My work is driven by a simple curiosity in the processes and cycles that make life on this planet so unique. I love learning and teaching people about all organisms, not just humans. For example, I am fascinated by how plants convert light, gas and water into sugars, and how elements like nitrogen are cycled naturally. As far as we know, Earth is the only planet where different forms of life have transformed chemical elements for billions of years. I love exploring Earth's natural areas, observing biodiversity and thinking about how mutations and selection have shaped variability. Interestingly, the diversity that has evolved exists on a continuum. Biologists have identified common threads that unify seemingly disparate forms of life. We (plants, animals, fungi, etc) often are more alike than different, with many common genes, and metabolic or ecological responses. This interconnected variability makes life even more beautiful.
While humans are an amazing species, many of our interactions with other living beings have a large and negative impact. My research focuses on how habitat fragmentation affects plant populations, specifically how variability might change when population sizes are reduced by human activities. Habitat loss and climate change are two pressing issues today facing conservation of biodiversity. My research documents changes to genetic diversity, plant traits and functional responses. My students and I have found that small islands of habitat can erode genetic variability over time, which can mean that a population is less able to make a living or respond to change. When populations lose variability they also may lose connective threads to the continuum of life. My lab also is interested in best practices associated with restoration ecology, and how we might encourage biodiversity to recover and resume natural cycles. Our published work can help land managers understand patterns of plant diversity as well as potentially define strategies for maintaining that diversity. We work in grasslands such as California, Montana and Minnesota prairies.
Overall, I take great joy in sharing my love of biology with students in the classes I teach and the research I do. I contribute to general biology, plant physiology, ecology and evolution courses. Over the years, I have labeled myself as an evolutionary ecologist, a botanist, a population ecologist and a physiological ecologist. These variable idenities, all are correct and yet incomplete. I most enjoy opportunities for experiential education, where we muck about in the field, observe patterns, learn from one another and collect interesting data. Please see my homepage: http://homepages.gac.edu/~pkittels/
B.A. Colorado College; M. A. Humboldt State University; Ph.D. University of California, Davis
Areas of Expertise
|Synonym||Title||Times Taught||Terms Taught|
|BIO-202||Evolution, Ecology, and Behavior Lab||15||2015/SP, 2013/SP, 2012/SP, 2010/SP, 2009/SP, 2008/SP, 2007/SP, 2005/SP, 2004/SP, 2003/SP, 2002/SP, 2001/SP, and 2000/SP|
|BIO-202||Evolution, Ecology, and Behavior||12||2015/SP, 2013/SP, 2012/SP, 2010/SP, 2009/SP, 2008/SP, 2007/SP, 2005/SP, 2004/SP, 2003/SP, 2002/SP, and 2001/SP|
|BIO-101||Principles of Biology||10||2014/FA, 2011/FA, 2008/FA, 2007/FA, 2001/FA, 2000/FA, and 1999/FA|
|BIO-370||Ecology Lab||9||2015/SP, 2013/SP, 2008/SP, 2005/SP, 2004/SP, 2003/SP, 2002/SP, 2001/SP, and 2000/SP|
|BIO-370||Ecology||9||2015/SP, 2013/SP, 2008/SP, 2005/SP, 2004/SP, 2003/SP, 2002/SP, 2001/SP, and 2000/SP|
|BIO-101||Principles Lab||9||2014/FA, 2011/FA, 2008/FA, 2007/FA, 2001/FA, 2000/FA, and 1999/FA|
|BIO-378||Plant Physiology||8||2014/FA, 2012/FA, 2010/FA, 2008/FA, 2006/FA, 2003/FA, 2001/FA, and 2000/FA|
|BIO-378||Plant Physiology Lab||8||2014/FA, 2012/FA, 2010/FA, 2008/FA, 2006/FA, 2003/FA, 2001/FA, and 2000/FA|
|BIO-100||Biodiversity Lab||5||2006/FA, 2004/FA, and 2003/FA|
|BIO-126||Horticulture||4||2012/JN, 2009/JN, 2007/JN, and 2004/JN|
|BIO-100||Biodiversity||3||2006/FA, 2004/FA, and 2003/FA|
|BIO-123||Natural History of California||3||2003/JN, 2002/JN, and 2001/JN|
|IDS-245||India Religion, Culture, and Society||1||2009/FA|
|IDS-243||Environment, Ecology, and Livelihood||1||2009/FA|
|BIO-396||Directed Research: Plant Ecology||1||2004/FA|
Courses prior to Spring semester 1999 are not displayed.