201 Stephenson Parkway, Suite 2100 Norman, OK 73019

Species & Ecosystems

Toward understanding the impacts of climate change on key species, ecosystems, and ecosystem services; better managing species and ecosystems in the face of a changing climate; and exploring questions related to species ecology and human-wildlife interactions in the context of climate change.


Environmental changes continue to impact the iconic species of our region. There is much that natural resource managers need to know to better address the impacts of a changing climate on the resources under their charge. This group seeks to answer key questions pertinent to wildlife conservation and management in a changing world and to enhancing our ability to better coexist with the plants and animals so crucial to the health and wellbeing of human societies.

Our Team

Established in October 2018, the Species and Ecosystems team is comprised of the following members:

John Zak (co-lead), Texas Tech University

Jim Ansley, Oklahoma State University

Kerry Griffis-Kyle, Texas Tech University

Ellen Robertson, Oklahoma State University

Robert Lonsinger, USGS Oklahoma Fish & Wildlife Research Unit

Virginia Seamster (co-lead), NM Dept. of Game and Fish

Victor Rivera-Monroy, Louisiana State University

Bruce Hoagland, University of Oklahoma

Esteban Muldavin, University of New Mexico

Romain Lavaud, Louisian State University Agricultural Center

Todd Fagin, University of Oklahoma

Natasja van Gestel, Texas Tech University

Nick Smith, Texas Tech University

Katharine Dahm, USGS

Timothy O’Connell, Oklahoma State University

Lizz Waring, Northeastern State University

Heather McCarthy, University of Oklahoma

David Bradsby, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

Randy Easley, E2 Analytics


Our Projects

Milestones & Next Steps for 2022

Conceptual Paper – Climate Change Effects on Foundation Species and Ecosystem Services: The goal of the conceptual paper is to evaluate the link between foundation species, ecosystem responses to climate change, and ecosystem services and then answer questions pertaining to common trends, climate change impacts on ecosystem services, climate adaptation, and ecological restoration for case studies presented for key ecosystems in the South Central region. One of the subgroup co-leads, Jim Ansley, presented on the status of the conceptual paper during the fall science meeting. To date, the conceptual paper subgroup, led by Victor Rivera-Monroy, Jim Ansley and Todd Fagin, has a solid manuscript drafted that includes the following ecosystems and foundational species and, pending further review by all co-authors, will be submitted to Ecosphere: 1) Central Plains C4 grasslands and bobwhite quail; 2) mangrove wetlands and nutria; 3) south central playa wetlands fauna (amphibian and sandhill crane); and 4) cross timbers and invading eastern red cedar.

Emerging Urban Ecosystems: The goal of this subgroup, led by John Zak and Victor Rivera-Monroy and sparked by a LTER pre-proposal that was previously submitted to establish Lubbock as an emerging urban ecosystem, is to better understand the impacts that mid-sized cities across the South Central region have on biodiversity patterns, local weather, and energy dynamics. During the Fall Meeting, there was extensive discussion about this topic and a conceptual framework, in the form of a preliminary set of questions of interest to the subgroup, was developed and presented during the report out to the other Communities of Practice. Potential focal cities for future discussions by this subgroup include: Lubbock, TX; Norman, OK; Las Cruces, NM; and Baton Rouge, LA. This subgroup, by way of monthly meetings, will further develop the conceptual framework, collect current data from mid-sized cities in the South Central region pertinent to addressing core questions included in the framework, and will submit a proposal to USGS for on-going support.

Agency-Relevant Climate Vulnerable Species and Habitats: The key goals of this subgroup are to: 1) identify habitats and species across the South-Central region that are vulnerable to climate change and of interest to natural resource managers in the region; and 2) develop climate-smart guidelines and/or an adaptation menu that will be incorporated to user-friendly fact sheets to inform habitat enhancement work intended to benefit the focal habitats and species. Based on a survey shared with natural resource managers in 2020, three members of this subgroup (Ginny Seamster, Todd Fagin, and Tim O’Connell) have started developing tables that will serve as the centerpieces for fact sheets for six species associated with aquatic and/or riparian habitats that are of interest to state, federal, and tribal entities in New Mexico and Oklahoma. The subgroup would like to expand the list of focal species to include 6 of interest in Texas and Louisiana, continue fleshing out references for climate-smart actions for the New Mexico and Oklahoma species, work on actions for the Texas and Louisiana species, and have a draft fact sheet for aquatic and riparian species in the South Central region by the next fall science meeting. There was discussion regarding potential to incorporate metabolic ecology concepts presented by Romain Lavaud either in this subgroup or elsewhere in the CoP. This subgroup also plans to discuss fact sheet development with Sharon Hausam with the South Central Climate Adaptation Science Center.

Socioecology of Agricultural Systems: This potential new subgroup’s goals are to: 1) evaluate the impacts of agricultural practices on biodiversity, species distributions, and landscape connectivity for species in the context of climate change and efforts to enhance soil carbon storage; 2) enhance communication with farmers regarding these impacts and develop citizen science programs for data collection. This topic needs to be fleshed out further to determine more specific objectives and potential products.  Jim Emsley and John Zak have expressed interest in co-leading.

Relationships between Animal and Human Health in the Context of a Changing Climate: This potential new subgroup’s goal is to evaluate the relationship between climate change, changes in animal movement patterns, and the spread of disease within wildlife populations and to humans. This topic also needs to be fleshed out further and discussed with other potential collaborators, including those at Oklahoma State University, Texas Tech University, and University of New Mexico, before specific objectives and potential products can be identified.