Dr. Cynthia Dott

Dr. Cynthia Dott
Professor of Biology


  • Ecology and dynamics of river systems
  • Riparian/floodplain forest habitat
  • Riparian vegetation response to changing hydrology, geomorphology and disturbance regimes
  • Links between vegetation and disturbance history
  • Aquatic ecology
  • Scientific teaching and cooperative learning methodology in the classroom


  • Ph.D., Ecology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1996 
  • Master of Science, Ecology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1990 
  • Bachelor of Arts, Biology, The Colorado College, 1985 


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About Dr. Cynthia Dott

Cynthia Dott is a professor in the Department of Biology and an affiliate faculty member in the Environmental Studies program at Fort Lewis College. She joined the college in 2001. Dr. Dott researches plant community ecology and has worked extensively on the Colorado Plateau and in the southern Rocky and San Juan Mountains. Specifically, she studies groundwater and surface hydrology and floodplain forests on the Dolores and Animas Rivers as well as riparian community dynamics and their interactions with geomorphic processes, interactions between riparian community structure and changes in natural disturbance regimes, impacts of changing climate on disturbance regimes and more.

Dr. Dott mentors student researchers in the areas of aquatic ecology and changes in riparian vegetation structure as a result of changing hydrology and sediment aggradation. She has consulted for regional organizations as an ecologist, evaluating proposed reservoir release guidelines for the restoration and maintenance of native vegetation on area rivers, environmental conditions on regulated rivers, and the impacts of invasive species, among other projects.  
Dr. Dott is a member of several professional associations, including the International Society for River Science, the Ecological Society of America, the Nature Conservancy and Sigma Xi. Outside of Fort Lewis, she works with the Dolores River Restoration Partnership, the Tamarisk Coalition and the Mountain Studies Institute. She is also committee chair of the Common Reading Experience for Fort Lewis College.

Selected Publications and Presentations

“Dynamics and History of Russian Olive Invasion on the San Juan River, Southeastern Utah,” Tamarisk Coalition Research and Management Conference, 2015

“Temporal and spatial variation in floodplain aquifers and riparian vegetation on the regulated Dolores River, southwest Colorado, USA,” River Research and Applications, Under review (with Gary Gianniny)

“The effects of Lake Powell on sediment aggradation in the lower reaches of the San Juan River,” in Geology of Utah’s Far South, Utah Geological Association Publication, 2014 (with Gary Gianniny)

Variable response of willow and cottonwood to the hydrology of river regulation in southwestern Colorado,” Tamarisk Coalition 2014 Research & Management Conference (with Gary Gianniny)

“Willows, cottonwoods and hydrology: variations on a theme in southwestern Colorado,” 12th Biennial Conference of Research on the Colorado Plateau, 2013 (with Gary Gianniny)

“Riparian vegetation structure and floodplain hydrology on dammed vs. undammed rivers: Dolores and Animas Rivers, SW Colorado,” Ecological Society of America 98th Annual Meeting, 2013

"Evaluation of proposed reservoir release guidelines for maintenance and restoration of native riparian vegetation:  Dolores River below McPhee Dam, Big Gypsum Valley Reach," report to the Dolores River Implementation Team & Dolores Water Conservancy District, 2012

In the media

Professor of Biology Cynthia Dott was interviewed by KSJD about the effects of high water releases from McPhee Reservoir on riparian health on the Dolores River.