Heath W. Garris

Heath Garris

Assistant Professor of Biology
On faculty since 2016





PhD in Integrated Bioscience, University of Akron, 2013

MS in Biology, University of Alabama at Birmingham, 2008

BS in Biology, Furman University, 2006


Professional Interests

I follow in the footsteps of beloved Professor Emeritus Dr. Jerry Wenger, to teach and promote environmental science as a covenantal vocation for Christian students. I believe environmental stewardship is a calling worthy of Christ-followers who are earnestly seeking to be His agents in the redemption of all Creation (Romans 8:19-21). I am truly excited to see what Christ has in store for Covenant students engaged in conservation work on and off campus, and the potential for Covenant becoming an example of excellence in tending God’s gifts on Lookout Mountain.


In my research, I primarily address questions that require ecological knowledge to solve long-term challenges for Creation. I study ecological communities (groups of species co-occurring in space and time), community properties, the physical challenges communities face in making a living, and the best practices for stewarding the diversity of life on earth. I have addressed small-scale shifts in climate regimes and its effects on community properties, large-scale environmental projections and their potential effects on threatened habitats, and systemic shifts in ecosystem properties following major disturbances. I’m passionate about engaging and inspiring students through primary research projects, and fostering personal and professional discipline that leads to lifelong scholarship.


Personal Interests

Outside of my academic pursuits, I’m a husband of an amazing and tolerant wife and a father of two wonderfully energetic children. I’m a recovering long-distance runner and passionate about the great out of doors, gardening, good food, and ‘weird’ music.


Professional Membership

  • International Association for Vegetation Science
  • The Nature Conservancy


Other Memberships


Selected Publications

  • 2016. Garris HW, Baldwin SA, Van Hamme JD, Gardner WC, Fraser LH. Genomics to assist mine reclamation: a review. Restoration Ecology. 24(2):165-173.
  • 2016. Fraser LH, Garris HW, Carlyle CN. Predicting plant trait similarity along environmental gradients. Plant Ecol 1–10. doi: 10.1007/s11258-016-0628-3
  • 2015. Fraser LH, Pither J, Jentsch A, Sternberg M, Zobel M, Askarizadeh D, Bartha S, Beierkuhnlein C, Bennett JA, Bittel A, Boldgiv B, Boldrini II, Bork E, Brown L, Cabido M, Cahill J, Carlyle CN, Campetella G, Chelli S, Cohen O, Csergo A-M, Diaz S, Enrico L, Ensing D, Fidelis A, Fridley JD, Foster B, Garris H, Goheen JR, Henry HAL, Hohn M, Jouri MH, Klironomos J, Koorem K, Lawrence-Lodge R, Long R, Manning P, Mitchell R, Moora M, Muller SC, Nabinger C, Naseri K, Overbeck GE, Palmer TM, Parsons S, Pesek M, Pillar VD, Pringle RM, Roccaforte K, Schmidt A, Shang Z, Stahlmann R, Stotz GC, Sugiyama S -i., Szentes S, Thompson D, Tungalag R, Undrakhbold S, van Rooyen M, Wellstein C, Wilson JB, Zupo T. Worldwide evidence of a unimodal relationship between productivity and plant species richness. Science 349:302–5.
  • 2015. Fraser LH, WL Harrower, HW Garris, S Davidson, PDN Hebert, R Howie, A Moody, D Polster, OJ Schmitz, ARE Sinclair, BM Starzomski, TP Sullivan, R Turkington, D Wilson. 2015. A call for applying trophic structure in ecological restoration. Restoration Ecology 23(5):503–507.
  • 2014. Garris, HW. RJ. Mitchell, LH. Fraser, LR. Barrett. Forecasting climate change impacts on the distribution of wetland habitat in the Midwestern United States. Global Change Biology 21:766-776.

Jed Williams '19

"I enjoy learning about the sciences from a biblical perspective, where my classmates and I can marvel at God’s glory in creation. I am also truly blessed to have professors like Dr. Morris who has been very intentional, kind and patient with me. He goes beyond the role of being my academic advisor and biology professor to being a mentor."
 - Jed Williams '19

Matthew Tueller

"General Biology 1 with Dr. Morris. He’s literally the best. Dr. Morris was just such a good teacher and it seriously affirmed that biology is what I want to be studying and pursuing."
 - Matthew Tueller '19