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Javier Espeleta

Javier Espeleta

Dr. Javier F. Espeleta (Program Director) is a plant ecophysiologist who earned his Ph.D. at the University of Georgia (2002) and his M.Sc. from the University of Florida (1995). Previously, he did undergraduate studies in agricultural sciences at the University of Costa Rica and worked in agricultural research in crop physiology.

During his postdoctoral career spanning from 2002 to 2015 (Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, Florida International University, University of Minnesota, University of Arizona – Biosphere 2, University of Washington), Javier Espeleta explored many aspects of interdisciplinary integration for research, education, and outreach of some global change aspects such as below-ground plant ecophysiology, terrestrial carbon cycling, biogeochemical cycles coupling, and environmental education.

In scientific research, he is interested in the impact of climate change on vegetation and the feedback of plant responses on biogeochemical cycles, greenhouse gases and climate. He made contributions to the study of the responses of plant roots to climate change factors, such as water and nutrient limitation, elevated CO2, and temperature, and helped unravel complex interactions between water, nutrients, and below-ground productivity and carbon cycling of natural systems in tropical and temperate ecosystems.

Javier Espeleta is also interested in bridging the gap between environmental sciences and society by improving education and communication and by bringing scientists and stakeholders closer together. He led a series of efforts of interdisciplinary integration as associate director of Biosphere 2 at the University of Arizona (2008-2009) and as director of the Tropical Science Center and Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve in Costa Rica (2010-2012), and as visiting scientist at EARTH University (2005-2007) and the Organization for Tropical Studies (2002-2005).

Some of these collaborative ventures led to new integrations of climate change science and conservation, journalism and tropical climate change science, evaluation of environmental education programs, and the release of new ideas on the education of biogeochemical cycles and climate change.

As director of the Associated Colleges of the Midwest´s study abroad programs in Costa Rica (2016), Javier Espeleta is now advancing international and interdisciplinary integration as a way to prepare new generations of students to meet the challenges of global change. He advocates for the analysis of global change´s most critical issues as a way to enhance study abroad experiences.