Bill Bowman

Bill Bowman

Fellow and Director, Mountain Research Station

  • Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology



  • BA: University of Colorado, 1981
  • MS: San Diego State University, 1984
  • PhD: Duke University, 1988

Contact Information

(Office) 303 492-2557
(Field) 303 492-8842
Mountain Research Station, 818 County Road 116, Nederland, CO 804066


Plant ecology, community ecology, biogeochemistry, alpine ecosystems.

Research Interests

Causes and consequences of plant biodiversity, plant-soil interactions, influence of nitrogen deposition on ecosystems.


Research in the Bowman lab focuses on multiple areas of plant ecology, primarily on the interactions between plants and their resources, ranging from plant adaptations to low resource availability, to how plants influence soils and subsequently ecosystem function and biodiversity.

Alpine ecosystems have tremendous variation in soil resource availability associated with landscape topographic and microclimatic diversity, which results in substantial variation in biotic diversity. As a result the alpine is an excellent model system to address questions of plant-soil interactions. Research projects have addressed specific resource limitations to primary production in alpine communities, the role of competition and facilitation in community composition, the influence of symbiotic N2-fixation


  • BFA Excellence Award, CU-Boulder Faculty Assembly, 2015


Research Statement

Research is focused in 3 primary areas:

Plant control over nutrient cycling and implications for species interactions: Plants affect the availability of critical resources, such as water and nutrients, simply by consuming them. However, plants can also directly influence the supply of nutrients through influences on soil biology, by varying the amount and chemistry of organic matter. We've been investigating the role of plant chemistry on nitrogen cycling in alpine plants, from the perspective of its influence on spatial variation in ecosystem function, as well as a biotic influence on community dynamics.

Plant resource partitioning: Use of different chemical forms of nitrogen- All plants need essentially the same resources in the same chemical structure, and thus partitioning by form, like animals can do for prey species, has not been considered for plants until recently. Plants are capable of taking up several forms of nitrogen (ammonium, nitrate, and small amino acids), and thus the potential exists that plants could specialize in the form of nitrogen they take up. This might alleviate competition with neighbors for a resource that is often limiting to plant growth and community diversity. Some alpine plants appear to have narrow preferences for the form of nitrogen they take up, while others appear to be more versatile. The implications of these patterns for the outcome of competition and alpine diversity is being explored.

Nitrogen deposition and alpine ecosystem function: Nitrogen deposition, a form of acid rain, remains one of the most serious regional environmental problems. Alpine areas are particularly susceptible to detrimental effects, due to their thin, poorly weathered soils, low rates of biological activity, and strong seasonality, all of which lower the buffering capacity of alpine systems to neutralize the ecological effects of N deposition. We have been examining the influence of N deposition on plant species composition, soil chemistry (base cations and acidity), and ecosystem function in alpine ecosystems. Research sites include Niwot Ridge, Rocky Mountain and Glacier National Parks, and the Western Tatra Mountains of Slovakia.

Visit the Bowman Lab web site.

Active Research

Research Programs

Research Labs and Groups



Potter, T. S., Owens, W. M., Bill Bowman 2019: Do plant-microbe interactions and aluminum tolerance influence alpine sedge species' responses to nitrogen deposition?. Ecosphere, 10(7): article e02775. DOI: 10.1002/ecs2.2775

Komatsu, K. J., et al., including, Bill BowmanKatharine Suding 2019: Global change effects on plant communities are magnified by time and the number of global change factors imposed. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 116(36): 17,867-17,873. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1819027116

Clark, C. M., Sam Simkin, Allen, E. B., Bill Bowman, Belnap, J., Brooks, M. L., Collins, S. L., Geiser, L. H., Gilliam, F. S., Jovan, S. E., Pardo, L. H., Schulz, B. K., Stevens, C. J., Katharine Suding, Throop, H. L., Waller, D. M. 2019: Potential vulnerability of 348 herbaceous species to atmospheric deposition of nitrogen and sulfur in the United States. Nature Plants, 5(7): 697-705. DOI: 10.1038/s41477-019-0442-8

Fornwalt, P. J., Rhoades, C. C., Hubbard, R. M., Harris, R. L., Faist, A. M., Bill Bowman 2018: Short-term understory plant community responses to salvage logging in beetle-affected lodgepole pine forests. Forest Ecology and Management, 409: 84-93. DOI: 10.1016/j.foreco.2017.10.056

Bill Bowman, Swatling-Holcomb, S. 2018: The roles of stochasticity and biotic interactions in the spatial patterning of plant species in alpine communities. Journal of Vegetation Science, 29(1): 25-33. DOI: 10.1111/jvs.12583

Sam Simkin, Allen, E. B., Bill Bowman, Clark, C. M., Belnap, J., Brooks, M. L., Cade, B. S., Collins, S. L., Geiser, L. H., Gilliam, F. S., Jovan, S. E., Pardo, L. H., Schulz, B. K., Stevens, C. J., Katharine Suding, Throop, H. L., Waller, D. M. 2016: Conditional vulnerability of plant diversity to atmospheric nitrogen deposition across the United States. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113(15): 4086-4091. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1515241113

All publications by Bill Bowman >


Teaching Statement

Courses I teach:

Principles of Ecology (EBIO 2040)

Graduate Seminars (EBIO 6100): Ecology of Plant-Soil Interactions, Science Communication, Causes and Consequences of Biodiversity

Research Experiences for Undergraduates

I direct the University of Colorado's Mountain Research Station Research Experiences for Undergraduates program, funded by the National Science Foundation.  This provides students with the opportunity to participate in research projects at the University of Colorado Mountain Research Station. More information about the University of Colorado REU program, the faculty involved, the host site, and the application process can be found in these pages. Student participants will be housed at the Mountain Research Station. Participants will live in cabins at the station through the summer, offering an opportunity for participation in a unique, focused, research program.


Current Courses

  • EBIO 2040: Principles of Ecology
  • EBIO 4100: Field Ecology

Past Courses

  • EBIO 6100: Ecology of Plant-Soil Interactions