B.A., Wesleyan University; Ph.D., University of California (Santa Cruz)
Science Center Rm. E122
Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies
Ecologist focusing on invasive plant population dynamics and environmental influences.
I am primarily a plant ecologist, although my courses within the Environmental Studies Program span a broader range of areas and topics including resource use, conservation, and environmental science fundamentals.
My research primarily examines how environmental factors and biological interactions affect the success or failure of plant populations. Biological invasions of nonnative species is particularly relevant to this broader theme and is a major focus of research. Methodologically, I am focused on quantitative approaches that span biological scales, linking population dynamics to environmental and physiological drivers.
Current projects include:
(1) How do resource supply and uptake affect the demographic success of plant invasions? This work is conducted at the Boston Area Climate Experiment (BACE) in Waltham, MA and uses Persicaria lapathifolia as a model species. An important goal is to explicitly link environmental factors to population performance using integral projection models. This work is a collaboration with Vikki Rodgers at Babson College.
(2) What is the capacity for invasion of Bromus tectorum ('cheatgrass') in east coast dune systems? There has been much research into the invasion of B. tectorum in the Western U.S., but there is very little known about its potential in the east. This work is being conducted at the Cape Cod National Seashore and focuses on relating population success to factors of both the abiotic environment and the background plant community.
(3) What are the population-level consequences of positive interactions among plants? Interactions among plants are often assumed to be negative (e.g. competition), but there is growing interest in the importance of positive interactions, or plant-plant facilitation, in ecological systems. My research, in collaboration with Ray Callaway at the University of Montana, examines the overall importance of facilitation by neighboring plants for Smelowskia calycina populations at high elevation in Glacier National Park.
My lab also serves as a center for environmental analysis on campus, processing soil nutrient samples for the Botanic Gardens and courses such as ES 103.
I received a B.A. from Wesleyan University in 2001 and a Ph.D. in Environmental Studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz in 2008, where my dissertation was focused on biotic and climatic factors influencing the high-elevation invasion of B. tectorum in the Great Basin. I was the post-doctoral Botany Fellow at the Wellesley College Botanic Gardens from 2008-2011, teaching in both the Environmental Studies Program and Biological Sciences Department.