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.
My research program integrates lessons across scales, including physiology and constraint-based approaches, population dynamics, community structure, and ecosystem function. I use a combination of field studies, ecoinformatics, modeling, and macroecological analyses. My research is motivated by a need for better and more efficient vetting of ecological theory and a need for rapid and efficient data analysis to provide improved and easily used information to conservation and land managers during the current era of global change.
The processes that determine community structure and ecosystem function have long been an important focus in ecology. To explore my questions, I have worked in several different field systems, with a focus on plant-animal interactions.
Data Analysis, Synthesis, and Software Tools
While field experiments can be a powerful way to test theories or to evaluate the dynamics of a particular ecological system, integrative approaches and synthesis are needed to make general predictions across broad taxonomic groups and biogeographic regions. In my research, I frequently use computational approaches, such as macroecological analysis and ecological modeling to ask and answer big picture questions of diversity change through time. My workflow uses an open access model for collaboration, reproducibility, and enhanced communication.
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.