Jia Hu

Associate Professor and Associate Director, School of Natural Resources and the Environment, University of Arizona

Dr. Hu is an Associated Professor and Associate Director of the School of Natural Resources and Environment at the University of Arizona (UA). She is also Associate Professor in the Laboratory of Tree Ring Research at UA. Prior to joining UA, Dr. Hu was Assistant Professor in the Ecology Department at Montana State University.

Dr. Hu’s research broadly addresses how plants respond to changing climate by focusing on plant carbon-water relations. She has worked around the world in a range of ecosystems, from grasslands in Tibet, to forest in the western U.S., to the cloud forests of the Galapagos Islands. In the Colorado Rocky Mountains, her research shed light on the importance of snowmelt as a primary water source for subalpine tree species, suggesting that decreasing snowpack in the western U.S. has the potential to decrease ecosystem carbon sequestration. In the alpine steppe of the Tibetan Plateau, her research demonstrated that the East Asian summer monsoon rains were essential in helping shallower rooted plants (which are ideal for grazing animals like yak, sheep, and goats) compete with deeper rooted shrubs. In the Northern Rockies of Montana, her research lab has published extensively on how the landscape structure of a watershed influences how trees grow and how nutrients are used. Finally, her current research focuses on the importance of the North American Monsoon (NAM) system in alleviating forest water stress during mid-summer, and assesses how changes in the NAM over the last 100 years has affected forest productivity. Her research suggests that since the start of the “mega-drought” across the western U.S. in the early 2000’s, many trees have now entered a new climate state, with increasing drought frequencies testing their ability to survive. Dr. Hu has authored more than 40 papers related to these projects and been awarded over $2.5 million in federal, state, non-profit, and foundation funding to support her research.

Dr. Hu is also passionate about teaching and has taught extensively, ranging from introductory undergraduate courses to graduate level courses. She has taught Principles of Life, Ecological Responses to Climate Change, Plant Physiological Ecology, Watershed Hydrology, Sustainable Earth, and Stable Isotopes in Ecology. She has also served as advisor on numerous PhD, MS, and undergraduate honors committees, and finds the interactions with the students as one of the most rewarding aspects of her career.

Dr. Hu received her B.A. from University of California Berkeley, her Ph.D. from University of Colorado Boulder, and two postdocs at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and University of Sydney. In her spare time, she loves to travel with her husband and two young kids, eating good food and finding new adventures.