My research focuses on quantifying vegetation dynamics over space and time and identifying how the relative importance of ecological processes structuring plant communities changes with spatial and temporal scale. In addition, a key goal of my research is to understand how pattern and process in plant communities will be altered in the face of global environmental change. I collect field data, use existing large observational data sets, and implement simulation modeling to answer these questions in a variety of terrestrial ecosystems, including longleaf pine woodlands, big sagebrush ecosystems, and temperate deciduous forests.
Modeling big sagebrush ecohydrology and vegetation dynamics in response to changing climate and disturbance regimes
Climate change is predicted to increase the severity and number of drought events in parts of western North America, while soil water availability may increase in other portions of the landscape. My current research uses two coupled simulation models to explore the impacts of climate change and altered disturbance regimes on ecohydrology and big sagebrush community composition and biomass across the range of the big sagebrush distribution.
Big sagebrush plant biodiversity patterns across space
A key challenge in ecology is to identify which community assembly processes influence biodiversity patterns across multiple scales. Despite the importance of sagebrush ecosystems in the western US, very little work has focused on quantifying plant biodiversity patterns in the herbaceous layer. We address this knowledge gap by exploring the geographic patterns of plant biodiversity and examining how soil water availability, along with other environmental drivers, influences multiple dimensions of plant biodiversity.
Using functional and phylogenetic diversity to infer ecological processes along environmental gradients
The merging of community ecology and evolution have provided new theoretical insights and methodological approaches for inference of community assembly processes. My work in this arena uses functional diversity of traits hypothesized to respond to competition and environmental filtering, respectively in combination with phylogenetic diversity to infer shifts in the relative importance of competition and environmental filtering along stress gradients.