Kena Fox-Dobbs

Kena Fox-Dobbs

Professor, Environmental Policy and Decision Making and Chair, Geology

Kena Fox-Dobbs is an environmental scientist interested in how human activities, such as the encroachment of cities on natural habitats, change natural patterns across ecosystems. She uses biogeochemical techniques to investigate questions relating to the ecology of fossil animals and plants. Her work also examines issues that may help predict the effect of climate change on plants and small mammals. Fox-Dobbs received funding from the National Science Foundation for a project titled “Evolutionary and ecological responses of small mammal communities to habitat and climate change over the last 5 million years.” The work in the southwest Kansas grasslands will test models of faunal change in response to changes in the animal, plant, chemical, and physical environment over five million years, including the time of the Ice Age. Other projects have included a study of the grazing habits of African male gazelles and estimating how termites affect nutrient cycling in a Kenyan savannah. Articles include the co-written “Termites create spatial structure and govern ecosystem function by affecting N2 fixation in an East African savanna,” in Ecology, (2010) and “Cooperation and individuality among man-eating lions,” in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences(2009), which was covered by the Discovery Channel. Fox-Dobbs’ students have researched price points and marketing strategies for grass-fed beef, and the adaptation of raccoons and possums to the availability of human food. She teaches in the areas of environmental science, fossil records, dinosaurs, and biogeochemical approaches to environmental science.

Research Overview

I use biogeochemical techniques (primarily elemental and isotopic analyses) to investigate a range of paleoecological and environmental questions.

Kena with friend


Research Students

  • Kyle Chambers (2016 – thesis student)
  • Yvonne Wetzig (2016 – research student)
  • Mike Burley (2016 – thesis student, co-advised by Jeff Tepper, Geology)
  • Brenden Fischer-Femal (2015 – thesis student) - Currently a Geology grad student at Univ. of Utah
  • Liz Roepke (2015 – thesis student) - Currently working for the Minnesota State Geological Survey
  • Anne Fetrow (2015 – thesis student) - Currently working at YMCA Camp Seymour, WA
  • Holly Dixon (2014 – thesis student) - Currently a Toxicology grad student at Oregon State Univ.
  • Kelsey Crutchfield-Peters (2014 – thesis student, co-advised by Betsy Kirkpatrick, Biology) -Currently at large as a Watson Fellow
  • Elli McKinley (2013 – thesis student, co-advised by Jeff Tepper, Geology) - Currently working in the outdoor industry, CO
  • Laura Strong (2013 – thesis student, co-advised by Joel Elliott, Biology) - Currently working at the Pt Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, WA
  • Vienna Saccomanno (2013 – research student, co-advised by Stacey Weiss, Biology) - Currently working for the Marine Conservation Institute, WA
  • Stella Mosher (2012 – thesis student, co-advised by Joel Elliott, Biology) - Currently an Earth Sciences grad student at Univ. of Cincinnati
  • James Ray (2012 – research student) - Currently a Peace Corp volunteer in Ethiopia
  • Susin Olszewski (2012 – thesis student, co-advised by Peter Hodum, Biology) - Currently working in the veterinary sciences
  • Mary Koenig (2011 – thesis co-advised by Jeff Tepper, Geology) - Currently working for Terra Associates, WA
  • Lydia Kleine (2011 – research student, co-advised by Peter Wimberger, Biology) - Currently working for Smultea Environmental Sciences, AK
  • Tim Clute (2011 – thesis student, co-advised by Peter Wimberger, Biology) - Currently an Ecology grad student at Montana State Univ.
  • Project Ashleigh Boyd (2010 - thesis student, co-advised by Betsy Kirkpatrick, Biology)
  • Marjie Lodwick (2010 – thesis student)
Team Rat
Susin and James
Anne and Kelsey
The Meade ELT field crew
Biochem students
Jackie and Glynis
Kyle still smiling


BS Brown University 1999
PhD University of California Santa Cruz 2006
Natural History Museum Docent BIOL 205-A Spring 2024
Biogeochemical Approaches ENVR 324-A Spring 2024
Biogeochemical Approaches GEOL 324-A Spring 2024
Seminar GEOL 490-A Spring 2024

Contact Information

Thompson 117C