Jesse Nippert, University Distinguished Professor

Jesse Nippert

Contact information

209 Bushnell Hall

Lab website:


Ph.D. 2006, Colorado State University. Ecology.

Area(s) of Specialization

Grassland ecophysiology, grass/tree ecological dynamics, ecosystem responses to global change, stable isotope ecology.

Research Focus

Our laboratory focuses on the physiological responses of plants to environmental variability and water availability. Understanding physiological plant responses to changes in resource availability allows us to understand and predict community and ecosystem dynamics over time. By the nature of this field, our research is interdisciplinary, providing the opportunity to collaborate broadly with other ecologists (population, community and ecosystem), physical scientists (geologists, atmospheric scientists, hydrologists), and evolutionary biologists.

A few examples of current research projects include:

  1. We are examining the physiological and growth responses of tallgrass prairie plant species to changes in microclimate/soil moisture. Our results contribute to the general ecological understanding of tallgrass prairie dynamics and provide data for ecosystem models to forecast responses to future climate events.
  2. We are measuring the local drivers and consequences of woody encroachment occurring at the Konza Prairie. Combining our measurements with long-term data provides insight into the pattern and process of woody encroachment in mesic grasslands.
  3. We are investigating the physiological processes that underlie grass/tree coexistence in grasslands in the central US as well as savannas in South Africa. This data is used in dynamic community and ecosystem models and to forecast trajectories under novel climate scenarios.

Selected Publications

Bachle S, DM Griffith, JB Nippert. 2018. Intraspecific trait variability in Andropogon gerardii, a dominant grass species in the US Great Plains. FRONTIERS IN ECOLOGY AND EVOLUTION 6:217

O'Keefe K, JB Nippert. 2018. Drivers of nocturnal water flux in a tallgrass prairie. FUNCTIONAL ECOLOGY 32: 1155-1167 doi: 10.1111/1365-2435.13072

Holdo, RM, JB Nippert, MC Mack. 2018. Rooting depth varies differentially in trees and grasses as a function of mean annual rainfall in an African savanna. OECOLOGIA 186: 269-280 doi:10.1007/s00442-017-4011-4

Brunsell, NA, ES Van Vleck, M Nosshi, Z Ratajczak, JB Nippert. 2017. Assessing the roles of fire frequency and precipitation in determining woody plant expansion in central US grasslands. JOURNAL OF GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH: BIOGEOSCIENCES 122: 2683-2698 doi:10.1002/2017JG004046

Ratajczak, Z, P D'Odorico, SL Collins, B Bestelmeyer, F Isbell, JB Nippert. 2017. The interactive effects of press/pulse intensity and duration on regime shifts at multiple scales. ECOLOGICAL MONOGRAPHS doi: 10.1002/ecm.1249

View the complete publication list in NCBI