John All, JD, PhD is a global explorer and geoscientist, specializing in climate change research in remote locations and is the Founding Director of the Mountain Environments Research Institute. A lifetime fellow of the Explorers Club in New York City and Fulbright Senior Scholar, All is also Executive Director of the American Climber Science Program, which brings together scientists from many disciplines, along with students and mountaineers, to expand global research at high altitudes. His work is broadly focused on fragile, indicator environments, in particular the world's highest mountains, where changing climate has profound consequences. He is an advocate for adaptive strategies to cope with changes now occurring and his research is focused on hard science that informs public discourse. His research includes the impact of climate change on endangered species, on subsistence grazing, on fire, and on glacier particulates as they affect water supply. Dr. All works primarily in Peru and Nepal, but has led expeditions on five continents to extreme locations -- from deep caves to tropical rain forests; remote deserts to the great mountain ranges of Asia and South America. Dr. All has successfully summited Mt. Everest, Denali, Artesonraju, Mt. Blanc de Tacul, Alpamayo, El Capitan, and hundreds of other mountains around the world.
Andy Bach, PhD is an associate professor of environmental geography in Huxley College of the Environment, at Western Washington University, where he teaches physical geography, soils, climatology and water resources. His major research areas include geomorphology and soils, natural resources management, and climate change in the western United States. Dr. Bach, his graduate students and colleagues have been focusing research efforts on mountains of Washington and California. He has examined glaciers as a water resource in the North Cascades, demonstrating that about 30%-70% of the summer flow of our rivers is derived from glacier meltwater. The glaciers are documented to be retreating in recent decades and if they disappear entirely, our limited summer water supply will be reduced substantially. Having grown up in the agricultural area of the Central Valley of California, he has been attuned with the political and economic conflicts over a limited water supply his entire life. As the glaciers retreat, they expose new land, where he has been looking at rates and modes of soil development and vegetation colonization.
Andy Bunn is an environmental scientist interested in climate and energy. Most of my research has to do with paleoclimate and carbon cycling. Visit the Huxley Tree Ring Lab site for more information about my lab, research, going to grad school etc. Most of my publications are available at ResearchGate. I was the founding director of the Institute for Energy Studies which seeks to give students a thorough education in energy across science, technology, and policy.
Randall Burtz is an Associate Professor and Coordinator of the Recreation Program. His studies have involved research for the USDA Forest Service, USDI National Park Service, and state departments of fish and wildlife. His Doctorate is from Colorado State University’s Human Dimensions Unit. He has performed research in Rocky Mountain National Park, Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest, and San Bernardino National Forest. In the Recreation Program, Randall is a professor of Outdoor Recreation and holds a Master Educator certification for Leave No Trace land use ethics. When recreating, he can be found kayaking, fly-fishing, and hiking with his boys in the North Cascades. On recent travels, he hiked the King’s Trail in the Austrian Alps.
Doug Clark is an Associate Professor of Geology at WWU. His research interests include Alpine geomorphic processes and climates in western North America, New Zealand, Australia, and Central Asia; Ice-core paleoclimatology; Cordilleran Ice sheet and sea-level dynamics; Pedagogy of field and research projects in undergraduate education. Broadly, he studies landscapes and landscape evolution, the processes that shape them, with a particular focus on glaciated regions. He also investigates past variability in climate that accompanied or caused these changes, mostly by combining detailed landscape mapping and analyses with radiometric dating to constrain the timing and rates of those changes. He spent nearly a month on Mount Waddington in British Columbia drilling an ice core for paleoclimate work in 2010 and knows the North Cascades well.
Eric Dechaine is an Associate Professor of Biology at WWU and the Curator of the Pacific Northwest Herbarium (WWB). He explores how climate impacts the distribution and diversity of arctic-alpine plants - the early indicators of environmental change. Imagine an archipelago of oceanic islands. Now, place those islands atop mountains surrounded by a sea of forest. That is the alpine - isolated fragments of tundra in the sky. As the climate warms, the forest rises and the sky islands shrink, forcing plants to move, adapt, or die. To gauge how species might respond to changes, one needs to know where they occur. Yet, little is known about plants in remote arctic and alpine regions. So, DeChaine goes where no botanist has gone before. In the search for flowers, DeChaine has summited countless peaks, canoed numerous rivers, and trekked untold miles across Greenland and Scandinavia, Siberia, Japan, and the Americas, including a solo-ascent of Denali. Through field- and lab-work, his geographic and molecular analyses unearth the histories of arctic-alpine plants, the factors that have given rise to rare mountain taxa, and how those species may respond to future warming.
Robin Kodner, Professor of Biology is an alpinist and biologist specializing in the study of microbial communities in the ocean as well as mountain environments. Currently a Professor of Biology at Western Washington University, Robin has been an outdoor educator for over 15 years in the mountains and on sail boats. She uses both the ocean and mountain environments as platforms for teaching basic sciences. Robin received her PhD in biology from Harvard University. Her postdoctoral work at the University of Washington took her to San Juan Island in the pacific northwest to research algae communities in the marine environment.
Twenty years of rock climbing and passion for ski mountaineering led Robin to expand her research into the alpine realm, studying snow algae communities. Her goal is to collect snow algae from hard to reach places - using her climbing skills to help us understand and document threatened glacial ecosystems. Her research employs genomic techniques to take a snap shot of microbial community structure. She is using the snow microbiome as a model to understand how communities evolve in respond to climate change.
James has worked with mountain peoples of Mesoamerica and Himalaya communities, in areas of ecocultural wellbeing, migration, and intercultural models of transformative education. Affirming the commons, partnerships, and providing direct experiences for students in mountain communities are connections I have to MERI.
Carl Schmitt, PhD, was trained as an Atmospheric Physicist but now is better described as an Environmental Physicist. His research interests range from ice clouds and their impact on climate and representation in climate models to more down-to-earth topics such as air pollution and glaciology. From modeling how air pollution can affect glaciers to studying how the shape of ice particles in clouds 20 kilometers up, Carl’s research always comes down to understanding the physics of the fundamental processes. Carl is one of the co-founders of the American Climber Science Program and is fond of saying that he has climbed more mountains in the name of research than for any other reason. As part of MERI, Carl will focus on research studies on the impact of light absorbing particles (such as often human sourced pollutant, black carbon) on glaciers and snow. Partially due to Carl’s past efforts, the study of light absorbing particles on glaciers has expanded to 5 universities in Peru. Carl advises a number of US and Peruvian students in research projects in a variety of atmospheric and glaciology topics.
Ruth Sofield I am most interested in research at the intersection of environmental chemistry and toxicology. My educational background has led me here with degrees and research experiences in biology, environmental science, toxicology, and environmental chemistry. My students and I use both laboratory and field work in our research; the laboratory studies let us answer specific questions in a controlled setting, while the field work is where the application of that work occurs. The majority of our work has focused on the impacts of aquatic chemistry on metal toxicity in aquatic environments.
John Tuxill, Associate Professor, Farhaven College of Interdisciplinary Studies: An ethnobotanist by training, my academic interests center on understanding how people value, utilize and manage plants and the natural world. I am particularly interested in how ethnobotanical and ethnoecological knowledge can help contribute to ecological restoration, biodiversity conservation, and sustainable natural resource management. My field research (ongoing since 2001) has centered on the management of agricultural biodiversity by contemporary Yucatec Maya farmers in central Yucatan state, Mexico. My goal is to understand how environmental variables influence Mayan farmers’ decision-making about the diversity of crop varieties they choose to grow in household agricultural systems. What leads farmers to maintain and conserve traditional crop varieties under some circumstances, but not others? How do traditional patterns of agriculture and management of plant resources influence diversity at the community and landscape level, where farming and natural habitats occupy a contiguous landscape? I also have incipient research interests in traditional agricultural landscapes of the Central Andes (Peru, Ecuador) and southwest China. In addition to my research interests, I have taught undergraduate field courses (ethnobotany, agroecology and environmental studies) in Yucatan, Ecuador, Costa Rica, and most recently Cuba.
Manca Valum, For information regarding how to support MERI activities and programs, please contact Manca Valum, Senior Director of Advancement for Strategic Initiatives