Dr. Lisa Graumlich's position as Director of the School of Natural Resources at the University of Arizona allows her to combine her career-long interest in mountain regions with her concerns for sustainability. As a researcher, she uses tree-ring records to investigate how climate variation affects forests. The focus of her work is treeline, the boundary between forest and tundra on high mountains. Documenting and understanding changes at treeline is particularly interesting because, if projections of future global warming are correct, treeline is likely to be one of the first natural ecosystems to register the change in climate. Her work in the Sierra Nevada documented how climate events of the past 3500 years caused rapid change in the structure of treeline forests. In extending this research to Himalayan forests, she seeks to understand how climate variation and changes in land use combine to alter the forests and how these changes in turn affect people's livelihoods. Her research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Park Service, NASA, the National Geographic Society, and the USGS Biological Research Division.
Dr. Graumlich is also active in developing programs and institutions that address critical questions of global environmental change. In 1993, she was chosen as the first Director of the University of Arizona's Institute for the Study of Planet Earth (ISPE). While Director of ISPE, she developed an integrated program of research, education, and outreach focusing on the impacts of climatic variability on semi-arid regions. In 1998, she was named Deputy Director of Columbia University's Biosphere 2 Center. At Biosphere 2, she oversaw a massive renovation of the facility to allow experimental studies on the impacts of increasing carbon dioxide on marine and terrestrial ecosystems. In 1999, she moved to Montana State University to direct the Mountain Research Center (MRC). In 2001, she was selected as the Executive Director of MSU's Big Sky Institute (BSI). Her goal at BSI was to develop an integrated program linking science, education and decision making in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
At the School of Natural Resources, Dr. Graumlich plans to use a similar interdisciplinary approach, linking science, institutional analysis, and policy making to develop deeper collaboration with individuals and units across the University of Arizona campus and across the region. Climate change combined with increasing human demands on decreasing resources creates challenges for natural resource management in the current century that require sophisticated tools for assessing trade-offs and inventing alternatives pathways to sustainability. Dr. Graumlich envisions the University of Arizona, Tucson as a leading institution using science to craft natural resource decision making.