Our lab’s research centers on the impacts of global environmental change on terrestrial and marine ecosystems. This includes the effects of elevated carbon dioxide, climate change, fire, and biotic invasions on dryland and alpine ecosystems both in Utah and globally. We’ve recently begun a collaborative project to link western science and indigenous knowledge to produce resilient biological and cultural systems in the face of climate change. Our lab’s research bridges the fields of physiological, community, ecosystem, and landscape ecology as well as environmental biophysics. Some of the work aligns with mission-oriented agencies, supported by grants from Joint Fire Science, USDA, NASA, EPA/DOE, and the USGS. Other work is more theoretical and has been supported by the National Science Foundation.


Richard Gill developed an interest in ecology as a child while exploring the forests and seashores of Washington State. This attraction to wild places motivated Dr. Gill to study Conservation Biology as an undergraduate at Brigham Young University and to receive a PhD in Ecology from Colorado State University. His PhD research on plant-soil interactions in dryland ecosystems, supervised by Indy Burke, dovetailed well with his postodoctoral research on plant physiological ecology with Rob Jackson at Duke University. Dr. Gill returned home to Washington in his first faculty position at Washington State University. Dr. Gill's research centers on the impacts of global environmental change on terrestrial ecosystems. This includes the effects of elevated carbon dioxide, climate change, fire, and biotic invasions on dryland and alpine ecosystems both in Utah and globally. His lab’s research bridges the fields of physiological, community, ecosystem, and landscape ecology as well as environmental biophysics. In 2008 he joined the faculty of his alma mater as an associate professor of biology. He teaches in Conservation Biology courses and in the general and honors education curriculum.

Current Projects

Fire, Rainfall, and Rodents

Since 2011, the Gill Lab, in collaboration with several others, have been examining post-fire community assembly in the Great Basin and Mojave Desert. Using extensive instrumentation and ecoinformatics, we are exploring the role of soil moisture and microenvironment to understand feedbacks between post-fire invasive grass establishment and competition, mediated by small mammals.

Treeline, Subalpine, and plant Traits

From the Wasatch Plateau in Central Utah to the Southern Alps of New Zealand, we are combining niche modeling, physiological measurements, and microenvironmental measurements to understand the impacts of climate change on species survival and movement.

Climate Change, Herbivores, and Coral Reef Restoration

In a collaboration with the villages of Saipipi and Pu’apu’a in Samoa, we are examining how marine protected areas are influencing the abundance of herbivorous fish and how the use of MPAs in conservation may facilitate the recovery and restoration of coral reefs bleached due to climate change.