Chelsea Little

Assistant Professor
Environmental Science (Primary) and Resource and Environmental Management


  • BA Biology, Dartmouth College
  • MSc Biology, Uppsala University
  • PhD Ecology, University of Zurich


Dr. Little was trained as a community ecologist, and uses this background to address topics in spatial and ecosystem ecology. Her research asks: what drives of ecosystems’ functioning? With community ecology, Dr. Little considers how communities of organisms assemble, the interactions between organisms of similar and different trophic groups, and how their traits contribute to ecosystem function. Ecosystems are intrinsically connected by exchanges of organisms (dispersal and other movement) and materials (for example, resource subsidies), so she uses meta-ecosystem and landscape ecology consider how these exchanges affect the functioning of recipient ecosystems. Much of Dr. Little’s work takes place in watersheds, addressing community assembly and dispersal through river networks and the effects of landscape composition and structure on terrestrial-aquatic linkages. Research encompasses techniques as varied as laboratory experiments, field experiments, observational data, geostatistical modeling, simulations, and data synthesis.

Further information about Dr. Little’s research can be found on her website.

Selected publications: (full publication list)

Little C.J., Fronhofer E.A., Altermatt F. (2020) Nonlinear Effects of Intraspecific Competition Alter Landscape-Wide Scaling-Up of Ecosystem FunctionThe American Naturalist 195(3):432-444.

Gounand I., Little C.J., Harvey E., Altermatt F. (2020) Global quantitative synthesis of ecosystem functioning across climatic zones and ecosystem typesGlobal Ecology and Biogeography 29(7):1139-1176.

Altermatt F., Little C.J., Maechler E., Wang S., Zhang X., Blackman R.C. (2020) Uncovering the complete biodiversity structure in spatial networks: the example of riverine systemsOikos 129:607-618.

Maechler E.*, Little C.J.*, Wuethrich R., Alther R., Fronhofer E.A., Gounand I., Harvey E., Huerlemann S., Walser J.-C., Altermatt F. (2019) Assessing different components of biodiversity across a river network using eDNAEnvironmental DNA 1(3):290-301.

Little C.J., Fronhofer E.A., Altermatt F. (2019) Dispersal syndromes can impact ecosystem functioning in spatially structured freshwater populations. Biology Letters 15:20180865.

Thomas H.J.D., Myers-Smith I.H., Bjorkman A.D., Elmendorf S.C., … Little C.J., … et al. (88 authors). (2019) Traditional plant functional groups explain variation in economic but not size‐related traits across the tundra biome. Global Ecology & Biogeography 28(2):78-95.

Gounand I., Little C.J., Harvey E., Altermatt F. (2018) Cross-ecosystem carbon flows connecting ecosystems worldwide. Nature Communications 9:4825.

Fronhofer E.A., Legrand D., Altermatt F., Ansart A., Blanchet S., Bonte D., Chaine A., Dahirel M., De Laender F., De Raedt J., di Gesu L., Jacob S., Kaltz O., Laurent E., Little C.J., Madec L., Manzi F., Masier S., Pellerin F., Pennekamp F., Schtickzelle N., Therry L., Vong A., Winandy L., Cote J. (2018) Bottom-up and top-down control of dispersal across major organismal groups. Nature Ecology & Evolution 2:1859–1863.

Bjorkman A.D., Myers-Smith I.H., Elmendorf S.C., Normand S., …  Little C.J.… et al (129 authors). (2018) Plant functional trait change across a warming tundra biome. Nature 562:57-62.

Little C.J. and Altermatt F. (2018) Landscape configuration alters spatial arrangement of terrestrial-aquatic subsidies in headwater streams. Landscape Ecology 33:1519–1531.

Little C.J. & Altermatt F. (2018) Species turnover and invasion of dominant freshwater invertebrates alter biodiversity-ecosystem function relationship. Ecological Monographs 88:461-480.

Little C.J. and Altermatt F. (2018) Do priority effects outweigh environmental filtering in a guild of dominant freshwater macroinvertebrates? Proceedings of the Royal Society B: 285:20180205.

Datry T., Foulquier A., Corti R., von Schiller D., … Little C.J., … Zak D., Zarfl C., & Zoppini A (94 authors). (2018) A global analysis of terrestrial plant litter dynamics in non-perennial waterways. Nature Geoscience 11:497–503.

Gounand I., Harvey E., Little C.J., Altermatt F. (2018) Meta-ecosystems 2.0: Rooting the Theory into the Field. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 33:36-46.

Harvey E., Gounand I., Little C.J., Fronhofer E.A., Altermatt F. (2017) Upstream trophic structure modulates downstream community dynamics via resource subsidies. Ecology & Evolution 7:5724–5731.

Little C.J., Cutting H.B.U., Alatalo J.M., Cooper E. (2017) Short-term herbivory has long-term consequences in warmed and ambient high Arctic tundra. Environmental Research Letters 12:025001.

Little C.J., Wheeler J.A., Sedlacek J., Cortés A.J., Rixen C. (2016) Small-scale drivers: the importance of nutrient availability and snowmelt timing on performance of the alpine shrub Salix herbacea. Oecologia 4:1015–1024.


This instructor is currently not teaching any courses.