Rebecca J. Best

Assistant Professor
Office: Physical Sciences 120/119
Google Scholar Profile

I am an aquatic community and evolutionary ecologist interested in the processes that determine the number and type of species we find coexisting in a particular community, and control the way those communities function. At Northern Arizona University, I am working on the effects of changing temperature and precipitation on aquatic connectivity, species distributions, and genetic diversity across arid landscapes.


Graduate students

Kaitlin Haase

Master’s Student
Environmental Science and Policy

I am studying the biodiversity and connectivity of natural and anthropogenic perennial pools across northern Arizona in relation to aquatic habitat loss due to climate change. I graduated from Oklahoma State University with a B.S. in Natural Resource Ecology and Management and have spent four years as a seasonal field technician working on diverse monitoring projects from large mammal predator-prey interactions to rare amphibian breeding in vernal pools to plant species composition in restored wetlands. These experiences which developed my interests in community and conservation ecology along with my affinity for aquatic and southwest ecosystems led me to this position in the Best lab at NAU.

JoannJoann Jeplawy

Master’s Student
Environmental Science and Policy

In collaboration with the Cottonwood Ecology Group, I am studying the impacts of leaf plasticity on aquatic community composition in cottonwood leaf litter from three common gardens in Arizona and Utah. I am interested in investigating the effects of geographic variation on arthropod colonizers and decomposition. Since graduating from Central Michigan University with a B.S. in Natural resources Biology, I have spent time traveling and working internationally.



Sarah Sterner

Master’s Student
Environmental Science and Policy

Beginning in the Fall 2018 semester I will be studying with Rebecca Best and Clare Aslan alongside the Landscape Conservation Initiative looking at the impacts land management policies have on ecosystems across boundary lines between federal, regional, and state owned lands. I graduated from Marist College in Poughkeepsie, NY in 2010 with a B.S. in Environmental Science and a Minor in Biology. Since then, I have spent the past 8 years working as a field technician and crew lead for land management agencies across the country focusing primarily on vegetation management and research. I am invested in land conservation, interested in understanding more about ecosystems responses to human influence and am excited to be studying that at NAU!

Undergraduate students

Morgan Andrews

Hooper Undergraduate Research Award recipient

I am currently pursuing my undergrad in Environmental Science with an emphasis in biology. Additionally, I am studying chemistry and wildlife management. I am interested in merging these areas and undertaking research that relates to ecological sustainability and how complex natural systems collaborate. My concentrations are geared towards working with terrestrial and aquatic species to identify how imperative their relationships are in an ecology standpoint. Allowing for a deeper understanding of how these interactions work together to ultimately help mitigate the impacts of a changing climate.


Kaitlen Bieber

I am in my third year as an undergraduate studying Environmental & Sustainability Studies as well as Spanish. To solidify my Spanish skills, I am planning to study abroad at UNAM (Universidad National Autonomous de Mexico) in Mexico City in the Academic year of 2018-2019. I have a passion for traveling and the outdoors, so choosing my field of study came naturally as I wish to preserve the places I love. I am interested in pursuing ecology (possibly freshwater) for my Master’s degree because understanding ecosystems at all levels is key to conservation and restoration.



Lauren Mason-Sarantopulos

Hooper Undergraduate Research Award recipient

Growing up in Wyoming, I was always fascinated by the ecology of streams and rivers. Now as an undergraduate in Environmental Science, I’m particularly interested in aquatic invertebrates, and how their interactions are influenced by both the biotic and abiotic factors found in Arizona’s freshwater ecosystems. I am also passionate about wildlife conservation and environmental activism.




Joe Sweet

NASA Space Grant Intern

I am an environmental science student in biology interested in studying and utilizing modern techniques to monitor, maintain and improve natural resource management. I am particularly focused on the conservation of water, soil and ecological resources and how they tie in with agriculture which is the largest land use on the planet.