Kaleb A. Goff
Graduate Student | Department of Plant and Microbial Biology | North Carolina State University
2023 – 2024 Global Change Research Fellow
Statement of purpose:
As an undergraduate at the University of California, Santa Cruz, I learned to translate my passion for exploration and adventure outdoors into the skills of a natural historian, field botanist and ecological inquirer. These pursuits led me to the Sierra Nevada, where I spent 8 seasons working as a Park Ranger-Naturalist in Yosemite National Park. My work there was to connect people from all over the world to the park through walks, talks, and programs ranging from stars to campfire songs. During my time in Yosemite, I witnessed the direct impacts of climate change and communicated these impacts to the public. Telling these stories I inevitably came again and again to the things we did not yet know, such as the impacts of warming temperatures on high elevation plants. Eventually, my curiosity made these questions too loud to ignore, and I started looking for how I could pursue them in earnest. Luckily, I connected with GLORIA Great Basin, a non-profit that has been surveying alpine plant communities on summits in since 2004, and joined its Science Director Dr. Seema Sheth’s lab at NC State in 2021.
I am motivated by feelings of wonder and reverence for wild creatures of all sizes and shapes, by a strong sense of duty and service to make the world we live in a better place, and the underlying conviction that humans are not the only organism on earth with intrinsic rights to live and to thrive.
Description of research:
My research is broadly related to why there are so many beautiful and complicated life forms, why they live where they do, and where all this is headed. As an undergraduate I explored questions in plant evolutionary biology, centered on the origination and maintenance of biodiversity. I conducted a greenhouse transplant study aimed at understanding the ecological divergence of sister species of annual plants in the genus Clarkia. My dissertation is focused on the biodiversity of mountain systems, particularly in the context of climate change. The first chapter of my dissertation investigates how mountain top plant communities have changed over the last 20 years in the Sierra Nevada and Great Basin in California and Nevada. In future chapters I hope to understand how functional traits can be used to generalize mountain plant responses to climate change impacts, and contribute to our understanding of the mechanisms controlling high elevation species’ upper and lower range edges.
Seema Sheeth (Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, NCSU)