Understanding biological systems in a changing world. I am a broadly trained ecologist primarily interested in addressing questions that work across ecological boundaries. Traditionally, researchers have specialized in a single level of organization, studying physiology or community structure, for example. But in our changing world, approaches that combine insights from individuals to ecosystems are critical to providing the information that we need to understand the mechanisms that explain biodiversity, to identify the dynamics that drive change at the community and ecosystem level, and to predict how biological systems will respond in the future.
To take a look at some of our past and active research projects, check out GitHub!
If you’re a student and are not sure what an undergraduate research experience might be like (benefits and challenges), please come talk with me. This recent paper might also provide a good introduction: You are welcome here.
Global Biodiversity Change
Biodiversity measurement is multifaceted and complex, and determining rates or causes of change, or how to prioritize locations for conservation is not always straightforward. My work uses a macroecological lens to investigate biodiversity change at different spatial and temporal scales, from field sites to planet-wide. It’s an exciting time to be a biodiversity researcher, as new data aggregations and computational tools allow us to take new approaches to understanding dynamic change!
Population movement is an important aspect of migrating species annual life cycles, and often underlies changing biodiversity dynamics at sites, as species move in and out of a location through migration, range, shifts, and source-sink dynamics. I use macroecological approaches to evaluate population migration, changing diversity across space and time, and core-transient species dynamics.
Increasing and Improving Data Education
I get to work in data education every day in my role in Dension’s Data Analytics Program. But other fields, including my “home” field of Biology are also facing increasing pressures and challenges to incorporate interdisciplinary skills into already packed curricula for undergraduate students. Data science skills are recognized as essential to work across the biological sciences, and training and institutional support is needed for instructors to stay “up to speed”.
Data and software
Data, software tools, integrative approaches and synthesis are needed to make general predictions across broad taxonomic groups and biogeographic regions. I’ve been a part of publishing several large aggregate datasets, designing better data collection and management workflows, and teaching programming and data analysis skills to other scientists, at all levels. I volunteer with The Carpentries and help lead the BEDE Network.
While I’ve stepped away from field work in recent years, my roots are in hands-on data collection, and I hope to get back to work at a local Ohio site someday soon. I spent much of my graduate work on the Portal Project, a long-term experiment collecting data on small mammal, plant and ant communities. For my postdoc with Catherine Graham, I spent a month in the Chiricahua Mountains surveying migrating hummingbirds, flower communities, and estimating nectar quality and abundance.
New NSF grant!
I have received funding as part of a multi-institution collaborative grant to investigate the range expansion of a native tree, Eastern Red Cedar, 2019-2022 (collaborators are located at Denison University, Kent State University, and the Ohio State University). My group’s work at Denison will focus on the possible effects of seed dispersing birds on the tree’s geographic spread, using eBird data from the past 12 years to track migration, winter movement, and aggregation patterns. As part of the grant, I will hire several undergraduate research assistants at Denison to work during the semester, and have at least 1 fully funded summer research student to work on both scientific and journalistic aspects of the project.