Global change in grasslands

Prairie Heating and CO2 Enrichment Experiment, Cheyenne, Wyoming

Prairie Heating and CO2 Enrichment Experiment, Cheyenne, Wyoming

I currently work on the PHACE project, a large collaborative effort between the University of Wyoming, USDA ARS  in Fort Collins, and Colorado State University to quantify how a semi-arid grassland in northeastern Wyoming respond to a combination of global change factors. The group is interested at looking above and belowground and linking responses with mechanisms in order to better model future responses of this and other similar ecosystems to climate change. My work focuses on how plant community  structure and function respond to climate change and linking those responses to biogeochemical processes. Recently, I have also started thinking about what stable isotope analyses can tell us about how plants in the PHACE experiment are faring, with the goal of linking physiological and ecological responses.


Quantifying the footprint of a dominant organism: Impacts of leaf cutter ants on biogeochemical cycling in tropical forests

Atta cephalotes nest at La Selva Biological Station, Costa Rica

Atta cephalotes nest at La Selva Biological Station, Costa Rica

There is considerable debate in the scientific community about the role of tropical ecosystems in the global carbon budget and some tropical ecosystems are considered to be C sinks whole others C sources. This lack of consensus is partially the result of our incomplete understanding of the C cycle in tropical ecosystems. Matters become more complex when we consider the role of soils in mediating C dynamics – soils are considerably less well-studied in tropical ecosystems and the roles soil invertebrates play in C dynamics are rarely considered. Despite their ecological prominence, we currently know little about the overall contribution of leaf cutting ants to the C cycle. Collaborating with scientists from University of California, Florida International University, and the University of Costa Rica, we are assessing the role leaf cutter ants play in above and belowground C and biogeochemical dynamics in tropical forests 


Eco-evolutionary impacts of climate change on cheatgrass

USGS Global Change experiment, Castle Valley, UT

USGS Global Change experiment, Castle Valley, UT

Bromus tectorum (cheatgrass) has successfully invaded plant communities across the western U.S., across a range of climatic conditions and ecosystems, including cold desert shrublands. The success of this invader may be the result of its phenotypic plasticity and adaptive genetic variation. I am interested in assessing the potential of eco-evolutionary B. tectorum responses to climate change and how these eco-evolutionary responses shape future B. tectorum distributions