Ailene K. Ettinger

Ailene Ettinger

Ailene K. Ettinger

NSF Math Biology Postdoctoral Fellow

Visiting Fellow of the Arnold Arboretum


1300 Centre Street
Boston, MA 02131
Fax: 617.384.6596


PhD Biology, University of Washington
BS Environmental Science, Brown University

Research Interests

As a plant ecologist and conservation biologist, I am fascinated with the vast diversity of plants on Earth and how they interact with their environment and other organisms. I am particularly interested in how climate change, urbanization, and other anthropogenic factors affect plant communities. Understanding anthropogenic impacts to plants is compelling to me for two main reasons: 1) humans exert a large and growing influence on Earth’s biota, and 2) we can simultaneously learn about their basic ecology and address applied problems in conservation biology and restoration.

As a Putnam Fellow, I will study growth-climate relationships using Arnold Arboretum’s extensive and diverse woody collections and historic climate data. Forecasts of forest responses to climate change are critical, but have been challenging because observed tree responses to climate change are variable. Previous studies indicate that temperate and boreal trees may respond by growing faster, slower, or at unchanged rates. I am studying how traits, phylogenetics, and variation in the magnitude of climatic change affect interspecific differences in annual growth rates and growth sensitivity to climate. This research aims to identify predictors for climate sensitivity and improve forecasts of future biological impacts of climate change.

Selected Publications

  • Ettinger, A.K. & J. HilleRisLambers. 2013. Climate isn’t everything: competitive interactions and variation by life stage will also affect range shifts in a warming world. American Journal of Botany 100: 1344-1355.
  • Ford, K.R., A.K. Ettinger, J. Lundquist, M. Raleigh, and J. HilleRisLambers. 2013. Spatial heterogeneity in ecologically important climate variables at coarse and fine scales in a high-snow mountain landscape. Plos One 8: 1-13.
  • HilleRisLambers, J., A.K. Ettinger, K.R. Ford, D.C. Haak, M. Horwith, B. Miner, H.S. Rogers, K.S. Sheldon, J.J. Tewksbury, S.M. Waters, S. Yang. 2013. Accidental Experiments: Ecological and Evolutionary Insights and Opportunities Derived from Anthropogenic Change. Oikos 122: 1649-1661
  • O’Brien1, A.M., A.K. Ettinger, and Janneke HilleRisLambers. 2012. Conifer growth and reproduction in urban forest fragments: predictors of future response to global change? Urban Ecosystems 15: 879-891.
  • Ettinger, A.K., K.R. Ford, and J. HilleRisLambers. 2011. Climate determines upper, but not lower, altitudinal range limits of Pacific Northwest conifers. Ecology 92: 1323–1331.