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Paulette L.. Ford

Dr. Ford, Kiowa National Grassland, NE New Mexico

Research Ecologist

Address: 
333 Broadway SE, Suite 115
Albuquerque, NM 87102-3407
Phone: 
505-724-3660
Fax: 
505-724-3688
Contact Paulette L.. Ford

Current Research

My current research is a comprehensive program focused on the long-term effects of disturbance (drought, disease, fire) on shortgrass steppe and desert grasslands, and pinyon-juniper woodlands. The studies are aimed at understanding how these unique and important systems function in the face of changing disturbance patterns and climate including large and devastating wildfires. Main studies include: (1) landscape-scale patterns of fire and drought in the Great Plains; (2) long-term experimental research on the effects of season and frequency of fire in shortgrass steppe in the southern Great Plains and Chihuahuan Desert grassland; (3) state-transition simulation modeling as a decision support tool for southern Great Plains managers; (4) long-term carbon dynamics in aridland ecosystems; and (5) global-change-type drought in piñon-juniper woodland ecosystems in the American Southwest.

Research Interests

My research interests focus on the role of disturbance, (i.e., fire, drought, infestations, pathogens), in structuring grassland, desert, and woodland communities; and ecosystem resilience.

Past Research

• The effects of fire and mowing on expansion of re-established black-tailed prairie dog colonies in Chihuahuan Desert grasslands. • Black-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus) response to seasonality and frequency of fire in shortgrass steppe. • Habitat and breeding ecology of amphibians. • Fleas and lice of mammals in New Mexico. • Coccidia (Apicomplexa) from heteromyid rodents in the southwestern United States, Baja California, and northern Mexico with three new species from Chaetodipus hispidus.

Why This Research is Important

• The American Southwest is characterized by extreme drought conditions accompanied by rising temperatures, causing widespread tree mortality in pinyon-juniper woodlands. This die-off occurred across millions of acres of the southwestern United States and killed up to 350 million pinyon pines. Because the region has continued to experience frequent droughts and high temperatures, on-going research examines whether even drought tolerant junipers may succumb to increased aridity and begin dying at increased rates, potentially significantly altering fire regimes.

• Climate change is a pressing environmental issue that requires measuring the exchange of greenhouse gases between terrestrial systems and the atmosphere. Reductions in atmospheric CO2 concentration through enhanced terrestrial carbon storage may help slow or reverse the rate of global climate change. As a result, Federal land management agencies, such as the US Forest Service, are now beginning to implement management policies to increase carbon storage.

• Fire is a key management tool in the southwestern US, yet fire management strategies must be designed within a context of global climate change, which includes a more variable climate with more frequent extreme events, and potentially a shift in winter/summer rainfall patterns. Given the uncertainty of future scenarios for climate change and climate variability in the southwestern US we need to know now how fire seasonality, and over the long-term fire frequency, interacts with climate variability to affect biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in these highly dynamic aridland ecosystems.

• The High Plains states are in the midst of ongoing extreme drought, experiencing below normal precipitation and above normal temperatures for the past several years. Drought is expected to persist or intensify. In addition, climate change is predicted to have multiple effects on fire regimes, including more large-scale fires that significantly exceed those of recent decades.

Education

  • University of Arizona, Ph.D., Renewable Natural Resources Studies (Major) Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (Minor), 2000
  • University of New Mexico, M.S., Biology, 1992
  • University of New Mexico, B.S., Biology, 1989
  • University of New Mexico, B.S., Psychology, 1989
  • Professional Organizations

    • Society For Range Management, Associate Editor ( 2015 to present )
      Editorial Board, Associate Editor for Rangeland Ecology & Management.
    • The United Nations Educational, Scientific And Cultural Organization (Unesco), Member International Editorial Council For Eloss ( 2005 to present )
      Member UNESCO International Editorial Council for Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems.
    • Society For Range Management, Member ( 1999 to present )
    • The Wildlife Society, Member ( 1999 to present )
    • Ecological Society of America, Member ( 1997 to present )

    Awards

    National Rangeland Management Award, Tom Tidwell, Chief, USDA Forest Service., 2015
    "In recognition of outstanding achievement in Rangelands Research and Development."
    National Grasslands Research and Technology Award. USDA, National Grassland Council., 2013
    "For long-term experimental research on the Kiowa National Grassland on the effects of season and frequency of fire on shortgrass steppe, and educating fire personnel on the effects of prescribed burning on shortgrass prairie ecosystems."
    Award, USDA National Grassland Council, 2011
    For your Leadership to the USDA Forest Service National Grasslands Council 2008-2011, for serving as the Research Representative."
    National Grasslands Research and Technology Award. USDA, National Grassland Council., 2010
    For long-term experimental research on the Kiowa National Grassland on the effects of season and frequency of fire on shortgrass steppe.
    Certificate of Merit, David Cleaves, Station Director, USDA Forest Service, RMRS, 2006
    "In recognition of your dedicated efforts as a member of the Science First Restructuring Team, from which the design emerged for a new 21st Century Rocky Mountain Research Station.
    USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station Best Technology Transfer Award, 2006
    For two volumes of RMRS-GTR-135 Assessment of Grassland Ecosystem Conditions in the Southwestern United States in collaboration with other RMRS scientists.
    National Grasslands Research and Technology Award. USDA, National Grassland Council., 2004
    For long-term experimental research on the Kiowa National Grassland on the effects of season and frequency of fire on shortgrass steppe.
    Certificate of Merit, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Albuquerque, New Mexico, 2004
    For your contribution to the R3/RMRS Grassland Assessment Team, including participation in the team process and authorship of one or more chapters of Volume 1 of the General Technical Report.

    Featured Publications

    Publications

    Reeves, Matt C.; Ford, Paulette L.; Frid, Leonardo; Augustine, David; Derner, Justin, 2016. A prototype application of state and transition simulation modeling in support of grassland management
    Finch, Deborah M.; Pendleton, Rosemary L.; Reeves, Matt C.; Ott, Jeffrey E.; Kilkenny, Francis; Butler, Jack L.; Ott, Jacqueline; Pinto, Jeremiah R.; Ford, Paulette L.; Runyon, Justin B.; Rumble, Mark A.; Kitchen, Stanley G., 2016. Rangeland drought: Effects, restoration, and adaptation [Chap. 8]
    Ford, Paulette L.; Jackson, Charles; Reeves, Matthew; Bird, Benjamin; Turner, Dave, 2015. Landscape-scale patterns of fire and drought on the high plains, USA
    Steiner, Jean L.; Schneider, Jeanne M.; Pope, Clay; Pope, Sarah; Ford, Paulette L.; Steele, Rachel F.; Anderson, Terry, 2015. Southern Plains assessment of vulnerability and preliminary adaptation and mitigation strategies for farmers, ranchers, and forest land owners
    Thomey, Michell L.; Ford, Paulette L.; Reeves, Matt C.; Finch, Deborah M.; Litvak, Marcy E.; Collins, Scott L., 2014. Review of climate change impacts on future carbon stores and management of warm deserts of the United States
    Ford, Paulette L.; Calabrese, Laura; Collins, Scott; Kearney, Don, 2011. Experimental fire in two different grassland ecosystems in the Southwestern United States
    Hazlett, Donald L.; Schiebout, Michael H.; Ford, Paulette L., 2009. Vascular plants and a brief history of the Kiowa and Rita Blanca National Grasslands
    Facka, Aaron N.; Ford, Paulette L.; Roemer, Gary W., 2008. A novel approach for assessing density and range-wide abundance of prairie dogs
    Clifford, Michael J.; Rocca, Monique E.; Delph, Robert; Ford, Paulette L.; Cobb, Neil S., 2008. Drought induced tree mortality and ensuing bark beetle outbreaks in southwestern pinyon-juniper woodlands
    Ford, Paulette L.; Andersen, Mark C.; Fredrickson, Ed L.; Truett, Joe; Roemer, Gary W., 2008. Effects of fire and mowing on expansion of reestablished black-tailed prairie dog colonies in Chihuahuan Desert grassland
    Ford, Paulette L.; Fagerlund, Richard A.; Duszynski, Donald W.; Polechla, Paul J., 2004. Fleas and lice of mammals in New Mexico
    Potter, Deborah U.; Ford, Paulette L., 2004. Grassland Sustainability
    Ford, Paulette L.; Potter, Deborah U.; Pendleton, Rosemary L.; Pendleton, Burton K.; Robbie, Wayne A.; Gottfried, Gerald J., 2004. Southwestern Grassland Ecology
    Ford, Paulette L.; Finch, Deborah M., 1999. Amphibians and land use in the Chihuahuan Desert border region
    Ford, Paulette L.; McPherson, Guy R., 1996. Ecology of fire in shortgrass prairie of the southern Great Plains
    Climate change is a pressing environmental issue that requires measuring the exchange of greenhouse gases between terrestrial systems and the atmosphere. Reductions in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration through enhanced terrestrial carbon storage may help slow or reverse the rate of global climate change.
    Researchers and collaborators at the Rocky Mountain Research Station Albuquerque Lab have pursued several lines of research to better manage prairie dog colonies in the Southwest. The research team developed a novel approach to estimate density of prairie dogs, assessed mechanisms of prairie dog expansion, and explored the role of fleas, an important element of the plague lifecycle, in initiating and perpetuating plague outbreaks.
    The Colorado Plateau and Southern Great Plains continue to experience frequent droughts and high temperatures. On-going research examines whether even drought tolerant junipers may succumb to increased aridity and begin dying at increased rates, which could significantly alter fire regimes.
    Innovative quantitative approaches have been developed for evaluating wildfire and prescribed fire effects on wildlife communities in several western North American national forests.