19th Annual RISE Symposium includes student poster contest winners

Thursday, October 26, 2023
Photo by Jason Katterhenry. View of the Santa Rita Experimental Range.

The 19th Annual Research Insights in Semi-Arid Ecosystems (RISE) Symposium was held this past Saturday at the Marley Building on the UArizona Campus. The objectives of the symposium were to share recent results of scientific research in semiarid environments, with an emphasis on work conducted at the USDA-ARS Walnut Gulch Experimental Watershed (WGEW) and the University of Arizona Santa Rita Experimental Range (SRER), and to encourage collaboration among researchers and students on future research and outreach activities. This year’s symposium presented opportunities for research, teaching and outreach. Speakers at the event covered a wide variety of topics, including results of completed and on-going work at WGEW and SRER.

Oral presentations started with updates and opportunities at the Santa Rita Experimental Range and National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) by Brett Blum, director of the Southern Arizona Experiment Station, and Abe Karam, NEON manager. Nico Franz, from the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University, introduced the enormous number of holdings and research opportunities using the NEON Biorepository. Vanessa Prileson, from Pima County Natural Resources, Parks and Recreation, gave an overview of lands held by Pima County in title and easement for the Sonora Desert Conservation Plan, specifically opportunities on the ranch lands in that program. Michael Johnson, an Indigenous Resilience Specialist in the School of Natural Resources and the Environment at the College of Agriculture, Life and Environmental Sciences, and a 250th generation Hopi Farmer, described opportunities related to agricultural food storage and cultivation practices performed by the Hopi and how those practices reduced the vulnerability to the uncertainties of inter-annual growing conditions. Joel Biederman, from the USDA ARS Southwest Watershed Research Center, described discoveries and opportunities following the first three years of the RainMan project that measured vegetation and soil microbial responses to manipulation of rainfall amount and timing on the Santa Rita Experimental Range.

After lunch, Phil Heilman, from the USDA ARS Southwest Watershed Research Center, described recent projects and opportunities at the Walnut Gulch Experimental Watershed near Tombstone. Eric Dhruv, from the Ironwood Tree Experience, described programs connecting diverse youth to biodiverse ecosystems and specifically the programs that occurred on the Santa Rita with local high school students. Betsy Arnold, a professor in the School of Plant Sciences at the College of Agriculture, Life and Environmental Sciences, led us through recent discoveries and ongoing projects describing the abundance and role of soil microorganisms on the above ground vegetation at SRER and nearby locations, as well as a fascinating collection of photographs of common mushroom species.

Additionally, 18 short talks and accompanying posters showcasing work conducted at WGEW and SRER were presented by graduate and undergraduate students and submitted for a poster contest. The posters are available for viewing on the RISE website.

Neda Arad, a student at the School of Plant Sciences, took first place in the graduate student category and won a prize of $500 for the poster titled Endophytes of native and introduced plants at the Santa Rita Experimental Range: High biodiversity contextualized by a continental-scale context.



Changpeng Fan, a Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences student, won second place and $300 in the graduate student category for the poster titled Harness the power of NEON observations and artificial intelligence to predict the hydroclimate regulation on microbial functional composition across the CONUS.



Doan Goolsby, a student at the School of Natural Resources and the Environment, took first place and won a $300 prize in the undergraduate category for the poster titled The Impact of Increased Precipitation Variability on Soil Microbial Communities of the Desert Southwest Rangeland Ecosystem.



Members of the Tierra Seca Club, a student chapter of the Society for Range Management, provided coffee, juice, fruit, cheese and baked goods for attendees before the talks. The club will use donations for providing snacks to help cover travel expenses to the national meeting of the Society for Range Management this February 2024 in Reno, Nevada.

Registration for the event and lunch was free, but we continue to seek donations to cover the student poster contest awards and costs associated with running the symposium. Please consider making a donation of any amount to support the Symposium Program by visiting the UA Foundation website.

Mitch McClaran
Director, Arizona Experiment Station