Skip to Main Content

Apply Now to the University of Wyoming apply now
Contact Us

Dr. Tom Minckley

Department of Geography

University of Wyoming

Laramie, WY 82071-3321


Environmental Variability Investigation Laboratory



Tom Minckley, PhD: Paleoecology of western North America.

Tom is interested in how the ecosystems of the arid west formed during and after the last ice age. Much of his interests lie in how deserts formed in a massive region once covered by lakes and forests. Most of the data for these questions come from mountains where glaciers carved out lakes. The conditions in the basins are not as well known, so looking at desert wetland and spring complexes and sediments from caves allows for new looks into the formation of modern ecosystems.

Tom sees paleoecology as a the intellectual home of naturalists interested in the process that formed modern ecosystems. Growing up in southern Arizona in the most floristically diverse desert, the Sonoran, and hiking throughout the sky-islands, mountains that punctuate the desert, there is the opportunity to sit on mountain peaks and wonder how the desert replaced the woodlands. How did that process affect the biodiversity of the region? Wanting to know the spatial and temporal processes that lead to what we see today started this research. Using knowledge of the past to inform ecological conservation of the arid west motivates its continuance.

He was introduced to paleoecology at the University of Arizona, working with Owen Davis (Geosciences) a while getting a BS in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (’95). His studies continued under Cathy Whitlock  at the University of Oregon Department of Geography receiving his PhD in 2003.


Jonathan Bowler: Socioecology of resource management in the Arid West

Jonathan BowlerJonathan Bowler has spent the past decade travelling the West as an educator, scientist, and proud public lands owner. His interests reside in the human dimensions of socio-ecological systems. He is particularly interested in how the artificial manipulation and transportation of natural resources affects the relationship between society and the environment. His research focuses on these ideas in the American West as they relate to the Colorado River Basin. Through an interdisciplinary, natural history approach he will investigate the social, political, economic, legal, and cultural dimensions of Western expansion, resource manipulation, and persistent conflict from the time of initial scientific contact to the present day. His goal is to integrate modern science, humanities, and traditional ecologic knowledge into a public dialogue, that will facilitate the development of a baseline shift in ecological integration to move towards a sustainable, resilient, equitable and just future in the West.

Jonathan’s graduated with a triple Master’s with degrees in Planning, Water Resources and Environment and Natural Resources in 2015.  He is continuing his research as a Ph.D. student in UW’s Program in Ecology focused on socio-ecological dimensions of the relationship between water resource management strategies and cultural connections to place. Although Jonathan is most at home on the rivers of the Colorado River Basin, he enjoys spending time in the headwaters state of Wyoming.

Rica Fulton: A qualitative comparative analysis of Fontenelle Dam, McPhee Dam, and Navajo Dam: the ecological and recreational nexus of flow regimes in the upper Colorado River Basin

Rica FultonRica Fulton is from southwest Colorado and has always loved exploring desert rivers and mountains. After working for two years at a Geospatial firm in Portland, Oregon, a perpetual passion for the Colorado River brought her back to the Colorado Plateau. Rica is interested in fostering creative solutions to Upper Colorado River management and conservation that stem from grassroots ideas and collaboration. She is researching instream flows and the ecological and recreational flow regime nexus on three Upper Colorado River tributaries.

Rica is part of the University of Wyoming SCREE expedition, a 90-day rafting trip commemorating the impact of John Wesley Powell on the development of the West and creating a dialog for the future of the region. She also runs the non-profit, Upper Green River Network, a Colorado Riverkeeper Affiliate program in Wyoming.

Ben Kraushaar: 

Ben KraushaarBenjamin kraushaar grew up in southwest Colorado, an area rich in public land access and recreational opportunities. From the desolate deserts of Canyonlands to the rugged ridges of the San Juan mountains, the unique geography of the southwest influenced Ben’s decision to pursue a life in the outdoors.

Ben received a B.S. in Environmental Geology from Fort Lewis College in 2008 and after a seasonal stint working as a hydrologist in Jackson, WY, Ben returned to Colorado and worked as a Land Surveyor for two years. During this time, Ben decided he needed an adventure and subsequently backpacked and fly fished for 500 miles along the Colorado Trail.

This trip enhanced Ben’s passion for adventure photography and before returning to graduate school at the University of Wyoming, Ben freelanced for Outside Online, and other mountain biking and fly fishing media outlets.   Now, Ben is at the University of Wyoming and is pursuing a project that uses outdoor recreation as a vessel for science communication.

In 2019, Ben along with a crew of artists and academics will embark on a 90 day, 1000 mile raft trip that commemorates the 150 year anniversary of John Wesley Powell’s Colorado River Exploring Expedition. Ben plans on using rafting to collect water quality data for the entire extent of the expedition route. Simple science on a large scale. In addition to collecting water quality data, Ben will use the raft trip as a means to communicate both social and environmental issues that pertain to the Colorado River Basin. He will harness the power of visual arts to engage communities before, during, and after the trip.

Shannon Mazzie: Water resource management across administrative boundaries in southeastern Arizona

Shannon MazzieShannon is examining how values interact with regulations in the  management of natural resources (water) within different land-owning organizations. She is examining whether regulation and policies create barriers to collaborating across the organizations administrative boundaries.

While her work is focused on water resource management and development, the results of her work should be applicable for any ecological flow that has management or conservation implications.



Shawnacey Meares: A spatially derived evaluation of emergent diversity in the Chiricahua Madrean Archipelago following landscape fire transposition

Shawnacey MearesShawanacey is looking at the demographic changes in forests of the Chiricahua Mountains after the 2011 Horseshoe II fire. His study looks to quantify changes in plant community composition, resiliency of the forests to landscape-scale disturbance events.





Robert Rust: Resiliency and response of Rocky Mountain forests to short term (fire) and long term (drought) disturbance across climatic boundaries

RRobert Rustobert is investigating disturbance mediated diversity change over the Holocene.  In other words how does forest diversity change with differing disturbance regimes, specifically drought and fire. His work is focused on the the subalpine forests of Wyoming. He is interested in using paleoecological records to test ecological theory, with an emphasis on using the pollen record to evaluate past vegetative community diversity.

After spending a decade in the Greater Yellowstone area, Robert returned to academia to gain a better understanding on how ecosystems develop, persist and eventually turnover. More at home on skis in the backcountry than anywhere else, Robert spends his free-time backpacking, fly-fishing and generally wishing for an endless winter.


Thomas Brussel (MA 2015): Tracking the evolution of plant community flammability using paleoenvironmental data

A trait based analysis of paleoenvironmental data from Breitenbush Lake, OR was performed to see how the forests along the crest of the Cascade Range evolved their fire sensitivity since the last glacial period.  Tom is currently at the University of Utah






Elizabeth Dilbone (MA 2017): Hyperspectral imaging of sandbar migration on the Niobrara River NE.

Elizabeth DilboneElizabeth used hyperspectral imagery to investigate approaches to bathymetric mapping and sandbar migration tracking on the Niobrara River, Nebraska. Identifying an efficient means of depth-mapping on sand-bedded rivers will provide essential data for identifying shallow water, migratory bird habitat as well as data for monitoring changes in channel morphology in response to different management practices.

Contact Us

Dr. Tom Minckley

Department of Geography

University of Wyoming

Laramie, WY 82071-3321


1000 E. University Ave. Laramie, WY 82071
UW Operators (307) 766-1121 | Contact Us | Download Adobe Reader

Accreditation | Virtual Tour | Emergency Preparedness | Employment at UW | Privacy Policy | Harassment & Discrimination | Accessibility Accessibility information icon