CAS Student Team Projects

The interdisciplinary research projects proposed & completed by CAS trainees

Cohort 6 (Fall 2021)

The CAS trainees in Cohort 6 worked on two research projects.

Connecting Evapotranspiration, Water Supply, and Communities in Southern Colorado

San Luis Valley

The San Luis Valley Cohort - consisting of Emily Chavez, Karem Meza Capcha, Adrian Gonzalez Ortiz, Michaela Shallue, and Diane Wagner - are developing a studio project looking at how evapotranspiration relates to climate variation and natural water supply in the San Luis Valley and how return flows have changed in the San Luis Valley. They plan to accomplish their project by collaborating with stakeholders and studying consumptive water use vs. natural water supply


Projecting Climate-Suitable Alternative Agriculture for the Cach Valley Region

Cache Valley Utah

CAS Trainees Emily Burgess, Jace Colby, Patrick Kelly, Mitchell Parsons, and Ren Weinstock are studying the suitability of commonly grown crops and livestock in relation to projected climate change in Cache Valley and identify alternative crops and livestock that are suitable to the projected climate change. Their methodology includes looking at the economic trends of both crops and livestock in Cache Valley, evaluating water requirements, and investigate historical practices


Cohort 5 (Fall 2020)

The CAS trainees in Cohort 5 worked on three research projects.

Hydroclimate Variability and Air Quality Changes Linked to Great Salt Lake Desiccation

Sky Islands with fog

Trainees Emily Fletcher, Melissa Cobo, and Siiri Bigalke addressed the research question "Can past hydroclimate variability explain GSL levels and is there a relationship between lake levels and air quality issues?" This was accomplished through the completion of two objectives: investigating past and future hydroclimate variability of Great Salt Lake region through analyzing changes to hydrologic extremes and resulting impacts on lake elevation levels; and determining the relationship between air quality and Great Salt Lake elevation levels. 


Spatial Bias in Bee Data and the Impacts of Urbanization and Climate Change on Bee Communities in the Western, US

Close-ups of bee faces

CAS Trainees Leanna DeJong, Rachel Frantz, and Forest Cook completed a project identifying the relative biasing effects on bee observation data in the Global Biodiversity Information Facility and evaluating how urbanization vs. climate change has impacted bee guilds in Logan, UT. In addition to data collection and evaluation this cohort created Hurdle Models, produced Candidate Model Sets, identified predictor variables, and examined Hierarchical Occupancy Models. Their research will result in two manuscripts, public outreach, and workshops in the Logan, Utah area. 


Climate Change and Forest Communities in the Coronado National Forest

Sky Islands with fog

Trainees Josh Carrell, Kaeli Mueller, and April Phinney studied the Coronado National Forest's Sky Islands, and the effects climate change would have on native flora. Their objectives included: 1) creating species distribution models mapping occurrences and predictors and, 2) generating spatial statistical analysis on species and communities. Their research will result in identification of climatic refugia sites, data products for the Sky Island Alliance, and published peer-reviewed articles. 


Cohort 4 (Fall 2019)

The CAS trainees in cohort 4 are all working together on a California Wildfires project.

California Wildfires


CAS trainees Ellie Smith-Eskridge, Erika Blomdahl, Alex Howe, and Dakoeta Pinto are working on a project that seeks to: 1) pair spatial data of wildfires and a survey to understand how experiences of wildfire (e.g., smoke, power shutoffs, property damage) may have impacted California residents in the past year, and their views on wildfire policies and programs; and 2) assess how biophysical factors related to wildfire (i.e., wildland-urban interface development, air quality, climate, area burned, burn severity, average fire size, and burn seasonality) have changed in four ecoregions in California. Cohort 4 hopes that their findings will reach the desks of policy makers, planners, and forest managers in California, where they will be exposed to an analysis of fire regime trends and fire-climate conditions in their state, and where they can see which policies the public is prepared to take action on.


Cohort 3 (Fall 2018)

The CAS trainees in cohort 3 worked on three research projects. 

Boa Ogoi Commemorative & Restoration Site

Will Munger, Sofia Koutzoukis, and Lindsay Capito, are working with the Northwestern Band of Shoshone to restore the ecology of Boa Ogoi, the site of the largest mass murder of Native Americans in the history of the United States. The Shoshone People are co-producing knowledge with our CAS trainees to develop a habitat restoration plan that will help restore the ecology of Boa Ogoi to what the site may have looked like in 1863, at the time of the masacre. Darren Parry, the former Chairman of the Northwestern Band of Shoshone, purchased this land in 2018. His solace is in knowing that 400 of his ancestors lie just beneath the surface; their voices, silent for more than a century and a half, are beginning to be heard once again.


Water Availability for Cannabis in Northern California             


Betsy Morgan, Kaitlyn Spangler, Jacob Stuivenvolt Allen, and Christina Morrisett, completed a project that considered the intersections of climate, policy, and public discourse in water availability for cannabis production in northern California. The production of legal cannabis is certainly a new frontier in agriculture, subjecting the sector to new resource-use regulations. Morgan et al. find that the combination of climate oscillations and restrictive water-use policies can limit available water for legal cannabis cultivation. At the same time, public discourse and media representations widen the divide toward effectively managing legalized cannabis. The paper concludes by stating: "If policies do not account for hydroclimatic variability, respond to grower concerns, and address sociocultural controversies, grower compliance and industry viability will remain elusive."


A Simple and Effective Model of Northern Goshawk Nest Sites in Utah National Forests

nest of goshawk chicks

CAS Trainees Sarah Bogen, Morgan Christman, Henrik Panosyan, and Brittany Shield - as well as graduate student Marilyn Wright -  created a simple and informative model of goshawk nesting habitat in Utah national forests and then verified the model with existing occupancy data from monitoring efforts. Their model and study found: (1) Northern Goshawks are important forest raptors that tend to nest in old-growth forest habitat and are sensitive to disturbance; (2) as the Management Indicator Species management model is replaced by the ecosystem management model, there may be fewer resources available to conduct intensive monitoring for species like the goshawk; (3) the Analytical Hierarchy Process allows us to draw on previous occupancy studies to create a simple and effective nesting habitat model for goshawks in Utah; and (4) AHP may be a useful tool for other systems and species where there are limitations to collecting field-based data but there exists a good understanding of critical habitat requirements. 



Cohort 2 (Fall 2017)

The CAS trainees in cohort 2 worked on two research projects. 

Impacts of Climate Change on Multiple Use Management on BLM Land

brice et al. blm

Lainie Brice, Brett Miller, Hongchao Zhang, Kirsten Goldstein, Scott Zimmer, and Guen Grosklos, completed a project that considered the impacts of climate change on multiple use management on BLM Land in the Intermountain West (IMW) and the extent to which climate change is considered in BLM management. Two papers resulted from this project: Brice et al., which focuses on the disconnect between management of BLM lands and the best available science; and, Zimmer et al., which focuses on climate change impact models on Sagebrush Steppe vegetation. 

Head to this page to see Lainie Brice's capstone communication project, an online and easily accessible BLM literature database!

Impacts of and Adaptations to Climate Change in Utah's Ski Areas

wilkins utah ski

Emily Wilkins, Tara Saley, Rachel Hager, and Hadia Akbar, completed a project that considered the impacts of and adaptations to a changing winter climate for Utah ski areas. Their project was published under the title Climate Change and Utah Ski Resorts: Impacts, Perceptions, and Adaptation Strategies. 


Cohort 1 (Spring 2017)

The CAS trainees in cohort 4 all worked together on a fire project in the Intermountain West.

Impacts of Wildfire Characteristics & Employment on Adaptive Management Strategies in the Intermountain West

prudencio fire

CAS trainees Liana Prudencio, Ryan Choi, Emily Esplin, Muyang Ge, Natalie Gillard, and Jeffrey Haight completed a project that investigated how trends in fire characteristics influence adaptive management and economies in the Intermountain Western (IMW). Prudencio et al. "analyze area burned and fire frequency in the IMW over time, how fires in urban or rural settings influence local economies and whether fire trends and economic impacts influence managers’ perspectives and adaptive decision-making". The paper concludes by stating: "Our findings demonstrate that fires have significant economic impacts on affected communities and that changing fire trends and economic effects influence the decision-making and planning of fire managers. The interdisciplinary nature of this research highlights the interconnectedness of the physical, economic and social aspects of fire and answers the call to utilize interdisciplinary approaches to address these complex social-environmental issues."