Dr. Paul Arriola is a first-generation college graduate and plant evolutionary ecologist who has focused his research efforts on understanding why weedy plants are so successful in the natural landscape. From his early investigations into genetic variation across wild populations in the genera Sorghum and Oxalis, through his recent project involving cultivated and wild species in Amaranthus and Capsicum, Dr. Arriola and his students have asked questions about the interactions and impact of the environment on the genetic structure and reproductive success of weeds. His current project centers on the impacts of long-term drought stress on the reproductive potential of plants adapted to warmer climates vs. plants adapted to more moderate climates. One hypothesis being tested is that plants experiencing prolonged, moderate drought stress will produce fewer viable offspring than plants that experience periodic, acute drought stress regardless of their evolutionary history. One goal of this line of investigation is to provide some insight into possible negative impacts of plants growing in an increasingly hotter and dryer environment predicted by climate change and global warming.
Dr. Arriola earned his Ph.D. in botany (plant genetics) at the University of California at Riverside. His dissertation work centered on gene flow and introgression between wild and crop relatives in the genus Sorghum. Since arriving at Elmhurst he has served as both department chair and associate dean of the college. He has also worked as a consultant for the non-governmental organizations Greenpeace and The Center for Food Safety. Currently, he is a Fellow of the Partnership for Undergraduate Life Sciences Education (PULSE), an organization focused on transformation of biology departments to improve student learning and success.