Erin Riordan, PhD

Research Associate Desert Laboratory and Southwest Center, Postdoctoral Research Associate Laboratory of Tree Ring Research

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I am an applied ecologist working at the intersection of plants, people, and climate. I use quantitative tools, including statistical models and spatial analyses, to understand how plants respond to climate with the goal of promoting ecological and human health and resilience. My work embraces transdisciplinary approaches to climate adaptation in complex socio-ecological systems, including restoration of ecological and cultural landscapes, arid land food systems, natural resource management, and biodiversity conservation.

I received my PhD in 2013 from the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of California, Los Angeles. Before moving to Tucson in 2016, I held postdoctoral research positions with the University of California's Natural Reserve System and the Riverside-Corona Resource Conservation District, in which I used species distribution modeling to incorporate climate change into decision-making for conservation and natural resource management. I am currently a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Arizona’s Laboratory of Tree Ring Research and associate researcher at the Desert Laboratory on Tumamoc Hill. 

My research at Tumamoc Hill focuses on the Sonoran Desert as a laboratory for the future, drawing upon the region’s natural ecosystems and traditional knowledge to advance climate adaptation solutions for arid land food systems. Arid zones are on the frontlines of the food security crisis. Here, climate change already poses an imminent threat to water availability, food security, ecosystem services, economic security, and human health. As part of a diverse transdisciplinary team integrating plant, environmental, social, and health sciences, I am evaluating the potential of Sonoran Desert plants for arid-adapted agriculture. 

Google Scholar

Restoration Decision-Support Materials

Plant Profiles



Technical Reports

Riordan EC and PW Rundel. 2019. Evaluating the future role of the University of California Natural Reserve System for sensitive plant protection under climate change. Report prepared for the University of California Natural Reserve System. 62 p.

Riordan EC, AM Montalvo, and JL Beyers. 2018. Using species distribution models with climate change scenarios to aid ecological restoration decision making for southern California shrublands. Res. Pap. PSW-RP-270. Albany, CA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station. 130 p.

Peer-Reviewed Articles

Nabhan GP, EC Riordan, L Monti, AM Rea, BT Wilder, E Ezcurra, JB Mabry, J Aronson, GA Barron-Gafford, JM Garica, A Búrquez, TE Crews, P Mirocha, and WC Hodgson. 2020. An Aridamerican model for agriculture in a hotter, water scarce world. Plants, People, Planet

Riordan EC and GP Nabhan. 2019. Trans-situ conservation of crop wild relatives in the United States-Mexico Borderlands. Crop Science, 59:2387-2403.

 Evans MEK, PF Gugger, AM Lynch, CH Guiterman, JC Fowler, S Klesse, and EC Riordan. 2018. Dendroecology meets genomics in the common garden: New insights into climate adaptation. New Phytologist, 218:401–403.

Morueta-Holme N, MF Oldfather, RL Olliff-Yang, AP Weitz, CR Levine, MM Kling, EC Riordan, C Merow, SN Sheth, AH Thornhill, and DD Ackerly. 2018. Best practices for reporting climate data in ecology. Nature Climate Change, 8:92–94.

Riordan EC, PF Gugger, J Ortego, C Smith, K Gaddis, P Thompson, and VL Sork. 2016. Association of genetic and phenotypic variability with geography and climate in three southern California oaks (Fagaceae). American Journal of Botany, 103:73–85.

Riordan EC, TW Gillespie, L Pitcher, SS Pincetl, and D Jenerette. 2015. Threats of future climate change and land use to vulnerable tree species native to Southern California. Environmental Conservation, 42:127–138.

Riordan EC and PW Rundel. 2014. Land use compounds habitat losses under projected climate change in a threatened California ecosystem. PLoS ONE, 9:e86487.

Ortego J, EC Riordan, PF Gugger, and VL Sork. 2012. Influence of environmental heterogeneity on genetic diversity and structure in an endemic Californian oak. Molecular Ecology, 21:3210–3223.

Graham EA, EC Riordan, EM Yuen, D Estrin, and PW Rundel. 2010. Public Internet-connected cameras used as a cross-continental ground-based plant phenology monitoring system. Global Change Biology, 16:3014–3023.

Riordan EC and PW Rundel. 2009. Modeling the distribution of a threatened habitat: the California sage scrub. Journal of Biogeography, 36:2176–2188.