Biophysical Modeling of Plants from Cellular Responses to Conservation

Dr. Brent Ewers, University of Wyoming
EVS Seminar Graphic

Plant controls over mass and energy provide first principles to increase predictive understanding of plant responses to drought, insect outbreaks, microbial interactions, ecosystem disturbances, genetic modifications, and cropping systems. These first principles span temporal and spatial scales relevant to cells, organs, whole plants, and ecosystems. Moreover, uncertainty in measurements, model parameters, model drivers, and model complexity must be explicitly considered to improve confidence in predictions of plant responses to climate change. This talk will provide exemplars of using biophysical measurements and models from the scale of cells to ecosystems and across controlled indoor environments with varying plant genomes to rapidly changing ecosystems exposed to drought, insect, and fire disturbances. The common theme is that biophysical first principles combined with parsimonious approaches to model selection provide the best inferences for improving predictive understanding of plant responses to future, currently unmeasurable, conditions that will most likely increase the odds of successful conservation.

Bio: Dr. Brent Ewers grew up in northeast Oklahoma and obtained his B.S. in Forest Biology and Minor in Botany from Colorado State University. He obtained M.S. and Ph.D degrees in Ecology from Duke University where he investigated how water and nutrient availability impact the growth and water use of trees. Brent was a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he focused on using ecohydrology tools and models to answer questions about how tree species and forest disturbance impact the water cycle. He was appointed an assistant professor of plant physiological ecology in the Department of Botany at the University of Wyoming in 2002, associate professor in 2008, and professor in 2014. Brent was appointed the Wyoming EPSCoR Director in 2014, Biodiversity Institute Director in 2019, and Botany Department Head in 2022. He has taught courses in general biology, physiological ecology, and form and function. Brent continues to investigate how plants control the fluxes of mass and energy from the scales of cells to landscapes using biophysical measurements and models. He looks for creative and collaborative ways to empower historically excluded groups from STEM education and careers. He has published 135 peer reviewed papers and been awarded $75 million in federal grant money from NSF, DOE, USDA, and NASA.