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Climate Interactions with Ecosystem Structure & Function: Meet Chris Beltz

Experiement.pngHello World! My name is Chris Beltz and I am a 2016 ESIP Student Fellow working with the Agriculture and Climate cluster.

I am a second-year PhD student in Ecology at the University of Wyoming.  Currently, I am focusing on the biogeochemistry of water-limited systems (i.e. drylands) in the western United States. Drylands cover 40% of the Earth’s terrestrial surface and store 20% of global soil carbon, making them an excellent system from which to study the ramifications of environmental change to the global carbon cycle.

At this time, I am finishing a study examining the effect of nitrogen fertilization on carbon cycling within sagebrush communities in western Wyoming.  I am also preparing to begin a new study this summer that will explore the interactive effects of increased nitrogen deposition and precipitation – both of which are predicted by the most recent IPCC report – across three dryland ecosystem types.  Specifically, I will be focusing on how the expected effects of environmental change on ecosystem structure affect ecosystem function.

Queue ESIP… I will be utilizing a number of approaches in this new study, including remote sensing, field manipulation, and modeling. I will collect a large portion of my own data, but will utilize publicly available datasets on climate from NOAA and LANDSAT imagery from the USGS.  Personally, I will collect data that spans local weather, soil characteristics, plant communities, gas fluxes, and genetics of microbial communities.  ESIP’s focus on informatics and Earth Science is critical to my current research, but also to expanding my ability to work with #bigdata.


The Agriculture and Climate cluster is an ideal “home” for me, given my focus on environmental change and the large amount of agriculture that occurs within dryland systems globally and within the US.  Since I attended the Winter Meeting in early January, I have learned a significant amount, including a long list of acronyms. Luckily, I already have NASA and NOAA down!

I like to spend my free time outdoors as much as possible.  I’ve completed the southern half of the Appalachian Trial, four marathons, and two half-iron distance triathlons.  These time-intensive adventures don’t mesh well with a graduate student lifestyle… so I settle for using the Oxford comma, taking beautiful pictures of my fields sites, and going for short runs with my dog in the Medicine Bow National Forest, east of Laramie, Wyoming.

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