Justin Wright

Justin Wright

Assistant Professor

Primary Appointment

Biology Department

My research focuses on understanding the causes and consequences of patterns of biological diversity across the planet. I am particularly interested in two broad questions: 1)How does the modification of the environment by organisms affect community structure and ecosystem function? and 2) what aspects of biodiversity matter most in the regulation of ecosystem function? While much of my research has focused on wetland plant communities, I am willing to study any organism and work in any ecosystem to answer the questions that interest me. I have worked in systems ranging from tropical streams to desert shrublands. My research program combines observational and experimental approaches with modeling to develop and test hypotheses and build towards synthetic ecological theory.

In The News


Craig, M. E., N. Lovko, S. L. Flory, J. P. Wright, and R. P. Phillips. “Impacts of an invasive grass on soil organic matter pools vary across a tree-mycorrhizal gradient.” Biogeochemistry 144, no. 2 (July 30, 2019): 149–64. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10533-019-00577-2.
Simonin, Marie, Kristofor A. Voss, Brooke A. Hassett, Jennifer D. Rocca, Si-Yi Wang, Raven L. Bier, Christy R. Violin, Justin P. Wright, and Emily S. Bernhardt. “In search of microbial indicator taxa: shifts in stream bacterial communities along an urbanization gradient..” Environmental Microbiology, May 24, 2019. https://doi.org/10.1111/1462-2920.14694.
Ury, Emily A., Steven M. Anderson, Robert K. Peet, Emily S. Bernhardt, and Justin P. Wright. “Succession, regression and loss: does evidence of saltwater exposure explain recent changes in the tree communities of North Carolina's Coastal Plain?.” Annals of Botany, April 6, 2019. https://doi.org/10.1093/aob/mcz039.
Firn, Jennifer, James M. McGree, Eric Harvey, Habacuc Flores-Moreno, Martin Schütz, Yvonne M. Buckley, Elizabeth T. Borer, et al. “Leaf nutrients, not specific leaf area, are consistent indicators of elevated nutrient inputs..” Nature Ecology & Evolution 3, no. 3 (March 2019): 400–406. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-018-0790-1.
Ficken, C. D., and J. P. Wright. “Nitrogen uptake and biomass resprouting show contrasting relationships with resource acquisitive and conservative plant traits.” Journal of Vegetation Science, January 1, 2019. https://doi.org/10.1111/jvs.12705.

Recent Grants


BIOLOGY 361LS: Field Ecology (BIOLOGY 361LS: Field Ecology)
BIOLOGY 792: Research (BIOLOGY 792: Research)
BIOLOGY 493: Research Independent Study (BIOLOGY 493: Research Independent Study)
ENVIRON 361LS: Field Ecology (ENVIRON 361LS: Field Ecology)
BIOLOGY 293: Research Independent Study (BIOLOGY 293: Research Independent Study)

Contact Information

Box 90338
Durham, NC 27708-0338
258 Biological Sciences
Durham, NC 27708


Ph.D., Cornell University (2002)
B.A., Williams College (1996)