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Rebecca S. Snell

Rebecca S. Snell portrait
Associate Professor & Graduate Chair
Porter 411


Ph.D., University of Toronto, 2013


My research aims to improve our understanding of how plants respond to climate change, at the landscape to regional scale. I am interested in improving our knowledge about the processes that determine species composition, community dynamics and landscape patterns. These are processes such as reproduction, establishment, growth, competition and mortality. Taking a process-based approach will improve our ability to predict how species and ecological systems may respond to future climate change, disturbances and other anthropogenic impacts.

Some of my overall research questions include:

  • How do abiotic and biotic factors interact to limit plant species abundances and distributions?
  • Will the response of vegetation to future climate reflect its response to paleo-climate change? How fast can plants migrate and what are the limiting factors?
  • How will forests and forested landscapes respond to climate change? Can these responses be mitigated through management?

Current and Recent Research Projects

  • The interaction between climate, grazing pressure and woody encroachment in alpine pastures
  • Understanding rapid plant migration following the retreat of the last glacier
  • The direct effect of climate on reproduction in trees, for both masting and non-masting tree species

Faculty Research Focus Areas

  • Forest Ecology
  • Global Change
  • Landscape Ecology


  • PBIO 1150: Plant Structure and Development (Spring)
  • PBIO 3150/5150 Statistical Methods in Plant Biology (Spring)
  • PBIO 3330/5330 Restoration Ecology (every other Fall, even years)
  • PBIO 8700: Biostatistics II - Advanced multivariate statistics (every other Fall)

Selected References

R.S. Snell, C. Elkin, S. Kotlarski and H. Bugmann (2018) Importance of climate uncertainty for projections of forest ecosystem services. Regional Environmental Change. doi: 10.1007/s10113-018-1337-3

Thrippleton, T., H. Bugmann, and R.S. Snell (2017) Herbaceous competition and browsing may induce arrested succession in central European forests. Journal of Ecology. doi:10.1111/1365-2745.12889

Thrippleton, T., H. Bugmann, M. Folini and R.S. Snell (2017) Overstorey-understorey interactions intensify after drought-induced forest die-off: long-term effects for forest structure and composition. Ecosystems. doi:10.1007/s10021-017-0181-5

R.S. Snell, A. Peringer and H. Bugmann (2017) Integrating processes across temporal and spatial scales to simulate landscape patterns and dynamics in mountain pasture-woodlands. Landscape Ecology 32:1079-1096. doi: 10.1007/s10980-017-0511-1

Schuler, L., H. Bugmann and R.S. Snell (2016) From monocultures to mixed-species forests: is tree diversity key for providing ecosystem services at the landscape scale? Landscape Ecology. doi: 10.1007/s10980-016-0422-6

Thrippleton, T., H. Bugmann, K. Kramer-Priewasser and R.S. Snell (2016) Herbaceous understorey – an overlooked player in forest landscape dynamics? Ecosystems. 19:1240-1254 doi: 10.1007/s10021-016-9999-5

Gutiérrez, A.G., R.S. Snell, and H. Bugmann (2016) Using a dynamic forest model to predict tree species distributions. Global Ecology and Biogeography 25:347-358. doi: 10.1111/geb.12421

Snell, R.S. and S.A. Cowling (2015) Consideration of dispersal processes and northerly refugia can improve our understanding of past plant migration rates. Journal of Biogeography 42:1677-1688. doi: 10.1111/jbi.12544

Snell, R.S., A. Huth, J.E.M.S. Nabel, G. Bocedi, J.M.J. Travis, D. Gravel, H. Bugmann, A.G. Gutiérrez, T. Hickler, S.I. Higgins, M. Scherstjanoi, B. Reineking, N. Zurbriggen, H. Lischke (2014) Using dynamic vegetation models to simulate plant range shifts. Ecography 37:1184-1197. doi: 10.1111/ecog.00580

Snell, R.S. (2014) Simulating long distance seed dispersal in a dynamic vegetation model. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 23: 89–98. doi: 10.1111/geb.12106