We seek to understand how biological traits, environmental conditions, and historical factors such as disturbance and dispersal history interact to influence species distributions. We apply this understanding to conservation concerns including the protection of rare species, the restoration of disturbed communities, the control of invasive species, and the environmental impacts of agriculture. We address these global issues by working locally– here’s why.
How has the vegetation of an urban area changed from the 1790s to today?
We are using surveys conducted in the 1790s to reconstruct the historical vegetation of Cuyahoga County, Ohio and compare it to today’s vegetation. Understanding how the distributions of tree species and habitat types changed over time will reveal how different drivers such as climate, fire suppression and urbanization contributed to vegetation change, and will provide useful information to guide restoration efforts.
How are invasive earthworms impacting plant communities in different habitats?
As invasive earthworms continue to spread and transform forest floors, we are comparing the species composition of earthworms in different habitats and studying their effects on plant communities. For example, do different species of earthworms selectively eat and digest certain species of seeds?
How is the loss of ash trees to emerald ash borer impacting forests?
First detected in Detroit in 2002, emerald ash borer is an Asian beetle that damages and kills trees of all native species of ash in North America. We are examining the impacts of ash loss on tree growth and plant community structure and composition. This work is in collaboration with Ben Dolan, Jason Kilgore and EREN, the Ecological Research as Education Network.
How do invasion and succession change plant communities in serpentine barrens?
Serpentine barrens are unusual grassland, savanna and woodland ecosystems on soils derived from ultramafic bedrock. These ecosystems are a high conservation priority because they are globally rare; they support a number of rare, endemic and endangered species; and they provide some of the only open habitats in otherwise forested and farmed landscapes. Two major threats to serpentine barrens are the invasion of exotic species and the encroachment of native trees. We are investigating the impacts of these processes on species diversity, community composition, functional traits and functional diversity.