Vincent P. Gutschick (Vince), Prof.  
Department of Biology
New Mexico State University

Las Cruces, NM 88003-0001, U. S. A.

Tel. 1-505-646-5661 (dept.: -3611)    
FAX 1-505-646-5665

Email: - or click here

An older picture (2006) is here

Interests Energy & evolution CV Recent work Current emphases Courses, Spring 07 Recent postings Other postings What else?

(Updated this page extensively 1 & 9 Nov. 09)

Links to my other activities

Global Change Consulting Consortium, Inc. (my small company) (energy consulting firm, in which I'm an available technical expert) (professional social network)

Climate Change Media Partnership (climate change experts' group for media interviews) (syndicator of content provided by identity-verified experts)

Mathematical Biosciences Institute (I'll co-lead a workshop on Evolution, Synchronization, and Environmental Interactions: Insights from Plants and Insects, 27 Sept. - 1 Oct. 2010)

Las Cruces Academy, Inc. (I'm secretary/treasurer of this small, private, non-profit school, emphazising math, science, and languages for gifted and advanced children)

Next professional meeting where we might meet: American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, San Francisco, 14-18 Dec. 2009 (my talk abstract is here)

New career activities:

As of January, 2008, I retired early from NMSU as a Prof. Emeritus. I still advise 3 graduate students who are finishing their Ph. D. degrees with me. I'm also library liaison for the Dept. of Biology. I continue to write scientific articles and to review for major national and international journals (9 different journals in plant ecology, agricultural meteorology, botany, geophysics, and chemical physics, plus membership on the Nature reader panel in 2009). I just finished my stint reviewing for the National Science Foundation on their Graduate Research Fellowship Program (6 times).

Two activities that fill the majority of my life now:

The Global Change Consulting Consortium, Inc. I co-founded this in 2007 with my wife, Dr. Lou Ellen Kay, and I act as the director. It is a Web-based consultancy with a novel business plan. Scientists with diverse fields of expertise join as members. Keeping their day jobs, they can agree to work in a team, on their own time, on any individual contract offered by a client (among corporations, agencies, NGOs, foundations). This work capitalizes on my many contacts in diverse scientific fields over my career. We aim at cost-effective, socially responsible solutions, open-source whenever possible.

We have started small. We completed a contract on control of pollutant dispersal for BP at their Azerbaijan oil terminal. This was a modelling study using Lagrangian transport theory as its core effort. We are in the midst of a contract with a 3-state consortium of 14 academic and USDA researchers, on managing irrigation water on major nut crops when there are serious shortfalls in such water availability. Our part is: 1) modelling water flux (evapotranspiration) and CO2 uptake (photosynthesis), using measured physiological stress responses, and subsequently determining "deficit irrigation" schedules that optimize the remaining yield and maintain yield potential for future years; 2) providing training in field techniques and instrumentation; and 3) analyzing field data. An intermediate report is available (to be much expanded and amended), as is a PowerPoint presentation that includes remote sensing, on which we also collaborate.

I'm also a technical expert member of another consulting firm, and I'm connected via LinkedIn. Peripheral to the direct application of expertise, I am also featured on the website

    The Las Cruces Academy, Inc. My wife, Dr. Lou Ellen Kay, along with two other founding board members, founded this non-profit private school in 2007. It emphasizes math, science, and languages - all students learn English, Chinese, and Spanish. The first classes began in August, 2009, in rented space that we renovated, with 13 (now 15) students in grades K-4. The business plan is to expand by at least 1 grade per year, until we reach pre-K - 12 levels on a permanent campus. I am secretary/treasurer, taking care of bookkeeping, business plans, business transactions, and legal requirements.


Interests and a bit of history:

I am a plant physiological ecologist, particularly interested in:

* Plant resource use (water use, drought physiology and ecology, mineral nutrition, photosynthesis) and evolved strategies of resource use

* Global change biology, and extreme events as shaping physiology, ecology, and evolution of plants

* Applying quantitative computer models - physiological, biophysical, chemical - to processes in plants, soil, and the atmosphere. I use these to predict plant performance, atmospheric fluxes, and more, and to guide the monitoring of plant-soil-atmosphere processes by field measurements or by remote sensing. My approach to modelling is detailed on a related website, where you'll find my philosophy of modelling, my classification of diverse types of mathematical models, and files (PDF, text, ...) or links to files with my own models.

My background is in chemical physics, so that I take a strongly quantitative approach to these topics.  I construct a  lot of mathematical models (process-based models) to generate testable hypotheses and to interpret experimental results.  I'm more-or-less systematically posting many of the models - in Fortran, QuickBASIC, Excel, and BASIC-52  for single-chip computers (Dominos; handy for compact field dataloggers).

My group and I work on a variety of systems - virtual/general models "in silico," as well as in the field in desertified grasslands (including the Jornada Experimental Range, an LTER site – it can be hot, but also beautiful) and riparian forest in New Mexico.

I have taught courses in general biology, ecology, plant ecology, biophysical ecology, plant physiology, physiological ecology, physiology lab (animal - plant - microbial), biological modelling, scientific instrumentation, biological numeracy, and global change. I appreciate the many graduate and undergraduate students who have co-generated my research along with faculty colleagues. On the other hand, with no apologies to instructors offering students preparation for (visual) media careers, I offer some thoughts on impediments to learning, in what I title "Television, fundamentalists, and cocaine."

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My full CV is here.

Some recent work (2003-2009)in new directions - quick links:

Biological extreme events - not nearly as simple as weather or climate extremes

An article from 2003 and a (large, 9 MB) PowerPoint presentation from 2008.

Direct responses of plants to rising CO2 are highly varied; they greatly challenge our ability to predict the shifts in biogeographic distributions

Agricultural water use and its management

• Using remote sensing (energy-balance algorithms and more) to estimate water use (evapotranspiration). I collaborated on studies of how sensitive the energy-balance algorithm is to input data errors, and on the use of the energy-balance method to estimate evaporative losses from New Mexico's largest reservoir.

• Modelling water use from basic principles of physiology, light interception, and biophysics. I collaborated on studies of pecan orchard growth and water/CO2 fluxes and, consequently, of estimates of water-use efficiency in these orchards.

• What to do when irrigation water runs short, severely so? Optimizing the practice of deficit irrigation, from a knowledge of physiology (preliminary results of an ongoing study)

Gathering an overview of issues in global change - climate change, energy technologies, forest water and wildfire issues, and much more - with a view toward action

PowerPoint presentation, The low-carbon, energy-efficient world: opportunities blossoming for us in the US, given at NMSU for Focus the Nation teach-in, 31 Jan. 08. It's big (8+ MB), so be prepared to wait as it downloads. It's copyrighted by virtue of my having written it, so acknowledge me if you use pieces of it. Thanks. Please note that I used many images from other sources. The attributions are imbedded in the JPEG information for many of them. Others are noted in this short text note.


Worldview item: evolution is a theory, and that implies its great power

Recent opinion piece:

      Jumping into biofuels - not such a good idea? An open letter to Senator Jeff Bingaman (D, NM)

Current emphases:

Plant water balance, up to landscape level

Remote sensing of evapotranspiration is a key need. We are looking to improve the surface energy-balance algorithms to do this

• A good part of remote sensing is also knowing what vegetation is down there, at the species level of detail.

• Can we use high-resolution aerial imagery in image analysis (say, Feature Analyst in ArcGIS) to recognize species (and know their height for aerodynamic roughness)? Ph. D. student Isabella Mariotto works on this in the field and at the computer

Managed water supplies are getting short; we need biophysical models of crop water use that allow explicit optimization of water-use efficiency, light interception, and N use – the models need a mechanistic basis but simplification for real-time use.

• A raft of people worked on this, including Prof. Ted Sammis, postdocJunming Wang, and undergraduate Luke Simmons from our companion Dept. of Plant and Environmental Science, postdoc Alan Andales (now at the USDA, Fort Collins), and Prof. Dave Miller (U. Conn.)

Plant roots do “hydraulic redistribution” between soil layers

• This probably helps store deep water that keeps plants going in long droughts

• Does HR also help support grasses growing under desert shrubs? Ph. D. student Mark Robertson thinks we need to look hard

What’s the water balance of the landscape?

On “natural” landscapes, how do runon and runoff redistribute water and consequently pattern vegetation and its rain-use efficiency? (Example of banded vegetation, though not from the Jornada)

Extreme events, and the rapid rise of atmospheric CO2 as an extreme event

Hormoz BassiriRad from the University of Illinois at Chicago and I have taken a hard look at how extreme events can be defined and studied effectively and how they leave their mark on the physiology and population genetics of organisms, especially plants

C3 and C4 plants respond differently to elevated CO2….but even among C3’s, the diversity of responses is great

• None of this diversity is likely to be adaptive except by accident; selection for adaptive responses to high CO2 ended long ago

• Remanent diversity in CO2 responses of C3’s great diversity in multiple performance measures (photosynthesis, resource-use efficiencies….) the prospect of wide and currently unpredictable shifts in distribution – “biogeographic chaos”

A seasonal extreme: very hot soil and stems on summer afternoons (the numbers and thermal IR images tell the story)

• Do some stems die? Yes. Undergraduate Jeanne Tenorio tends field instruments to find out how hot things get and we also use Mito-Tracker(R) dyes to detail where the damage is

Drought and warm winters stress our SW conifers and give bark beetles lots of opportunity to kill them off (picture courtesy of DIRENet). The DIRENet collaboration led by Neil Cobb at Northern Arizona University has us all working to understand this

Sharing the concern and the excitement: the course on global change that I have taught - adaptable to workshops

Nitrogen dynamics in plants and soils

Where are the nitrogen reserves that desert plants can tap?

• Regrowth of creosotebush (Larrea tridentata) after detopping is thick and lush; compare the foreground plant with the sparse, yellow-green undisturbed plants

• Coarse roots hold the most N, inside the plant! Graph from M.S. student Randy Fowler

What controls nutrient delivery to plants, especially in our semiarid ecosystem?

• Does mass flow (transpiration) help? No!

• The combined equation for massflow and diffusion can solved for nutrient concentration at the root surface; this can then be linked to carrier-uptake kinetics to estimate , and, subsequently, uptake

• The relevant comparison: uptake with and without massflow no significant difference

Is N limiting in our desertified grassland with its islands of fertility under shrubs? Very unlikely!

• Creosotebush (Larrea tridentata) leaves have 4 to 5 times more N than needed for photosynthesis

• We are starting to track this down in the field – Ph. D. student Shigang Liu

Does investment in roots help with relative growth rate and ultimate fitness? Surprisingly little, for nutrients, and the optimum root::shoot ratio is always near 1 (see Gutschick and Kay, 1995, in my CV)…or is it, when we consider water also?

• Here is my optimization model for RGR, balancing water uptake and transpiration)

How does plant N content drive growth rate, and how does growth rate feed back to limit N uptake?

• For one, limitation on meristems caps growth but lets luxury N accumulate – from a collaboration with Jim Pushnik, Cal State, Chico

N content has to drop at high CO2, as a simple consequence of functional balance between root and shoot

• Let’s look deeper from now on

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Links to courses for Spring 2007 semester

While I'm not teaching any more, this small sample of my courses helps to show my approach to presentations, including workshops and training that I can offer from the consulting consortium noted earlier.

Ecology - BIOL 301 Syllabus is here

MWF 1:30-2:20 PM in Hardman Hall, room 114

Course registration number (CRN) 12788

Global Change (Special Topics) - Syllabus is here

BIOL 450, Section M03 & BIOL 550, Section M04

TuTh 8:55-10:10 AM in Science Hall, room 111

Course registration number (CRN) 17704 (BIOL 450),

12847 (BIOL 550)

Some past PowerPoint presentations by students (2004):

CO2 sequestration; past climate change; population growth

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Recent postings 

5 June 2007
     The physics of adminstration: 2007 Ignobel Prize for the discovery that administrators are bosons - also, that they might constitute the dark matter of the universe.

20 November 2006

Do we know how plants are affected by elevated CO2 and, thus, where their distributions are going to migrate in the next decades and centuries? It’s more complex than changes in temperature and precipitation would indicate, even if we add in the fundamental differences in responses between C3 and C4 plants. Here’s a preprint of an article in press in Ecological Modelling.

* You can get a copy:

- if you subscribe to Science Direct, you can download the entire article; go to The article can be cited before print publication as: doi: 10.1016/j.ecolmodel.2006.08.013

- if you don’t subscribe, email me and I can send you a copy for limited distribution

A couple of figures from the article:

Joint changes in photosynthetic rate, water-use efficiency, N-use efficiency, and tissue N content, predicted from verified models; changes are diverse, because plant responses in N uptake, stomatal control, and partitioning of N in leaves are diverse. The changes cannot be argued as adaptive; natural selection pressures for adaptive responses to high CO2 have been absent for about 20 million years!

A diagram of the elaborate links of environmental conditions + physiological parameters to final plant performance - why it has been a bit difficult to make performance predictions

Title: Plant acclimation to elevated CO2 - from simple regularities to biogeographic chaos

Abstract: Upon exposure to altered levels of CO2, plants express a variety of acclimations to CO2 directly, over and above acclimations to indirect changes in temperature and water regimes. These acclimations commonly include increased photosynthetic CO2 assimilation and increased water-use efficiency with reduced N content and reduced stomatal conductance. The robust generic acclimations are explicable by combining simple models of carboxylation, stomatal control, energy balance, and functional balance. Species- or genotype-specific acclimations are overlaid on these generic acclimations. Several such specific acclimations that are often seen are readily incorporated in an extended model. These specific acclimations generate a great spread of values in key performance measures of photosynthesis, water- and N-use efficiencies, and rates of water and N use, even among C3 species that are the focus of this work. These performance measures contribute strongly to relative fitness and thus to evolving biogeographic distributions. The spread in fitness values is so large as to impend “chaotic” shifts in biogeography (and, ultimately, evolution) that are not understandable with models specific to species or functional groups; rather, a systematic study of key physiological and developmental parameters is merited. Also merited is a coherent extension of the model used here, or similar models, to include other phenomena, including mycorrhizal associations, transience in resource availability, etc.. The composition of useful approximate fitness functions from physiological and allocational responses is a major challenge, with some leads originating from the model. In the search to extract patterns of responses, arguments based on the responses being close to optimal or adaptive will be misleading, in view of the absence of selection pressure to perform adaptively at high CO2 for over 20 million years. I offer suggestions for more useful research designs. Keywords: CO2; acclimation; models; biogeography


31 March 2006

Spreadsheet for estimating the contribution of mass flow to nutrient uptake. The adaptive value of transpiration for aiding nutrient uptake by roots is controversial - transpiration per se, and especially nocturnal transpiration in arid systems that seems so maladaptive. I developed an uptake model with both diffusion and mass flow, to quantify the role of mass flow. I also developed a schema for estimating all the parameters in the model, from a wide variety of alternative data sources. The model and the data schema are embodied in a spreadsheet posted here. A manuscript with full discussion has been submitted to Plant, Cell & Environment.

  29 August 2005 

     Excavating plant roots with the AirSpade  We have used the AirSpade to excavate entire root systems of creosotebushes (Larrea tridentata).  The ads at Concept Engineering ( and the testimonials therein indicate that fine roots are retained, while bulk soil is blown away by air bursts at Mach 2 (ca. 2500 kph!), generated by what appears to be the air equivalent of a hydraulic ram.   It really works!  Here are images of fine roots left after the bulk soil is blown away.  Here, too, is a movie (.avi format, commonly used; about 4.5 MB) showing graduate student Randall Fowler enjoying fun with the dirt.


26 October 2004
A primer on carbon-isotope discrimination in studies of plant performance, from leaf to globe: how
       discrimination works, and what it tells us about plant performance - including some novel simple
       formulae for plant responses to the environment (PDF: click here)


  15 October 2003
   Tansley review, Extreme events as shaping physiology, ecology, and evolution of plants: toward a unified definition and evalution of their consequences [New Phytologist 160 (2003): 21-42].  Please note that there are a few typos in the final article:
         * Page 26, column 2, line 10: "changes of -50% in A and +70%in E" -> "changes of -50% in A and 70%in E"
        * Page 26, column 2, line 22: "raising W to13%" -> "raising W by13%"
        * Page 28, column 1, line 29: "Costs of acclimation are also" -> "Costs of adaptation are also"
         * Page 31, column 2, last line: "modest average value of 0.16" -> "modest average absolute value of 0.16"
   Gas-exchange data, from studies at the Chequamegon National Forest, Wisconsin, 1997-2000
        *An overview of the project is given below.
        *The data, and a detailed discussion of the data (fields, methods of calculation, locations in data directory), are in the directory linked here.    You'll need a password to get here; please email me at the address above.   The data are  mostly in Excel, spreadsheets, with a  few in Quattro Pro).
           - For a guide to the types of data we have, look in the file data_explan.txt.

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Full curriculum vitae

Other postings
   * A short course on color theory (PDF format), for analyzing digitized images.  It's intended as a tutorial for students in our research group; it may be useful more widely.
   * An article on the pros and cons of digital cameras and film-based cameras in ecological research.  This appeared in the Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America in July, 2002.  This preprint is posted, with the OK of the ESA. Note of March, 2007: the information is dated! For an updated view, please feel free to contact me.
       Technological Tools editor, David Inouye.   It's here as a PDF file, or as an HTML file.
   * A model of stomatal conductance (and CO2 assimilation and transpiration) as controlled by
       1. the leaf aerial environment (the Ball-Berry model, coupled with leaf energy balance and the Farquhar - von Caemmerer - Berry model of CO2 assimilation) and
       2. a water-stress signal (ABA) from roots (Francois Tardieu's model, basically).
           Fortran 77 code (flat ASCII file)
           Sample data input for Fortran program (flat ASCII file)
            Narrative: explanation of the model (PDF format; 10 pages - or PostScript)
   * A functional-balance model of plant mineral nutrition, particularly aimed at predicting plant performance at elevated CO2
       1. Narrative description of the model (PDF format.
       2. The Fortran-77 code, as flat ASCII text
Recent presentations, some of which include graphics (not active yet; sorry)

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What else is on this site?
   Extended descriptions of some models and other research projects
      A functional-balance model of mineral nutrition and photosynthesis, applicable to
          predict plant responses to elevated CO2; supports our publication in Oecologia
      Color theory: a guide to color and its digital representation; used to teach members of
         our research group about analyzing digitized images to estimate vegetative cover
         and (we hope, soon! species identities of shrubs in aerial photos
  Many computer programs in Fortran, QuickBASIC, Excel, and BASIC-52
  URLs for some Web sites that I've found to be very useful
     Math and more:
        SOS math site: can't remember some key bit of analytic geometry, differential equations, etc.?  Find tutorials here
        The equation of time (correcting local mean solar time to real solar time)
        Magnetic declination - the ins and outs of using it in field work, and more
        Maps, maps, maps                                 World time zones                       Telephone country codes and city codes
     Patent information: find out how the principles on which the device you're buying is really based
     Weather site - its for New Mexico as far as data go, but there are extremely useful programs to calculate ET, etc.
     Funding agencies - pages where they post RFP's for their programs
        NSF (they can be coy, and old programs may continue with what look like outdated postings)
        NASA                  DOE (sometimes it comes up "no opportunities;" this is misleading)
        USDA (their server linked to research opportunities has been abolished 23 Nov. 2001; look for a new one)
        Software: GNU (free, high-quality software for LINUX, UNIX, and UNIX look-alikes)
        Freeware for Solaris OS                      Numerical recipes in C...and in Fortran
        Sun documentation           Fortran-to-C interface (instructions...and a tutorial in Powerpoint) Fortran to C converter (shareware, $10; I haven't tried it yet)
       ANSI C library for CGI programming (I haven't used it yet)
       Fortran interface to HTML, via CGI    (ditto)
       X-windows available for PC's, I hope (haven't installed these yet)
       Hardware, mostly: Comparison shopping           Psion palmtops (neat devices for field datalogging and more)
       Electronics parts: Newark Electronics          Digi-Key      PartMiner (find parts from many distributors)
       And if you're a bit bored:  La ferme aux crocodiles My wife and I visited la ferme in 2006; it is a fascinating place. The co-owner/founder, Luc Fougeirol, talked with us about 20 minutes. They don’t seel croc skins or meat; Luc and his staff love live crocodiles. They sell some adults to zoos and some eggs to embryologists. The place is huge, immaculate, and fascinating, with lots of documentation.

Computer programs in Fortran, QuickBASIC, Excel, and BASIC-52 (not ready yet - 23 Nov. 2001)
  For modelling water and nutrient fluxes in plants and whole stands, light interception,
    energy balance, and more
  For designing and operating novel sensors, including those we have built ourselves
    (very small leaf-mountable light sensing; branch sapflow gauges; weather station with
    radiative sensing of soil T and more; thermistor-based T-profilers; multiplexed
  For processing data (leaf gas exchange data, to photosynthetic capacity and stomatal
    control parameters)
  Useful subroutines, for solar angles, Julian date, water-vapor pressure, etc.
Some are "production models" we use in our work, others are debugged but not
  prettified, though most are extensively commented internally

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**** No animals were harmed in the creation of this Website1 ****
    1Except those affected by CO2 emissions at power plants2 supporting my laptop's operation, and yours
    2 Unless they used renewable sources such as wind or biomass3
    3 But biomass takes land area, so there go some animals, and wind turbines kill,
         next time, I'd better power this all from a stationary bicycle