William “Bill” Anderegg, Assistant Professor of Biology, studies how drought and climate change affect forest ecosystems, including tree physiology, species interactions, carbon cycling, and biosphere-atmosphere feedback systems.
“Our research focuses around a central question: What is the future of forests in a changing climate?” says Anderegg.
Utah is well known for its pristine forests. In fact, Utah contains about 7.8 million acres of national forests and is home to the largest aspen tree grove in the world.
“Unfortunately, like much of the western U.S., Utah has experienced several major tree mortality events and you can see this on our landscape in many places across the state. Here in Utah we face rising temperatures, more severe droughts, more insect outbreaks, and more wildfires. These things have a major impact on our economy,” says Anderegg.
Anderegg received a National Science Foundation grant of $500,000 in 2014 that will be completed in 2017. He is leading a major research project, titled “Extreme events and ecological acclimation: Scaling from cells to ecosystems.” One of his key findings is that drought – even a brief drought – affects normal tree function much longer than previously thought.
Anderegg was hired at the U in 2016 as part of a cluster hire through the Transformative Excellence Program on “Society, Water, and Climate.”
“This cluster hire was looking for folks across the natural and social sciences studying the nexus of climate change, water, and society in the West,” says Anderegg.
He already has one postdoctoral scholar working with him and six undergraduate students. He is currently recruiting graduate students to join his research group in Fall semester.
Anderegg is the first recipient of the Global Environmental Change Early Career Award. He received the award at the American Geophysical Union annual meeting in December. The award recognizes early-career scientists “for outstanding contributions in research, educational, or societal impacts on the area of global environmental change, especially through interdisciplinary approaches.”
He also won the Blavatnik Award in 2016 for “Contributions to our understanding of forest ecosystem recovery and mortality during drought.” Three winners and six finalists were chosen from the fields of Life Sciences, Chemistry, Engineering and Physical Sciences. He received a cash prize of $30,000.
Anderegg has several recent publications in prestigious journals, including Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2016 and Science, 2015.
Now settled in Utah, Anderegg particularly enjoys the collegial atmosphere on campus and the incredible access to outdoors, from mountains to deserts, within a short drive from Salt Lake.