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Niall Hanan is the newest professor in the New Mexico State University Plant and Environmental Sciences Department. He will also work with the Jornada Basin Long Term Ecological Research program. His focus in both capacities is dryland ecology. (NMSU photo by Kristie Garcia) JAN17

New NMSU Professor to Research, Teach Dryland Ecology

Niall Hanan spent much of his time studying range ecology while conducting his doctorate fieldwork in West Africa. He’s familiar with semi-arid environments, and he has experience with ecological modeling.

Hanan is the newest addition to the New Mexico State University Plant and Environmental Sciences Department and the Jornada Basin Long Term Ecological Research program.

In both capacities, he will help build upon the dryland ecology program.

He will first focus on research at the Jornada Experimental Range northeast of Las Cruces. Eventually, he will develop and teach dryland ecology courses for both undergraduates and graduates in the PES Department.

Debra Peters, Jornada Basin LTER program lead principal investigator, said Hanan is an ideal fit for the research team.

“All of us with the Jornada LTER Program are very excited about Dr. Niall Hanan joining the faculty of NMSU,” Peters said. “Niall is a landscape ecologist who has worked in a number of dryland ecosystems throughout the world. His extensive experience working on global change questions and scaling issues fit quite well with the Jornada LTER goals, and we expect that he will play an important leadership role in the writing and development of our next LTER renewal proposal.”

Operated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service, data have been collected on the Jornada Experimental Range since 1915. Data have been collected for the LTER project, administered by NMSU, since 1983.

Hanan, who majored in biology while studying at Liverpool Polytechnic, said he’s fascinated by the data from the Jornada that goes back many decades.

“The perspective of this region is very different from West Africa, so it will be interesting to synergize those two perspectives,” he said.

Originally from the United Kingdom, Hanan taught at Colorado State University and, most recently, at South Dakota State University. While at SDSU, he was primarily a researcher at the Geospatial Sciences Center of Excellence, a research and educational collaboration between the university and the United States Geological Survey Earth Resources Observation and Science center.

He earned his doctorate in biology from Queen Mary University of London.

His research and teaching at NMSU will focus on how dryland systems should be managed, both for livestock and as a result of climate change.

Rolston St. Hilaire, NMSU Plant and Environmental Sciences department head and professor, said the department will benefit from Hanan’s expertise.

“With the addition of Niall to the department, we have gained tremendous expertise in understanding large scale spatial vegetation patterns,” St. Hilaire said. “And this will allow the department to better study the dynamics of dryland ecosystems.”

While Hanan said NMSU is already a globally recognized leader in dryland ecology, he wants to help leverage its reputation.

“Because of NMSU’s history and geography, along with the Jornada LTER’s resources and great history, the university has potential to be even more of a global leader,” he said. “Not only is the dryland research and education program here relevant to New Mexico and the Southwestern United States of America, but it looks out further and contributes to dryland management and grazing systems around the world.”

Author: Kristie Garcia – NMSU

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