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Roger Ruess

Tanana River
Roger Ruess
Research Interests: 

My research focuses broadly on controls over carbon and nitrogen cycling in boreal forests.  This has included studies on organic N cycling in soils, successional patterns of fine root production and decomposition dynamics, and the role of vertebrate herbivores in ecosystem function and landscape evolution.  I am also involved with groups exploring genomic approaches to bacterial and fungal community structure and function in boreal soils.  A current interest is the physiological ecology of alder-Frankia-mycorrhizal interactions, and the associated role of alder in boreal forest nutrient cycling dynamics.

Roger Ruess on the bank of the Tanana River
Roger Ruess
Roger W. Ruess
Professor of Biology
Associate Director of IAB - Ecology and Wildlife
414 Irving I Bldg.
407 Irving I Bldg.
Postal Address: 
Institute of Arctic Biology
PO Box 757000
University of Alaska Fairbanks
Fairbanks, AK 99775-7000
  • B.S. 1974 University of California Irvine, Biological Sciences
  • Ph.D. 1980 University of North Dakota, Biology
  • Professor of Biology, University of Alaska, 6/2001-present
  • Associate Professor of Plant Ecology, University of Alaska, 6/1994-present
  • Assistant Professor of Plant Ecology, University of Alaska, 9/1989-6/1994
  • Lecturer, Syracuse University, 1988
  • Research Assistant Professor, Syracuse University, 1/1987-8/1989
  • National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow, 1/1985-1/1987
  • Post-doctoral Research Assistant, Syracuse University, 8/1980-12/1984
  • Graduate Research/Teaching Assistant, University of North Dakota, 1974-1980



Brown, D.R.N. et al., 2015. Interactions of fire and climate exacerbate permafrost degradation in Alaskan lowland forests. Journal of Geographical Research Biogeosciences, 120, pp.1619-1637.
Christie, K.S. et al., 2015. The role of vertebrate herbivores in regulating shrub expansion in the Arctic: A synthesis. BioScience, 65, pp.1134-1140.
Christie, K.S. & Ruess, R.W., 2015. Experimental evidence that ptarmigan regulate willow bud production to their own advantage. Oecologia, 178, pp.773-781.


Lovelock, C.E. et al., 2014. Variable effects of nutrient enrichment on soil respiration in mangrove forests. Plant and Soil, 379, pp.135-148.


2014 Emil Usibelli Distinguished Research Award

  • Regional consequences of changing climate-disturbance interactions for the resilience of Alaska's boreal forest. National Science Foundation; Responsibilities: PI; Funded 2010-2016; $5,640,000. (Bonanza Creek LTER webpage)
  • Ecosystem-level consequences of mutualist partner choice in alder across a forest successional sequence in interior Alaska. National Science Foundation; Responsibilities: PI; Funded 2007-2010, $796,227.
  • The dynamics of change in Alaska’s boreal forests: resilience and vulnerability in response to climate warming (Renewal of the Bonanza Creek LTER). National Science Foundation; Responsibilities: Co-PI; Funded 2006-2010, $3,280,000.
  • The moose-human social ecological system of interior Alaska: 2007 supplement to the Bonanza Creek LTER program. National Science Foundation; Responsibilities: Co-PI; Funded 2007-2008, $94,000.
  • Resilience and vulnerability in a rapidly changing north: the integration of physical, biological and social processes (Alaska EPSCoR Phase III). National Science Foundation; Responsibilities: Co-team leader of the Biology component; Funded 2007-20010, $9,000,000.
  • Coupling diversity with function: metagenomics of boreal forest. National Science Foundation; Responsibilities: Co-PI; Funded 2003-2004, @ $800,000. (extension through Dec 2006).
  • Feedbacks between river hydrology and terrestrial nitrogen dynamics in taiga forests. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; Responsibilities: Co-PI; Funded 2002-2006, $260,000.
  • Ecosystem Processes (BIOL 672, graduate).
  • Plant Physiological Ecology (BIOL 675, graduate).
  • Structure and Function of Vascular Plants (BIOL 334, undergraduate).
  • Grazing Ecology (BIOL 614, graduate).
Current Graduate Students (More info)
  • Robin Andrews
  • Iris Cato
  • Jackson Drew
  • Brian Houseman
  • Elizabeth Nicklen
Past Graduate Students
  • Mike Anderson. Ph.D. 2011. Sources of variation in the symbiotic association between Alnus and Frankia in interior Alaska.
  • Beth Lenart. M.S. 1996. (co-chair). Climate and caribou: effects of summer weather on the Chisana caribou herd.
  • Kate Doran. Ph.D. 2000. Photosynthetic acclimation of white spruce (Picea glauca) to canopy microhabitats.
  • Claudia Ihl. Ph.D. 2007. (co-chair). Foraging ecology and sociality of muskoxen in northwestern Alaska.
  • Kendra Calhoun. M.S. 2010. Ectomycorrhizal diversity of white spruce (Picea glauca) at treeline along a latitudinal gradient in Alaska
  • Patricia Loomis. M.S. 2005. Nitrogen cycling at treeline: latitudinal and elevational patterns across the boreal landscape.
  • Sarah Ludwig. M.S. 2016. Fire severity effects on nutrient dynamics and microbial activities in a Siberian larch forest.
  • Jack McFarland. Ph.D. 2008. Latitudinal patterns of amino acid cycling and plant N uptake among North American ecosystems.
  • Jennifer Mitchell. M.S. 2006. Patterns of and controls over nitrogen inputs by green alder (Alnus viridis ssp fruticosa) to a successional chronosequence in interior Alaska.
  • Christa Mulder. Ph.D. 1996. Plant-herbivore dynamics on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta: The effect of goose herbivory on arrowgrass.
  • Dana Nossov. M.S. 2008. Community, population, and growth dynamics of Alnus tenuifolia: implications for nutrient cycling on an interior Alaskan floodplain
  • Brian Person. Ph.D. 2001. Herbivore-mediated effects on ecosystem processes in a near-arctic salt marsh.
  • Michaela Swanson. M.S. 2016. Relationships between succession and community structure and function of Alnus-associated ectomycorrhizal fungi in Alaskan boreal forests.
  • Ken Tape. Ph.D. 2011. Arctic Alaskan shrub growth, distribution, and relationships to landscape processes and climate during the 20th century.
  • Daniel Uliassi. M.S. 1998. The regulation of symbiotic nitrogen fixation by thinleaf alder in primary successional forests of the Tanana River floodplain.
  • Amy Zacheis. Ph.D. 2000. Effects of migratory geese on plant communities and nitrogen dynamics in an Alaskan salt marsh.
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