Jennifer Rudgers

Distinguished Professor, University of New Mexico      Director, Sevilleta LTER

Jennifer received a Ph.D. in Population Biology in 2002 from the University of California, Davis where she was awarded the Allen G. Marr Prize for Best Dissertation. Currently she is a Distinguished Professor of Biology at University of New Mexico, lead PI on the Sevilleta LTER program ( and co-director of the UNM-ARID Institute ( A major focus of current research is understanding and predicting the ecological consequences of increasing climate variability. Rudgers has had continuous NSF funding since 2003.

Climate variability at dryland ecotones - how will increasing variance influence ecosystems? 

If we consider future climate scenarios, there are two key parameters of change in the distribution of climate variables to consider †change in the average, or mean and change in the variance - or the ups and downs in climate variables over time. We work in drylands, so change in aridity is especially important to consider. Prior empirical research on the ecological consequences of climate change, has mostly emphasized changes in the mean climate, for example experiments that impose climate warming, or extreme events like severe drought.  There is much less published about the potential consequences of changes in variance, particularly at the inter-annual scale. The biological effects of environmental variability play out over longer time periods than most studies, making long-term support critical to advancing this scientific frontier. Our research program centers on the question: How do changes in climate mean and variance affect dryland ecosystems and transitions among them? Our long-term data and novel field infrastructure (the mean x variance experiment) together indicate that ecosystems and species differ in their sensitivity to variance in climate, tied to their traits. And, that thresholds exist for the importance and direction of influence of climate.


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