I am a forest biogeochemist and ecophysiologist who combines empirical and modeling techniques to understand the effects of environmental change on the physiological processes governing the fluxes of carbon, water, and nutrients in forest ecosystems. I am an assistant professor in the Department of Biology at West Virginia University and am currently accepting applications for PhD students. If you are interested in joining my lab, please fill out this Google Form or send an email to the address linked on my Contact page.
Check out our new publication in Nature Climate Change led by Tara Hudiburg where we review the impacts of wildfire on terrestrial ecosystem carbon dynamics across the globe!
I am so excited to share that we (Dr. Eddie Brzostek, Dr. Ember Morrissey and myself) have received funding from the National Science Foundation to investigate how eastern US forest ecosystems recover from decades of acid rain in the Fernow Experimental Forest in West Virginia. Through this project we are fortunate to work with local middle school students to increase engagement in the scientific process from their own backyard. Stay tuned for what we find!
I am thrilled to announce I will be starting as an assistant professor at West Virginia University starting December 2023. Research in the lab will be focused around forest biogeochemistry in the context of changes in climate and atmospheric chemistry! I will be posting formal ads for postdocs and graduate students in the coming months. Please watch this space and reach out if you have interest in joining the team!
New publication from a collaborative effort! We use a dendroisotopic approach to document northern red oak and tulip poplar trees in the eastern US are more efficient at gaining carbon (in terms of water use), and that the gas exchange of red oak appears to be less tightly regulated (with respect to tulip poplar), particularly in wetter recent years. I am very excited for all of the undergraduate co-authors who helped with this project!
New publication led by Dr. Kelsey Bryant in Environmental Research Letters! We show photosynthetic capacity declines in remaining green needles of Pinus ponderosa trees following a mixed severity wildfire relative to unburned trees, but that within all burned trees photosynthetic capacity increases with burn severity. This appears to be a compensatory mechanism to sustain carbon uptake in proportion with total tree (i.e. foliage) damage.
New publication in Global Change Biology with Dr. Tara Hudiburg! We present an overview of, and the theory behind, the newly updated R package isocalcR (v0.1.0)!
New publication in Ecology Letters from my work with Dr. Anna Trugman at UCSB! We show the representation of plant tissue respiration with temperature is consequential to future plant carbon balance and the biogeography of the world's forests.
isocalcR v0.0.2 now on CRAN! Added functionality for C.E. 2020 calculations.
I released version 0.0.1 of isocalcR, an R package that streamlines calculations for ecophysiological indices (like iWUE) derived from stable isotopes. Formal article describing usage is in the works, so stay tuned! In the meantime, you can find it on my GitHub or on CRAN.
Really enjoyed speaking about historical tree intrinsic water use efficiency for the University of Arizona, Dendrochronology Intensive Summer Course 2021. Many thanks to Dr. Soumaya Belmecheri for the opportunity and looking forward to future discussions and collaboration!
Excited to be starting a postdoc with Dr. Tara Hudiburg and her team at the University of Idaho! I will be diving into issues related to the influence of environmental change and policy on forest biogeochemistry.
Happy to share a new publication with Richard Thomas where we showed increased photosynthesis is an overwhelming driver of increasing intrinsic water use efficiency over the last century using carbon and oxygen isotopes in tree rings. Check it out here!
I am excited to announce I have joined Dr. Anna Trugman's lab at the University of California, Santa Barbara as a postdoctoral scholar where I will be using ecological theory and ecosystem modeling to better understand how functional trait assemblages mediate ecosystem vulnerability to climate extremes.
I have successfully defended my dissertation! Stay tuned for the last few chapters of my dissertation which are currently in revision at my favorite journals. Many, many thanks to my good friend and major advisor, Dr. Richard Thomas, for the never ending support and for guiding me through my graduate studies.
I am thrilled and honored to say my 2019 ESA talk was awarded the W.D. and S.M. Billings Award from the Physiological Ecology Section. Dwight Billings was a pioneer in physiological ecology and was also my academic great grandfather. Many thanks to my friend and mentor, Richard Thomas, for the unwavering support.
Had a wonderful week talking science during the ESA's annual meeting in Louisville, Kentucky. Thanks to all of those who attended my talk, "Contrasting trends in growth and intrinsic water use efficiency of four eastern U.S. tree species".
Excited to have had the opportunity to talk about some of our most recent work documenting the drivers of tree growth in the eastern U.S. using a multi-proxy approach at the EGU's annual meeting in Vienna! Check out a brief overview of our soon to be submitted work here.
With the help of the Roland Schlich Early Career Scientist's Travel support and a travel award from the journal Plants, I will be traveling to the European Geosciences Union's annual meeting in Vienna, Austria to present research on the effects of environmental change on the growth and physiology of two broadleaf deciduous tree species in the eastern United States!
ESA Biogeosciences section awarded my paper, Disentangling the effects of acidic air pollution, atmospheric CO2, and climate change on recent growth of red spruce trees in the Central Appalachian Mountains, the Elizabeth Sulzman award for best graduate student publication of the year at ESA 2018 in New Orleans, LA!
Recent press for our new paper in Global Change Biology documenting red spruce forest recovery!
WVU Today Release
NSF News from the Field
NSF Tumblr Blog
Justin M. Mathias and Richard B. Thomas. 2018. Disentangling the effects of acidic air pollution, atmospheric CO2, and climate change on recent growth of red spruce trees in the Central Appalachian Mountains. Global Change Biology. DOI: 10.1111/gcb.14273.
Many thanks to Drs. Howie Epstein and Todd Scanlon for the invitation to the University of Virginia's Dynamics of Forest Growth and Resource Use Symposium where I presented my research related to forest recovery from acid pollution!
A great write up regarding my Forest-GEO grant!
My grant proposal, "Using dendroisotopes to disentangle processes of forest recovery from decades of acid deposition" has been selected to receive funding from the Smithsonian Center for Tropical Forest Science - Forest Global Earth Observatory Research Grants Program. I am excited to begin work on this!
Kenny Smith begins his postdoctoral position in Bonnie Waring's lab at Utah State. Congratulations and good luck!
Congrats to Kenny Smith for his new article in Plant and Soil! Check it out here.
Dr. Richard Thomas and I will be traveling to Rochester, NY for the 9th International Acid Rain conference to present our research!
A great write up for PLOS by Jeff Atkins on my talk at the 100th Ecological Society of America meeting in Baltimore, MD!
Many thanks to the Chinese Academy of Forestry for hosting the Thomas Lab in Beijing, China!
Congratulations to our undergraduate student Benjamin Russell for being selected to participate in University of Alaska Anchorage's REU!
The Thomas Lab receives funding from NSF Ecosystem Studies!
"Using dendroisotopes in North America and Asia to examine how temperate forests respond to changes in acid deposition."
WVU biology students teach area elementary students the importance of forest ecosystems
"We want to make good time with the emphasis on 'good' rather than 'time' and when you make that shift in emphasis the whole approach changes." - Robert M. Pirsig