David Cairns

David Cairns


Department Head


  (979) 845-2783

  Eller O&M 706A


Research Projects

  • A population genetics based analysis of dispersal at alpine treeline
  • Modeling patch-scale expansion of arctic shrubs
  • Influences of herbivory on treeline under changing climate
  • The utility of salt marsh vegetation as an indicator of climate change at short and long time scales
  • Forest restoration planning and assessment for the southern pine beetle and other invasive pest species

Selected Publications

  • Mamet, S.D., Kershaw, G.P., Brook, R.K., and Cairns, D.M. (2015). Modeling the spatial distribution of subarctic forest in northern Manitoba using GIS-based terrain and climate data.  Physical Geography.  DOI: 10.1080/02723646.2014.994253
  • Naito, A.T. and Cairns, D.M. (2014). Patterns of shrub expansion in Alaskan Arctic river corridors suggest a phase transition.  Ecology and Evolution. DOI: 10.1002/ece3.1341
  • Young, A.B., Cairns, D.M., Lafon, C.W., and Moen, J.  (2014). Geometrid moth outbreaks and their climatic relations in northern Sweden.  Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research 46: 659-668.
  • Birt, A.G., Zeng, Y., Tchakerian, M.D., Coulson, R.N., Lafon, C.W., Cairns, D.M., Waldron, J., Xi, W., Chen, S.H., and Street, D.A.  (2014).  Evaluating southern Appalachian forest dynamics without eastern hemlock: consequences of herbivory by the hemlock wooly adelgid.  Open Journal of Forestry.
  • Gielstra, D. and Cairns, D.M. (2013) Scale dependent interactions and population structure of Abies Lasiocarpa establishment along elevation gradients of subalpine meadows. The Southwestern Geographer 16: 1-9.
  • Kim, D., W.E. Grant, D.M. Cairns, and J. Bartholdy. (2013).  Effects of wind-driven sea-level variation on salt marsh dynamics: A quantitative model as proof of concept. Geo-Marine Letters 33: 253-261.
  • Kim, D., D.M. Cairns, and J. Bartholdy. (2013).  Tidal creek morphology and sediment type influence spatial trends in salt marsh vegetation. Professional Geographer 65: 544-560.
  • Johnson, J.S., D.M. Cairns, and C. Houser. (2013).  Coastal marsh vegetation assemblages of Galveston Bay: Insights for the East Texas Chenier Plain. Wetlands 33: 861-870.
  • Kim, D., Cairns, D.M., Bartholdy, J., & Morgan, C.L.S., (2012) Scale-dependent correspondence of floristic and edaphic gradients across salt marsh creeks, Annals of the Association of American Geographers. DOI: 10.1080/00045608.2011.620520
  • Cairns, D.M., Lafon, C.W., Mouton, M.F., Stuteville, R.L., Young, A.B., and Moen, J. (2012) Comparing two methods for ageing trees with suppressed, diffuse-porous rings (Betula pubescens ssp. czerepanovii).  Dendrochronologia 30: 252-256.
  • Naito, A.T. and Cairns, D.M. (2011) Relationships between arctic shrub dynamics and topographically-derived hydrologic characteristics.  Environmental Research Letters 6:045506.  DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/6/4/045506.
  • Naito, A.T. and Cairns, D.M. (2011). Patterns and processes of global shrub expansion. Progress in Physical Geography 35:423-442.
  • Young, A.B., Cairns, D.M., Lafon, C.W., Moen, J., Martin, L.E. (2011). Dendroclimatic relationships and possible implications for mountain birch and Scots pine at treeline in northern Sweden through the 21stcentury. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 41: 450-459.
  • Kim, D., Cairns, D.M., and Bartholdy, J. (2011). Wind-driven sea-level variation influences dynamics of salt marsh vegetation. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 101: 231-238


Ph.D., University of Iowa, 1995

M.S., University of Florida, 1991

B.A., University of California, Berkeley, 1989


College-Level Distinguished Achievement Award in Teaching, Association of Former Students, Texas A&M University, 2012

Student Led Award for Teaching Excellence (SLATE), Texas A&M University, 2009

Dean's Distinguished Achievement Award -- Faculty Teaching, College of Geosciences, Texas A&M University, 2007

Additional Information


Dr. Cairns' research concentrates on the impacts of climate change on vegetation at short and long time scales in a variety of environments.  He has worked extensively at ecotones, the transion zones between different vegetation types.  Most of his work has been accomplished at treelines in the western United States, Alaska and in northern Sweden.  He also has projects in two other sensitive environments: saltmarshes on the coasts of Denmark and Texas, and in tundra environments on the North Slope of Alaska.  He utilizes a variety of methods to answer questions pertinent to the response of these environments to climate change including: population genetics, dendroecological methods and simulation modeling. 

Current Students

Jeremy Johnson

Parveen Chhetri

Recent Graduates

Adam Naito, Ph.D.

Tynan Granberg, M.S.

Daehyun Kim, Ph.D.

Dianna Gielstra, Ph.D.

Amanda Young, M.S.

John Waldron, Ph.D.

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