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Debra Peters

Debra Peters

Lead Principal Investigator, Jornada Basin Long-Term Ecological Research Project

Jornada Basin Long-Term Ecological Project
New Mexico State University
Box 30003 MSC 3 JER
Las Cruces, NM 88003-0003


  • Ecologist, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Jornada Experimental Range
  • Lead Principal Investigator, Jornada Basin Long-Term Ecological Research Project
  • Adjunct Faculty, Biology Department, New Mexico State University


My research focuses on understanding and predicting the dynamics of arid and semiarid systems across a range of spatial and temporal scales. Much of my research involves interactions within and among various species of grasses and shrubs with a focus on extrapolating patterns and processes across scales, from individual plants to patches, landscapes, and regions. Current projects include (1) the examination of spatial variation in shrub invasion and grass persistence, (2) the study of ecotones and biotic transitions at multiple scales, (3) predicting nonlinear spatial dynamics of cascading systems, (4) using cross-site studies to generalize processes and patterns, and (5) integrating process-based experiments with simulation models (ECOTONE), geographic information systems (GIS), and remote sensed images. Research is conducted at a number of sites in Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas with most studies occurring at the Jornada Basin Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) site in southern NM and the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge LTER site in central NM. Collaborative research is being conducted at three sites in Hungary.


  • PhD, Range Science, Colorado State University, 1988
  • MS, Biology, San Diego State University, 1983
  • BS, Biology, Iowa State University, 1981

External Links

Journal Articles

In Press

Groffman, P. M., D. M. Iwaniec, M. N. Gooseff, K. N. Suding, D. W. Johnson, D. C. Reed, D. P. Peters, B. J. Adams, J. Barrett, B. T. Bestelmeyer, M. Castorani, E. M. Cook, M. J. Davidson, N. P. Hanan, L. F. Huenneke, P. Johnson, R. Miller, G. S. Okin, D. Preston, A. Rassweiler, C. Ray, O. E. Sala, R. L. Schooley, T. R. Seastedt, M. J. Spasojevic and E. R. Vivoni. Connectivity: Insights from the U.S. Long Term Ecological Research Network. Ecosphere

Peters, D. P., G. S. Okin, J. E. Herrick, H. M. Savoy, J. P. Anderson, S. L. Scroggs and J. Zhang. Modifying connectivity to promote state change reversal: The importance of geomorphic context and plant–soil feedbacks. Ecology e03069. DOI: 10.1002/ecy.3069. (link )


Bestelmeyer, B. T., G. Marcillo, S. McCord, S. Mirsky, G. Moglen, L. G. Neven, D. Peters, C. Sohoulande and T. Wakie. 2020. Scaling up agricultural research with artificial intelligence. IT Professional 22(3):33-38. DOI: 10.1109/MITP.2020.2986062. (link )

Gaiser, E. E., D. M. Bell, C. N. Castorani, D. L. Childers, P. M. Groffman, R. Jackson, J. S. Kominoski, D. P. Peters, S. T. Pickett, J. Ripplinger and J. C. Zinnert. 2020. Long-term ecological research and evolving frameworks of disturbance ecology. BioScience 70(2):141-156. DOI: 10.1093/biosci/biz162. (link )

Palinski, R., S. Pauszek, N. D. Burruss, H. Savoy, A. Pelzel-McCluskey, J. Arzt, D. P. Peters and L. Rodriguez. 2020. Full genomic sequencing of vesicular stomatitis virus isolates from the 2004-2006 US outbreaks reveals assocations of viral genetics to environmental variables. Proceedings 50(1):76. DOI: 10.3390/proceedings2020050076 . (link )

Peck, D. E., W. K. Reeves, A. M. Pelzel-McCluskey, J. D. Derner, B. Drolet, L. W. Cohnstaedt, D. Swanson, D. S. McVey, L. L. Rodriguez and D. P. Peters. 2020. Management strategies for reducing the risk of equines contracting vesicular stomatis virus (VSV) in the western United States. Journal of Equine Veterinary Science 90(Jul):103026. DOI: 10.1016/j.jevs.2020.103026. (link )

Peters, D. P., D. S. McVey, E. H. Elias, A. M. Pelzel-McCluskey, J. D. Derner, N. D. Burruss, T. S. Schrader, J. Yao, S. J. Pauszek, J. Lombard and L. L. Rodriguez. 2020. Big data–model integration and AI for vector‐borne disease prediction. Ecosphere 11(6):e03157. DOI: 10.1002/ecs2.3157. (link )

Peters, D. P., A. Rivers, J. L. Hatfield, D. G. Lemay, S. Liu and B. Basso. 2020. Harnessing AI to transform agriculture and inform agricultural research. IT Professional 22(3):16-21. DOI: 0.1109/MITP.2020.2986124. (link )

Peters, D. P., H. Savoy, G. A. Ramirez and H. Huang. 2020. AI recommender system with ML for agricultural research. IT Professional 22(3):30-32. DOI: 10.1109/MITP.2020.2986125. (link )

Schreiner-McGraw, A. P., E. R. Vivoni, H. Ajami, O. E. Sala, H. L. Throop and D. P. Peters. 2020. Woody plant encroachment has a larger impact than climate change on dryland water budgets. Scientific Reports 10:Art. 8112. DOI: 10.1038/s41598-020-65094-x. (link )


Bestelmeyer, B. T., D. P. Peters, S. R. Archer, D. M. Browning, G. S. Okin, R. L. Schooley and N. P. Webb. 2018. The grassland–shrubland regime shift in the southwestern United States: Misconceptions and their Implications for management. BioScience 68(9):678-690. DOI: 10.1093/biosci/biy065. (link )

Browning, D. M., T. M. Crimmins, D. K. James, S. Spiegal, M. R. Levi, J. P. Anderson and D. P. Peters. 2018. Synchronous species responses reveal phenological guilds: implications for management. Ecosphere 9(9):e02395. DOI: 10.1002/ecs2.2395. (link )

Duniway, M. C., M. D. Petrie, D. P. Peters, J. P. Anderson, K. Crossland and J. E. Herrick. 2018. Soil water dynamics at 15 locations distributed across a desert landscape: Insights from a 27‐yr dataset. Ecosphere 9(7):e02335. DOI: 10.1002/ecs2.2335. (link )

Elias, E., D. S. McVey, D. Peters, J. Derner, A. Pelzel-McCluskey, T. S. Schrader and L. Rodriguez. 2018. Contributions of hydrology to vesicular stomatitis virus emergence in the western USA. Ecosystems DOI: 10.1007/s10021-018-0278-5. (link )

Peters, D. P., N. D. Burruss, L. L. Rodriguez, D. S. McVey, E. H. Elias, A. M. Pelzel-McCluskey, J. D. Derner, T. S. Schrader, J. Yao, S. J. Pauszek, J. Lombard, S. R. Archer, B. T. Bestelmeyer, D. M. Browning, C. W. Brungard, J. L. Hatfield, N. Hanan, J. E. Herrick, G. S. Okin, O. E. Sala, H. Savoy and E. R. Vivoni. 2018. An integrated view of complex landscapes: A big data-model integration approach to transdisciplinary science. BioScience 68(9):653-669. DOI: 10.1093/biosci/biy069. (link )

Petrie, M. D., D. P. Peters, J. Yao, J. M. Blair, N. D. Burruss, S. L. Collins, J. D. Derner, L. A. Gherardi, J. R. Hendrickson, O. E. Sala, P. J. Starks and J. L. Steiner. 2018. Regional grassland productivity responses to precipitation during multiyear above- and below-average rainfall periods. Global Change Biology 24(5):1935-1951. DOI: 10.1111/gcb.14024. (link )


Browning, D. M., J. J. Maynard, J. W. Karl and D. C. Peters. 2017. Breaks in MODIS time series portend vegetation change: Verification using long‐term data in an arid grassland ecosystem. Ecological Applications 27(5):1677-1693. DOI: 10.1002/eap.1561. (link )


Okin, G. S., M. Moreno-de las Heras, P. M. Saco, H. L. Throop, E. R. Vivoni, A. J. Parsons, J. Wainwright and D. P. Peters. 2015. Connectivity in dryland landscapes: Shifting concepts of spatial interactions. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 13(1):20-27. DOI: 10.1890/140163. (link )

Peters, D. P., K. M. Havstad, S. R. Archer and O. E. Sala. 2015. Beyond desertification: New paradigms for dryland landscapes. Frotiers in Ecology and the Environment 13(1):4-12. DOI: 10.1890/140276. (link )

Sala, O. E., L. A. Gherardi and D. P. Peters. 2015. Enhanced precipitation variability effects on water losses and ecosystem functioning: Differential response of arid and mesic regions. Climate Change 131(2):213-227. DOI: 10.1007/s10584-015-1389-z. (link )


Sylvain, Z. A., D. H. Wall, K. L. Cherwin, D. P. Peters, L. G. Reichmann and O. E. Sala. 2014. Soil animal responses to moisture availability are largely scale, not ecosystem dependent: Insight from a cross-site study. Global Change Biology 20(8):2631-2643. DOI: 10.1111/gcb.12522. (link )


Reichmann, L. G., O. E. Sala and D. P. Peters. 2013. Precipitation legacies in desert grassland primary production occur through previous-year tiller density. Ecology 94(2):435-443. DOI: 10.1890/12-1237.1 . (link )

Reichmann, L. G., O. E. Sala and D. P. Peters. 2013. Water controls on nitrogen transformations and stocks in an arid ecosystem. Ecosphere 4(1):1-17. DOI: 10.1890/ES12-00263.1 . (link )


Peters, D. P., J. Yao, O. E. Sala and J. P. Anderson. 2012. Directional climate change and potential reversal of desertification in arid and semiarid ecosystems. Global Change Biology 18(1):151-163. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2011.02498.x. (link )

Sala, O. E., L. A. Gherardi, L. G. Reichmann, E. G. Jobbágy and D. P. Peters. 2012. Legacies of precipitation fluctuations on primary production: Theory and data synthesis. Philiosphical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 367(1606):3135-3144. DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2011.0347. (link )


Carpenter, S. R., E. V. Armbrust, P. W. Arzberger, F. S. Chapin III, J. J. Elser, E. J. Hackett, P. M. Kareiva, M. A. Leibold, P. Lundberg, M. Mangel, N. Merchant, W. W. Murdoch, M. A. Palmer, D. P. Peters, S. T. Pickett, K. K. Smith, D. H. Wall and A. S. Zimmerman. 2009. Accelerate synthesis in ecology and environmental sciences. BioScience 59(8):699-701. (link )


Grimm, N. B., D. R. Foster, P. M. Groffman, J. M. Grove, C. S. Hopkinson, K. J. Nadelhoffer, D. P. Peters and D. E. Pataki. 2008. The changing landscape: Ecosystem responses to urbanization and pollution across climatic and societal gradients. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 6(5):264-272. (link )


Peters, D. P., O. E. Sala, C. D. Allen, A. P. Covich and M. W. Brunson. 2007. Cascading events in linked ecological and socio-economic systems: Predicting change in an uncertain world. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 5(4):221-224. (link )

Book Chapters


Peters, D. P., B. T. Bestelmeyer, K. M. Havstad, A. Rango, S. R. Archer, A. C. Comrie, H. R. Gimblett, L. Lopez-Hoffman, O. E. Sala, E. R. Vivoni, M. L. Brooks, J. Brown, H. C. Monger, J. H. Goldstein, G. S. Okin and C. E. Tweedie. 2013. Desertification of rangelands. Pp. 239-258 Climate Vulnrability: Understanding and Addressing Threads to Essential Resources. Vol 4. Elsevier Inc. Academic Press. ISBN: 9780123847034.



Shaver, G., T. Chapin, C. Duke, A. P. Kinzig, D. P. Peters and O. E. Sala. 2007. Ecological foundations of sustainability in a constantly changing world. San Jose McEnery Conference Center. Symposium organized at the August 6-10, 2007 Ecological Restoration in a Changing World at the 92nd Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America held with the Society for Ecological Restoration 18th International Conference, San Jose, CA.

Report Chapters


Yao, J., O. E. Sala and D. P. Peters. 2013. Cross-site studies "by design": Experiments and observations that provide new insights. Pp. 72-80 In: Peters, D. P., C. M. Laney, A. E. Lugo, S. L. Collins, C. T. Driscoll, P. M. Groffman, J. M. Grove, A. K. Knapp, T. K. Kratz, M. D. Ohman, R. B. Waide and J. Yao eds., Long-Term Trends in Ecological Systems: A Basis for Understanding Responses to Global Change. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Technical Bulletin 1931. Washington, D.C. (link )