Humans continue to change the environment locally, regionally and globally. We have eliminated and introduced species, changed resource availability, fragmented the landscape and altered climate. Understanding the response of natural systems to these changes requires knowledge of the mechanisms through which organisms respond to the abiotic and biotic environment. Research in my lab focuses on understanding these mechanisms. In particular, we study the role of plant functional traits (e.g., photosynthesis, water loss, leaf anatomy, biomass allocation, allometry, growth, survival) in plant ecology, evolution and response to global change. We are interested in understanding how plants interact with and respond to their environments and the implications of these responses for forest dynamics, forest management, biodiversity, ecosystem function and trait evolution. This broad scope allows us to ask questions pertinent to understanding important topics such as
the effects of global climate change on terrestrial ecosystems
the mechanisms underlying diversification of species
the determinants of gradients in species diversity
the mechanisms associated with the ability of exotic species to invade new habitats
the ecology managed forest ecosystems
Current research projects in my lab examine: (1) the potential for projected climate change to alter tree species composition at the southern boreal-temperate forest ecotone (2) the role of physiological traits in adaptive radiation, with a focus on the Hawaiian lobeliads (3) the relative importance of above- versus belowground competition in structuring interactions between shrubs, herbs and trees in forest understories (4) the impact of diverse silvicultural practices on resource availability, regeneration and diversity in red pine forests in northern Minnesota.