PEOPLE

Dr. Robin Verble-Pearson holds the positions of Assistant Professor of Fire Ecology and Director of the Center for Fire Ecology at Texas Tech University.  Her work focuses on the effects of prescribed fire on insect community structure and thermal physiology.  Additionally, she is interested in factors influencing plant combustibility and flammability; organismal, community and ecosystem responses to fire; historical fire regimes and human factors; and faunal adaptations to withstand fires. She earned a Ph.D. in Applied Bioscience from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, an M.S. in Entomology from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, and a B.S. in Biophysics from the University of Southern Indiana. She is a member of the Association for Fire EcologyEntomological Society of AmericaWest Texas Association of Women in Science, and Arkansas Entomological Society, and serves on the Texas Prescribed Burn Board.  In her spare time, she enjoys collecting antique glassware, working on her never-ending yard projects, cats, photography, and baking.




Neil Estes-- Neil is pursuing an M.S. (started August 2015) in the Fire Ecology Lab.  Neil earned a B.S. (2015) in Natural Resources Management with a focus in Range Conservation from Texas Tech University.  Before joining the lab, he worked as a shepherd and with the Quail Tech Alliance.  His research interests include maintenance and preservation of native rangelands, fire ecology, and ecosystem restoration.  He will be working on thistle distribution and thistle-insect communities at the Valles Caldera National Preserve in New Mexico.  





Jonathan Knudsen-- Jonathan is pursuing a Masters degree (started October 2015) in the Fire Ecology Lab. Jonathan earned a B.S. (2012) in Biology at Doane College in Crete, Nebraska. His previous research projects include: evaluating anecdotal reports of a novel feeding strategy of Chrysemys picta in Western Nebraska for a senior research project at Doane College; conducting frog call surveys, wetland assessments, and sampling tadpoles for chytrid for the Nebraska Cooperative Fisheries and Wildlife Research Unit; and counting tadpoles and collecting habitat data for Alabama A&M University. His research interests include disturbance ecology, restoration ecology, herpetology, arachnology and entomology. He is currently working on evaluating the impacts of wildland fire on ant community structure and conducting coarse woody debris surveys and evaluating the role of coarse woody debris as refuge for arthropods and amphibians in Valles Caldera National Preserve in New Mexico. His other interests include hiking, fly fishing, running, whiskey, Star Wars and his two cats Bo and Belle.





Britt Smith-- Britt is pursuing a Ph.D. (started May 2014) in the Fire Ecology Lab. Britt earned a B.S. (2009) in Environmental Science at the University of Missouri – Kansas City. He earned an M.S. (2014) in Natural Resource Ecology & Management at Oklahoma State University, where he examined the influences of patch burning and grazing's influence on vegetation and grassland birds. He previously worked for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources as a wildlife technician on chronic wasting disease surveillance in white tailed deer and for the Southwest Wisconsin Grassland and Stream Conservation Area. His research interests center around fire, vegetation, and animal response in the Great Plains. He is currently working on the influences of prescribed fire and mechanical mesquite removal on insects and northern bobwhite quail in the Texas Rolling Plains. His other interests include botanizing, cycling, cats, indigenous knowledge and cultures, and art.




Heather Williams-- Heather is pursuing an M.S. (started June 2015) in the Fire Ecology Lab.  She earned a B.S. in Natural Resources Management with a focus in Conservation Science from TTU in December 2015.  Her research interests include aquatic ecology, entomology, restoration ecology, and river conservation. She is currently conducting a GCP-LCC funded study examining flow-recruitment relationships for young-of-year Guadalupe Bass on the North and South Llano River; and flow effects on growth throughout the Guadalupe Bass range in Central Texas. In her spare time, she enjoys fly fishing, backpacking, longbow archery, volunteering with the TTU prescribed fire crew, and spinning vinyl records. 




Christopher Owen-- Chris is a freshman Biology major originally from north central Texas.  He is sorting, cataloguing, and identifying ant samples from the Las Conchas Wildfire and is assisting Jonathan Knudsen in his M.S. thesis work.  In his free time, he plays disc golf and mountain climbing.  He has climbed both the highest point in New Mexico and the Rocky Mountains-- Wheeler Peak and Mt. Elbert, respectively.  Upon graduation, he plans to attend medical school.









Interested in working in the Fire Ecology Lab?  Contact Dr. Verble-Pearson for more information.