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2020 Canyonlands Research Fellows


Ian Clifton, University of Toledo

Ian Clifton is a PhD Candidate at the University of Toledo. His dissertation work is focused on understanding the physiological and behavioral effects of climate change on ectotherms. This summer will be his fifth year researching the thermal ecology of lizards in the area. He received his BS in biology from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock in 2013 and his MS in biology from the University of Central Arkansas in 2016.


Sierra Jech, University of Colorado

Sierra Jech is a first-year Ph.D. student in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department at the University of Colorado, Boulder. This summer at the CRC, Sierra will be continuing her work with biological soil crusts. Sierra is using microbial ecology and genetic techniques to assess the health and viability of biocrust that was mass produced for restoration. Sierra’s goal is to understand microbial interactions in biocrust to improve restoration outcomes in drylands. Before graduate school, Sierra earned a master’s degree in Environmental Chemistry degrees in Earth Systems Science and Chemistry.


Danilelle Duni, New Mexico State University

Danielle Duni is using GPS and GIS technology to study landscape use patterns of heritage (Raramuri Criollo) and commercial (Red Angus) beef cattle at the Dugout Ranch in Utah. Danielle is planning to determine whether breeds use desert (winter) and forest (summer) pastures differently and to analyze environment- and animal-associated factors that drive spatial distribution of grazing at this site.  Danielle is a Colorado native with a family background in sheep and cattle ranching. Her goal is to work with producers in the West finding solutions to keep them profitable on the land.


Megan Rabinowich, New Mexico State University

Megan Rabinowich is in her second semester of graduate school at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Her interests include dryland ecology, plant-soil interactions, arid land restoration, and seed/seedling ecology. Her previous experience has involved working for various federal agencies including most recently the U.S. Geological Survey in Henderson, NV where she was able to lead many exciting plant ecology research projects. Her current graduate research addresses the interactions of various dominant biological soil crust components on both soil and plants throughout early life stages and at maturity. In her free time she enjoys hiking, biking, cooking, cuddling with her cats, and crafting. 

2018 Canyonlands Research Fellows


Claire Karban, University of Colorado

Claire Karban is a first-year Ph.D. student in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology department at the University of Colorado, Boulder. At the CRC this summer, she will be studying the role of functional diversity in restoration seed mixes on seedling emergence and survival. Restoration projects often restore dominant species or species with readily available seed, and see a low rate of success. Her goal is to improve restoration success by informing choices about which species to restore and how many species to include in a seed mix. Before coming to graduate school, Claire crafted communications and outreach for a small land trust on the western slope of Colorado, designed trail work and restoration projects on Colorado's fourteener mountains, and completed a B.A. in Environmental Studies from Carleton College. 


Spencer Hudson, Utah State University

Spencer is a PhD student at Utah State University studying anthropogenic impacts on wildlife populations. Although born in Wilmington, Delaware, he migrated west and received his bachelor's degree at Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois. For his undergraduate research, he examined the physiological effects of bird feeding activities on the health of wild passerines, as well as the physiological correlates of functional coloration in Indigo Buntings (Passerina cyanea) and Green Anoles (Anolis carolinensis). His dissertation focuses on the evolution of life history differences in Side-blotched Lizards (Uta stansburiana) residing in urban and rural environments. This work includes approaches at the level of physiology, demography, and genetics. In the Canyonlands area, he will be assessing the adaptive potential for functional coloration in response to heterogeneous environments by comparing genetic variation and color polymorphism within and across Side-blotched Lizard populations at different geographic localities.


Tyara Vazquez, University of Toledo

Tyara Vazquez is an M.S. student at the University of Toledo. She is broadly interested in anthropogenic impacts on vertebrates, specifically climate change on ectothermic animals. Her research involves comparing the effects of long-term vs. acute heat stress on physiological performance and heat-shock protein expression in horny toads (Phrynosoma hernandesi).


María Cristina Rengifo, Northern Arizona University

 María Cristina Rengifo is a Master’s student at Northern Arizona University working in Matthew Bowker’s Forest-Rangeland Soil Ecology Lab. She is from Lima, Peru, where where she received her Bacherlor’s degree in biology oriented to botany. In Lima, Maria Cristina carried out her undergraduate thesis on the interaction of biological soil crust (“biocrust”), annual vegetation and fossorial birds in the Atacama Desert. Currently, her research focuses in understanding role diversity plays in the resilience of moss-dominated biocrust to climate change. She will explore the changes in the presence and cover of biocrust components (lichen and mosses) and the genetic responses of the mosses (Syntrichia spp.), through simulated climate change treatments in the Colorado Plateau in Southern Utah.