DonieBretHarte Syndonia Bret-Harte
Associate Professor

Institute of Arctic Biology
Irving I rm311
University of Alaska Fairbanks
Fairbanks, AK 99775-7000

Office: Arctic Health Bldg rm122
Lab: Arctic Health Bldg rm125

Office: 907-474-5434
Toolik Field Station: 907-455-2517
IAB fax: 907-474-6967
Toolik fax:907-455-2598

Research Interests
Current Projects
Past Projects

Bret-Harte Lab Website

Last Modified on:

Faculty Listing

Institute of
Arctic Biology

Toolik logo
Toolik Field Station

University of Alaska

Research Interests

Dr. Syndonia Bret-Harte is a plant community and ecosystem ecologist who focuses on how global climate change affects arctic vegetation composition and nutrient cycling. Current research in her lab group utilizes long-term field manipulations of environmental change in order to advance understanding of feedbacks between plant species responses and ecosystem processes.

Dr. Bret-Harte serves as the associate science director at Toolik Field Station and on the Board of Trustees for the Alaska Chapter of The Nature Conservancy.

Current Projects

Collaborative Research: Carbon, Water, and Energy Balance of the Arctic Landscape at Flagship Observatories in Alaska and Siberia
Funded by the National Science Foundation
*Visit the AON website:

Links between functional diversity, ecosystems, and social dynamics: a wrap-up of concepts, methods, and baseline information. Funded by the National Science Foundation

Toolik Field Station Base Funding
Funded by the National Science Foundation

NEON: Core wildland site for the tundra domain at Toolik Lake, Alaska
Funded by the National Science Foundation

Active collaboration with the Arctic Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) project and the International Network for Terrestrial Research and Monitoring in the Arctic (INTERACT)

Past Projects

Pan-Arctic Observatory Network for the Study of Landscape Carbon, Water, and Energy Balance
Funded by National Science Foundation for International Polar Year

Experimental Manipulations of Snow-Shrub Interactions
Funded by the National Science Foundation
*This work is ongoing, as several graduate student projects focus on shrub expansion

Understanding Arctic Shrub Expansion in Gates of the Arctic National Park
Funded by the National Park Service

Arctic Plant Community Response to Neighbor Removal and Fertilization
Funded by the National Science Foundation

Meta-Analyses of Community Reduction Experiments
Funded by National Council for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis

Effects of Biodiversity on Ecosystems and Sustainability in the Americas
Funded by Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research


Ph.D. in Biology

1990   Stanford University, Stanford, California

B.A. in Biology

1983 Reed College, Portland, Oregon



Associate Professor
University of Alaska Fairbanks

August 2003-2008

Research Assistant Professor
University of Alaska Fairbanks

November 2002-present

Associate Science Director, Toolik Field Station
University of Alaska Fairbanks


Research Associate
University of Alaska Fairbanks


Postdoctoral Research Associate
The Ecosystems Center
Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, MA
Dr. Gaius R. Shaver, Postdoctoral advisor


Visiting Assistant Professional Research Biologist
University of California Berkeley
Dr. F. Stuart Chapin, III, postdoctoral advisor


Postgraduate Researcher
University of California Davis
Dr. Wendy K. Silk, Postdoctoral advisor

Other Appointments


Board of Trustees
Alaska Chapter
The Nature Conservancy


Current Lab Members

-Diane Huebner, Ph.D. Candidate, 2012-present
-Kyoko Okano, M.S. Candidate, 2013-present
-Alyse Forrest, M.S. Candidate, 2010-present
-Annalisa Stephens, M.S. Candidate, 2010-present
-Colin Edgar, Eddy Covariance Technician, 2010-present

Undergraduate Students

-Kyoko Okano, Honors thesis/independent study (2010-2013)
-Kirsten Woodard, NRM thesis co-advisor, independent study (2010-2011)
-Approximately 44 additional students supervised to date (1995-2012) in part-time research in my lab or full-time field research and independent investigations at Toolik Lake, Alaska and Abisko, Sweden. Many of these students were supported with REU supplements. To date, 22 students have continued on to pursue graduate degrees in ecology or related fields.
- Guided eight students in research projects (1994-1995) at University of California, Berkeley

Student Committees

-Lila Tauzer, M.S. candidate (Committee Member)
-Lindsay VanSomeren, M.S. candidate (Committee Member)
-Ben Gaglioti, Ph. D. Candidate (Committee Member)
-Ann Olsson, Ph.D. Candidate (Committee Member)
-Ben Abbott, Ph.D. candidate (Committee member)
-Ben Gaglioti, M.S. (degree awarded fall 2011, Committee Member)
-Jennifer Rohrs-Richey, Ph.D. (degree awarded fall 2011, Committee Member)
-Martha Raynolds, Ph.D. (degree awarded 2009, Committee Member)

Postdoctoral Research Associate Mentorships

-Cody Johnson, 2009-2010
-Anja Kade, 2007-2010
-Eugenie Euskirchen, 2007-2009 (promoted to research assistant professor in IAB, UAF, but we continue to collaborate)
-Katey Walter, 2007 (promoted to research assistant professor in INE, UAF in 2007, but we continue to collaborate)

Primary Collaborators

-Brian Barnes (Institute of Arctic Biology, UAF)
-Terry Chapin (Institute of Arctic Biology, UAF)
-Sandra Díaz (Universidad Nacional de Córdoba – CONICET, Argentina)
-Gregory Goldsmith (University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, California)
-Paul Grogan (Queens University, Toronto, Canada)
-John Hobbie (Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, Massachusetts)
-Michelle Mack (University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida)
-Edward Rastetter (Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, Massachusetts)
-Diane Sanzone (National Park Service, Fairbanks, Alaska)
-Gaius Shaver (Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, Massachusetts)
-Martin Sommerkorn (Macaulay Institute, Aberdeen, Scotland)
-Sergey Zimov (Northeast Science Station, Cherskii, Russia)

Bret-Harte Lab Alumni

-Claire Addis, M.S. Candidate, 2010-2013 (degree awarded 2013)
-Laura Brosius, M.S., 2007-2010 (degree awarded spring 2010)
-Colin Tucker, Ph.D. Candidate, 2005-2007 (left UAF)
-Ken Tape, Ph.D. Candidate, 2006-2007 (later advised by Roger Ruess)
-Christie Haupert (Toolik Environmental Data Technician)
-Glenn Scott (Eddy Covariance Technician, 2007-2010)
-Anja Kade (Toolik Environmental Data Center Manager, 2010-2012)

Selected Publications

*Indicates student author

Perez-Harguindeguy, N., Diaz, S., Garnier, E., Lavorel S., Poorter, H., Jaureguiberry, P., Bret-Harte, M.S., Cornwell, W.K., Craine, J.M., Gurvich, D.E., Urcelay, C., Veneklaas, E.J., Reich, P.B., Poorter, L., Wright, I.J., Ray, P.M., Enrico, L., Pausas, J.G., de Vos, A.C., Buchmann, N., Funes, G., Quetier, F., Hodgson, J.G., Thompson, K.K., Morgan, H.H.D., ter Steege, H., van der Heijden, M., Sack, L., Blonder, B., Poschlod, P., Vaieretti, M.V., Conti, G., Staver, A.C., Aquino, S., Cornelissen, JHC (2012) New handbook for standardized measurement of plant functional traits worldwide. Australian Journal of Botany, in review.

Kade, A.N., Bret-Harte, M.S., Euskirchen, E.S., Edgar, C. and R.A. Fulweber (2012) Upscaling of CO2 fluxes from heterogeneous tundra plant communities in arctic Alaska. Journal of Geophysical Research, in press.

Euskirchen, S.E., Bret-Harte, M.S., Scott, G.J., Edgar, C. and G.R. Shaver (2012) Seasonal patterns of carbon dioxide and water fluxes in three representative tundra ecosystems in the northern foothills of the Brooks Range, Alaska. Ecosphere, 3(1): 4.

Mack, M.C. Bret-Harte, M.S., Hollingsworth, T.K.N., Jandt, R.R., Schuur, E.A.G., Shaver, G.R. and D. L. Verbyla. (2011) Carbon loss from an unprecedented arctic tundra wildfire. Nature 475: 489-492.

DeMarco, J., Mack, M.C. and M.S. Bret-Harte (2011) The effects of snow, soil microenvironment, and soil organic matter quality on N availability in three Alaskan Arctic plant communities. Ecosystems 14: 804-817, DOI: 10.1007/s10021-011-9447-5.

Díaz, S. Quétier, F., Cáceres, D.M., Trainor, S.F., Pérez-Harguindeguy, N., Bret-Harte, M.S., Finegan, B., Peña-Claros, M., and L. Poorter (2011) Linking functional diversity and social-actor strategies in a framework for interdisciplinary analysis of nature’s benefits to society.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 108: 895-902

Douhovnikoff, V.,*Goldsmith, G.R., *Tape, K.D., *Huang, C, Sur, N. and M.S. Bret-Harte.  (2010)  Clonal diversity in an expanding community of arctic Salix spp. and a model for recruitment modes of arctic plants.  Arctic, Antarctic and Alpine Research 42: 406-411.

Post, E., Forchammer, M.C., Bret-Harte, M. S., Callaghan, T.V., Christensen, T.R., Elberling, B., Fox, A.D., Gilg, O., Hik, D.S., Høye, T.T., Ims, R.A., Jeppesen, E., Klein, D.R., Madsen, J., McGuire, A.D., Rysgaard, S., Schindler, D.E., Stirling, I., Tamstorf, M.P., Tyler, N.J.C., van der Wal, R., Welker, J., Wookey, P.A., and P. Aastrup.  (2009) Ecological dynamics across the Arctic associated with recent climate change. Science 325: 1355-1358.

Bret-Harte, M.S.,
Mack, M.C., *Goldsmith, G.R., *Sloan, D.B., *DeMarco, J., Shaver, G.R., Ray, P.M., *Biesinger, Z. and F.S. Chapin III (2008) Plant functional types do not predict biomass responses to removal and fertilization in Alaskan tussock tundra. Journal of Ecology 96: 713-726.

Knapp, A.K, Briggs, J.M., Collins, S.L., Archers, S.R., Bret-Harte, M.S., Ewers, B.E., Peters, D.P., Young, D.R., Shaver, G.R., Pendall, E. and M.B. Cleary. (2008) Shrub encroachment in North American grasslands: shifts in growth form dominance rapidly alters control of ecosystem carbon inputs. Global Change Biology 14: 615-623.

Bret-Harte, M.S. and B.M. Barnes (2006). Science Support at the Toolik Field Station, Alaska: Directions for the Next 10 Years; Report of workshop held in San Francisco, California from December 10-12, 2004.  Institute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska, Fairbanks, AK

Walker, M.D., Wahren, C.H., Hollister, R.D., Henry G.H.R., Ahlquist, L.E., Alatalo, J.M., Bret-Harte, M.S., Calef, M.P., Callaghan, T.V., Carroll, A.B., Epstein, H.E., Jonsdottir, I.S., Klein, J.A., Magnusson, B., Molau, U., Oberbauer, S.F., Rewa, S.P., Robinson, C.H., Shaver, G.R., Suding, K.N., Thompson, C.C., Tolvanen, A., Totland, O., Turner, P.L., Tweedie, C.E., Webber, P.J., and Wookey, P.A. (2006) Plant Community Responses to Experimental Warming Across the Tundra Biome.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 103: 1342-1346

Wahren, C-H.A., Walker, M.D., and Bret-Harte, M.S. (2005) Vegetation responses in Alaskan arctic tundra after eight years of a summer warming and winter snow manipulation experiment.  Global Change Biology 11: 537-552

Mack, M.C., Schuur, E.A.G., Bret-Harte, M.S., G.R. Shaver, and F.S. Chapin III  (2004) Ecosystem carbon storage in arctic tundra reduced by long-term nutrient fertilization.  Nature 431: 440-443

Bret-Harte, M.S., *Garcia, E.A., *Sacré, V.M., *Whorley, J.R., *Wagner, J.L., *Lippert, S.C., and F.S. Chapin, III.  (2004)  Plant and soil responses to neighbour removal and fertilization in Alaskan tussock tundra.  Journal of Ecology 92: 635-647

Urcelay, C., Bret-Harte, M.S., Díaz, S. and F.S. Chapin, III.  (2003)  Mycorrhizal colonization mediated by species interactions in arctic tundra.  Oecologia 137: 399-404

Bret-Harte, M.S., Shaver, G.R., and F.S. Chapin, III.  (2002) Primary and secondary stem growth in arctic shrubs: implications for community response to environmental change.  Journal of Ecology 90: 251-267

Shaver, G.R., Bret-Harte, M.S., Jones, M.H., *Johnstone, J.F., Gough, L. and F.S. Chapin, III. (2001) Species composition interacts with fertilizer to control long-term change in tundra productivity.  Ecology 82: 3163-3181

Bret-Harte, M.S, Shaver, G.R., *Zoerner, J.P., *Johnstone, J.F., *Wagner, J.L., *Chavez, A.S., *Gunkelman, R.F. IV, *Lippert, S.C., and J.A. Laundre. (2001) Developmental plasticity allows Betula nana to dominate tundra subjected to an altered environment.  Ecology 82: 18-32. 

Arft, A.M., Walker, M.D., Gurevitch, J., Alatalo, J., Bret-Harte, M.S., Dale, M., Diemer, M., Gugerli, F., Henry, G.H.R., Jones, M.H., Hollister, R.D., Jónsdóttir, I.S., Laine, K., Lévesque, E. Marion, G.M., Molau, U., Mølgaard, P., Nordenhall, U., Raszhivin, V., Robinson, C.H., Starr, G., Stenström, A., Stenström, M., Totland, Ø., Turner, P.L., Walker, L.J., Webber, P.J., Welker, J.M., and P.A. Wookey.  (1999)  Responses of tundra plant species to experimental warming: meta-analysis of the International Tundra Experiment.  Ecol Monographs 69: 491-511

Chapin, F.S., III, Bret-Harte, M.S., Hobbie, S.E., and Zhong, H. (1996)  Plant functional types as predictors of the transient response of arctic vegetation to global change.  Journal of Vegetation Science 7: 347-358

Chapin, F.S., III, Hobbie, S.E, Bret-Harte, M.S., and G. Bonan (1995)  Causes and consequences of functional diversity in arctic ecosystems.  In: F.S. Chapin, III, and Ch. Körner, eds. Arctic and Alpine Biodiversity: Patterns, Causes, and Ecosystem Consequences.  Springer-Verlag, Berlin, pp.225-237

Bret-Harte, M.S. and W.K. Silk (1994)  Fluxes and deposition rates of solutes in growing roots of Zea mays Journal of Experimental Botany 45: 1733-1742

Bret-Harte, M.S. and W.K. Silk  (1994) Symplasmic diffusion of sucrose cannot supply the carbon demands of growth in the root tip of Zea maysPlant Physiology 105: 19-33

Bret-Harte, M.S. and L.D. Talbott  (1993) Changes in composition of the outer epidermal cell wall of pea stems during auxin-induced growth. Planta 190: 369-378

Bret-Harte, M.S. (1993) Total epidermal cell walls of pea stems respond differently to auxin than does the outer epidermal wall alone.  Planta 190: 379-386
Bret-Harte, M.S., Baskin, T.I. and P.B. Green (1991) Auxin stimulates both deposition and breakdown of material in the pea outer epidermal cell wall, as measured interferometrically.  Planta 185: 462-471
Russell, P.J., Wagner, S., Rodland, K., Feinbaum, R., Russell, J., Bret-Harte, M.S., and R.L. Metzenburg (1984) Organization of the ribosomal ribonucleic acid genes in various wild-type strains and wild-collected strains of Neurospora. Molecular and General Genetics 196: 275-282





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