Dr. Terry Root

Professor of Biology, Stanford University

Dr. Terry Root’s work focuses on large-scale ecological questions investigating factors shaping the ranges and abundances of animals, primarily birds. This research led to her book Atlas of Wintering North American Birds: An Analysis of Christmas Bird Count Data. This continent-wide examination helped reveal the importance of scale in ecological research, prompting further investigation of the integration of large- and small-scale studies. Her small-scale studies have focused on possible mechanisms, such as physiological constraints, that may be helping to generate the observed large-scale patterns. Her work demonstrated that climate and/or vegetation are important factors shaping the ranges and abundances of birds. In a meta-analysis of about 150 articles, Dr. Root and her co-authors found a strong global signal that both animals and plants are changing along with the increase in the global temperature. Species are shifting their ranges poleward and up in elevation, and they are changing the timing of spring events (e.g., migration, blooming) by 5 days/decade over the last 30 years. These findings will help forecast the possible consequences of global warming on animal communities. Additionally, Dr. Root has investigated gender-based differences in scientific communities by quantifying the opportunities and obstacles women and men face in science.

Dr. Root did her Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and Statistics at the University of New Mexico, after which she worked as a scientific programmer at Bell Laboratory and on NASA’s Voyager Project. Returning to school, she obtained her Masters degree in Biology at the University of Colorado in 1982 and her Ph.D. in Biology from Princeton University in 1987. She was on the faculty as an Assistant and Associate Professor in the School of Natural Resources and Environment at The University of Michigan from 1987 to 2001. She has served on the National Research Council Committee on Environmental Indicators. In 1989 she became an Elective Member of the American Ornithologists Union (AOU), the largest professional ornithology society in North American. She was elected to the Governing Council of the AOU in 1993 and she became a Fellow of AOU in 1995. She was a Lead Author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Working Group 2 Third Assessment Report, with responsibility for the impacts of climate change on wildlife. Dr. Root has taught courses in conservation biology, wildlife biology, ecology and ornithology. Dr. Root was awarded the Spirit of Defenders of Wildlife Award for Science in 2010.

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