NOAA interviewing experienced Bering Sea crab fishermen, and on Mt. Rainier doing ecology fieldwork for the Hille Ris Lambers lab, as well as working in the lab during the school year (see CV for more detail). Currently, I’m investigating if the climate variables that control the growth of high-elevation tree species are different in different climate regimes (i.e. on different sides of Mt. Rainier). To do this, I have been learning how to plot data in R and I will apply cross-dating techniques to a number of tree cores.

After completing a bachelor’s degree in both oceanography and ecology, I aim to attain a Ph. D.  in either one of those fields. My ideal job would involve working in a team of interdisciplinary scientists, striving to anticipate an ecosystem’s responses to global change and working to restore habitat already damaged by anthropogenic changes.  I would like to be a scientist behind restoration efforts, devising plans on how to repair at risk or damaged areas in order to preserve natural resources, ecosystem services, diversity and beauty for posterity. In addition to scientific work, I will teach others how organisms, processes, and climate are deeply interconnected and hope to convince community members of the paramount importance of gaining a better understanding of our planetary systems---so that we can make better predictions, and therefore better maintain our planet.

My CV is here.

Research Assistants
  Kyle Lowery (undergraduate research assistant 2015 - present)
  Tristan O'Mara (undergraduate research assistant 2015-present)
  Elise Pletcher
(undergraduate research assistant 2015-present)
  Teodora Rautu (undergraduate research assistant 2015-present)


Cynthia Chang (postdoc: 2012-2014). While in the HilleRisLambers lab, Cynthia applied trait-based and phylogenetic based approaches to a plant community assembly data set from Mt. St. Helens. Cynthia is currently an assistant professor at University of Washington, the Bothell campus (Bothell, WA).

Ailene Ettinger (grad: 2007-2013). While in the HilleRisLambers lab, Ailene studied the relative importance of climatic constraints and competitive interactions for the performance of six conifer trees at their altitudinal range limits within Mt. Rainier National Park, using dendroecological techniques and a manipulative transplant experiment to answer her questions. Ailene is currently an NSF Math-Bio Fellow at Tufts University University (Medford, MA).  

Kevin Ford (grad: 2008-2014). While in the HilleRisLambers lab, Kevin worked on a number of projects, including the relevant scale of microclimate variability for subalpine vegetation distributions; the relationship between tree growth across range limits, and the relative importance of climate and edaphic conditions for range expansions of treeline and subalpine plants. Kevin is currently a post doctoral research associate at the US Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station (Olympia, WA).

Melanie Harsch
(postdoc: 2012-2015). While in the HilleRisLambers lab, Melanie worked on range shifts of western plant species, using large databases. Melanie is currently a data analyst for NOAA.

Steve Kroiss (postdoc: 2012-2015). While in the HilleRisLambers lab, Steve worked on recruitment limitation of conifers as well as creating IPM models for Pacific silver fir. Steve is currently a data analyst for Intellectual Ventures.

Haldre Rogers (grad: 2006-2011). Haldre Rogers was co-located in the Tewksbury and HilleRisLambers labs while at the University of Washington. Haldre studied the impacts of complete bird loss on Guam on the dispersal of tree seeds (with the majority of species in Guams forests dispersed by birds) and the insect herbivory of tree seedlings (potentially controlled by bird predation). Haldre continues to work in this amazing system (see her project website), and is currently an assistant professor at Iowa State University.
Susan Waters (grad: 2007-2013). While in the HilleRisLambers lab, Susan studied the role of indirect, pollinator-mediated interactions between native and exotic plants in a rare and heavily invaded habitat - south Puget Sound Prairies. Susan is also the co-founder of the awesome Urban Pollination Project (a citizen science project documenting urban pollination services in Seattle). Susan is currently a PIP (Principles in Pedagogy) Fellow at the Bothell campus of University of Washington (Bothell, Wa).

Anna Wilson (lab manager, MeadoWatch Volunteer coordinator: 2012-2015). While in the lab, Anna coordinated our MeadoWatch program, kept the lab running, and participated in many aspects of research (including a study on frost tolerance of conifer seedlings). Anna is currently a lab technician at Cornell University.

Sylvia Yang (grad: 2006-2011). Sylvia was co-located in the Ruesink and HilleRisLambers labs while at the University of Washington. Sylvia worked on the ecosystem engineering abilities of eelgrass (Zostera marina), using observations, experimental manipulations, and modeling. Sylvia is currently a Marine Scientist at the Shannon Point Marine Center (Anacortes, WA), which is affiliated with Western Washington University (Bellingham, WA).

Undergraduate and Postgrad Alumni
  Rachel Brunner (2015 Cascade Legacy Field Crew Leader)
  Kaitlyn Engel
(Mt. Rainier Research Intern 2015)
  Colin Fagan (Mt. Rainier Research Intern 2015)
  David Grow (Mt. Rainier Research Intern 2015)
  Adrienne Hampton (Mt. Rainier Research Intern 2015)
  Emmi Lia (Mt. Rainier Research Intern 2015)
  Laurel Sebastian (REU 2015)
  Hannah Besso (Mt. Rainier Research Intern 2014)
  Emily Chan (Mt. Rainier Research Intern 2014)
  Drew Lyons (Mt. Rainier Research Intern 2014)
  Lane Felker (Mt. Rainier Research Intern 2013, undergraduate researcher 2013-2014)
  James Lucas (2014 Mt. Rainier REU)
  Gregor Siegmund
(2014 Field Crew Leader, Mt. Rainier Research Intern 2013)
  Hannah Wiesner (2015 Field Crew Leader, Mt. Rainier Research Intern 2014)
  Cherry Chen (Mt. Rainier Research Intern 2013, undergraduate researcher 2011-2013)
  June Landenburger (Mt. Rainier Research Intern, undergraduate researcher 2013-2014)
  Jacqui Levy (Mt. Rainier Research Intern 2013)
  Katy Olsen (
Mt. Rainier Research Intern 2013)
  Sam Reed (Mt. Rainier Research Intern 2013, postgrad researcher 2013-2014)
  Caitlin Budd (
Mt. Rainier Research Intern 2012)
  Kathleen Burns (summer REU: 2012)
  Liam Fitzgerald (
Mt. Rainier Research Intern 2012)
  Natasha Lozanoff (Mt. Rainier Research Intern 2012)
  Anna O'Brien (undergraduate researcher, lab manager: 2007-2011): currently a graduate student at UC Davis
  Sara Eshe (undergraduate researcher: 2010-2011)
  Melissa Winstanley (undergraduate researcher: 2009 - 2010)

  Irene Weber (undergraduate researcher: 2009 - 2010): currently a graduate student at Southern Illinois University
  Courtenay Ray (Mt. Rainier Research Intern 2011): currently a graduate student at UC Santa Cruz
  Jennifer Rickwalt (
Mt. Rainier Research Intern 2011)
  Mitch Piper (
Mt. Rainier Research Intern 2010, Crew Leader 2011-2012)
  Courtney Wenneborg (
Mt. Rainier Research Intern 2010)
 Jonathan Deschamps (undergraduate researcher, Mt. Rainier Research Intern 2007 - 2009)
  Gerald Lisi (
Mt. Rainier Research Intern 2008, 2009)
Alan Wright (Mt. Rainier Research Intern 2009)
  Rachel Konrady (
Mt. Rainier Research Intern 2009)
  Tony Krueger (
Mt. Rainier Research Intern 2009)
  Amado Fuentes (
Mt. Rainier Research Intern 2008) 

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Biology Department
University of Washington
Seattle WA, 98195-1800
jhrl@uw.edu, 206-543-7389