Ecology & Environmental Sciences PhD
I am interested in the composition and dynamics of natural plant communities and the processes structuring them. My current focus is the community-level impacts of two non-native plant species, Centaurea maculosa (spotted knapweed) and Bromus tectorum (downy brome). Using species removal experiments, I am quantifying changes in species richness, diversity, composition and biomass over time and across multiple sites. Impact estimates will be used to parameterize models to predict where these non-native plants are likely to have the greatest impact and how management may be optimized. In addition, I am quantifying the effectiveness and non-target plant impacts of common herbicide treatments for C. maculosa and B. tectorum. Comparisons of these two types of impacts, the impacts of the non-native species, and the impacts of herbicide treatments, can inform management decisions within a trade-off analysis framework.
Other questions I am addressing through my research include: Are there thresholds for impacts of non-native plants (minimum abundance below which impacts are negligible)? Can non-native plants significantly alter successional processes in grassland ecosystems? Under what circumstances are non-native plants likely to alter systems in a biologically significant way?
I aim to extend this research in the future, particularly by focusing on interactions between natural and anthropogenic disturbance (e.g. grazing, development, wildfire), non-native plant establishment and spread, and plant community structure and function.
I am very interested in natural resource and environmental policy and how we can conduct and communicate science that informs management of public lands.