Research

Research your passion

Learn about our research areas and facilities and connect with faculty as you consider topics of specialization for your degree program. With twelve research areas that span across our campus and the Great Basin region, you can conduct research that excites you.

Research areas

  • Behavioral ecology

    EECB faculty combine techniques in population genetics, molecular genetics, genomics, field ecology, laboratory experiments, and phylogenetics to address a variety of questions related to behavioral ecology, including the following:

    • Cognitive ecology and neuroethology
    • Epigenetic effects on behavior
    • Evolution of cognitive processes and spatial memory
    • Evolution of social behavior
    • Evolutionary ecology of behavioral specialization
    • Evolutionary ecology of communication, behavioral specialization, and diet choice
    • Genetic basis of sleep and metabolism
    • Sensory ecology
    • Sexual selection

    Behavioral ecology faculty

  • Chemical Ecology

    The EECB program is quickly developing an internationally recognized chemical ecology program, supported by superb instrumentation, strong collaborations across disciplines, and international collaborative work in Central and South America and Europe. The focal research areas are currently:

    • Chemically mediated trophic interactions
    • Metabolomics
    • Endocrine disruption
    • Contaminant fate
    • Chemical ecology of immune response
    • Chemically mediated coevolution
    • Herbivore sequestration of plant secondary metabolites
    • Natural products diversity
    • Pharmaceutical applications of chemical ecology
    • Synthesis and structure determination of natural products

    Chemical ecology faculty

  • Conservation biology

    EECB faculty are active in all research areas relevant to conservation with both local efforts in the Great Basin and Sierra Nevada, as well as work relevant to conservation of tropical ecosystems and management responses to global change. Research strengths relevant to conservation biology include:

    • Conservation genetics
    • Desert ecosystem conservation
    • Ecology and conservation of reptiles
    • Fire ecology and management
    • GIS and spatial modeling
    • Habitat fragmentation, metapopulation dynamics, conservation genetics
    • Invasive species ecology and management
    • Landscape ecology
    • Paleoecology and extinction
    • Restoration ecology
    • Quantifying, describing and preserving tropical biodiversity
  • Disease ecology

    Disease Ecology is a rapidly growing interdisciplinary field that examines basic and applied questions about how ecology of hosts and vectors interacts with the biology of pathogens to affect populations and communities of vectors and hosts. EECB faculty studying the ecology of infectious disease focus on these aspects:

    • Ecoimmunology
    • Effects of disease on threatened or endangered species
    • Effects of tick-borne diseases on livestock
    • Evolutionary ecology of the insect immune response
    • Pathogen interactions
    • Wildlife management and disease
  • Evolution

    All of the EECB faculty conduct research relevant to evolutionary biology. From evolutionary ecology to phylogenetics, faculty and graduate students in our program utilize the most modern tools and approaches to addressing exciting issues in evolution, including these broad topics:

    • Coevolution between consumers and resources
    • Evolution of behavior
    • Evolution of plant secondary metabolites
    • Evolutionary physiology
    • Genetic signatures of adaptive divergence
    • Hybridization and speciation
    • Molecular evolution
    • Phylogenetics and phylogeography
    • Population and functional genomics
    • Population genetics
    • Rapid evolution of native and invasive species
    • Sexual selection
  • Genomics and molecular ecology

    In the tradition of T. Dobzhansky and others who pioneered ecological genetics, EECB faculty test ecological hypotheses using molecular population genetics, molecular phylogenies and emerging methods in population and functional genomics as well as bioinformatics. This part of the program is growing rapidly and includes these areas of research:

    • Adaptive evolution
    • Coevolution between plants and animals
    • Conservation genetics
    • Diversification
    • Epigenetics
    • Functional genomics
    • Hybridization
    • Population genomics
    • Sexual selection
  • Global change

    The global change issues addressed by faculty in EECB include climate change, habitat loss and fragmentation, invasive species, pollutants, and loss of biodiversity. Some of the general research focal areas are:

    • Biodiversity loss
    • Climate change
    • Evolutionary ecology of invasive species
    • Ecological effects of anthropogenic nutrient pulses
    • Fire ecology and global change
    • Landscape ecology and global change
    • Physiological responses to CO2 and climate change
    • Rapid evolutionary adaptation
    • Reforestation and restoration ecology
  • Limnology and aquatic ecology

    The proximity of Lake Tahoe, the Truckee River Watershed, the terminal lakes of the Great Basin, and a plethora of Sierra streams and lakes make Reno a perfect location for those interested in studying aquatic ecosystems. The EECB group conducts research on the following aspects of limnology:

    • Aquatic invertebrate community structure
    • Ecosystem restoration
    • Fish conservation biology
    • Food web ecology
    • Invasive species
    • Marine invertebrate ecology
    • Metapopulation dynamics
    • Trophic dynamics
    • Watershed modeling
  • Physiological ecology

    Many EECB faculty examine the physiological adaptations of plants and animals to abiotic components of their environment as well as physiological responses to biotic interactions. The main research topics currently investigated are:

    • Evolutionary ecology of immunity
    • Ecology of infectious disease
    • Physiological response of plants and animals to CO2 and climate change
    • Physiological mechanisms of ecological interactions
    • Ecology and evolution of plant secondary metabolites
    • Sleep and metabolism
    • Microbial ecology and physiology
  • Plant-animal interactions

    EECB at UNR has one of the top programs in the world for research and education in plant-animal interactions. The program has strengths in all of the major areas of plant-animal interactions, including:

    • Chemical ecology
    • Ecoimmunology
    • Evolution of specialization
    • Herbivory
    • Interaction biodiversity
    • Multi-trophic interactions
    • Nutritional ecology
    • Pollination biology
    • Seed dispersal
  • Population and community ecology

    The EECB program conducts basic ecological research focused on testing longstanding hypotheses about population and their interactions. Most faculty are question-oriented, but taxa that have been well studied include Mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds, fish, insects, plants, and microbes. Broad focal areas are:

    • Population dynamics
    • Competition and niche theory
    • Predation, parasitism, and herbivory
    • Neutral theory
    • Food webs and networks
    • Biodiversity
    • Trophic cascades
  • Soil ecology

    The research strengths in Soil Ecology at the University are growing and are supported by excellent resources for characterizing the physical, chemical, and biological aspects of soil and for studying the complex biotic communities within soils.

    • Microbial ecology and physiology
    • Nutrient cycling
    • Nutrient pulses
    • Interactions between below-ground and above-ground ecology
    • Ecology of extreme environments
    • Mycorrhizal ecology

Research centers

Faculty and graduate student workspaces are typically located in your home department, where you enjoy access to departmental resources (e.g., computing facilities, classrooms, wet and dry labs). In addition, members of EECB have access to our research centers and facilities.

Close up of stones at the edge of a riverbed.

Conservation Genetics Center

The Conservation Genetics Center was created to bring recent technological advances in equipment designed for high-throughput genomic analysis to bear on questions in conservation biology and evolution. The aim of the center is to improve the ability of conservation biologists to ask questions about spatial and temporal dynamics in a cost-effective and timely manner.

In a lab, a researcher's gloved hand points to a computer screen with data on a screen.

Nevada Genomics Center

The Nevada Genomics Center is a core facility designed to aid researchers in the study of genes and their functions. Their goal is to provide quality, timely and reliable service to small- and medium-sized research laboratories. Services include structural genomics (high-throughput DNA sequencing and fragment analysis processing), functional genomics (quantitative PCR), and more.

Three researchers examen a plant inside of a greenhouse.

Valley Road Field Lab

The Valley Road Field Laboratory is a short walk from the University’s main campus and is an ideal setting for urban agriculture and experimentation. With 27 acres designated for research and education, the property encompasses four state-of-the-art research facilities, including a 29,280-square-foot greenhouse complex, the Nevada Genomics Center, the Agricultural Research Services botanical tissue culturing facility and a fully-equipped maintenance engineering shop.

The top branches of a pine tree against a cloudless blue sky.

Whittell Forest

The University's Whittell Forest and Wildlife Area in the Carson Range has been dedicated to the study of environmental sciences for more than 50 years. Current research is focused on plant-animal interactions involving seed-caching rodents and birds and several species of pines and shrubs, studies of vegetation decomposition and nutrient cycling and pheromone production by pine bark beetles. The Whittell Forest offers some funding opportunities for graduate students.

Several rows of small planters with budding plants.

Nevada Institute for Chemical Ecology

A central goal of the Nevada Institute for Chemical Ecology is to understand how interactions among organisms are mediated by biological compounds. The field of chemical ecology has profound influences on various disciplines, from ecology and biochemistry to physiology and pharmacology. Our interdisciplinary group, with the University of Sao Paulo, has started international collaborations between a diverse set of scientists to resynthesize, reinvigorate, and advance chemical ecology by integrating technical and conceptual advances in their respective fields.

Two people stand before a collection of taxidermied animals.

Museum of Natural History

The Museum of Natural History houses over 600,000 specimens of plants, invertebrates, vertebrates, and other materials through a collaboration between the College of Science and College of Agriculture, Biotechnology, and Natural Resources. The museum includes a lobby with displays of Nevada flora and fauna for public outreach, and a large back room with scientific collections, teaching collections, and major equipment to support research and education.