"The fewer species there are and the fewer species we know about,
the fewer questions we even know to ask."
- Dr. Lynn Margulis
My current research focuses on tundra pollination ecology and plant reproduction in the context of a warming climate.
Plant phenological and growth responses to experimental warming are well documented, but less is known about
warming effects on plant-pollinator interactions and the implications for plant diversity. I investigate plant breeding systems, floral rewards, and pollinator networks. I test questions such as:
(1) what are the temporal patterns in plant-insect visitor network structure at our sites?
(2) do we find any evidence for warming effects plant-pollinator synchrony?
(3) does plant reproductive output decrease in the absence of pollinators?
(4) how does warming affect the quantity and quality of floral rewards available to floral visitors?
Answers to these questions will allow us to predict future shifts in community composition and diversity. Community shifts will have major implications for biological interactions in the Arctic, as well as global carbon dynamics.
Since 2015, I have contributed data to the long-term efforts of the International Tundra Experiment (ITEX), a consortium of scientists who use comparable methods at arctic, antarctic, and alpine sites to understand tundra plant responses to warming. My contributions to ITEX began in my post-doctoral research and continue today. ITEX uses passive warming devices, open top chambers (OTCs), to experimentally warm plots. Many of the images in the Photos Gallery on this site contain OTCs, white dome-like structures. We quantify various factors within the OTCs and compare these factors to control plots (un-warmed). My key collaborators on this project are Dr. Steve Oberbauer (Florida International University), Dr. Jeremy May (Marietta College), and Dr. Flavia Sancier-Barbosa (Colorado College).
Although my current research focuses on the Low Arctic, I was trained as a tropical plant ecologist. My dissertation research
explored the effects of habitat variation on the reproductive ecology of an agroforestry palm, buriti (Mauritia flexuosa),
in the Brazilian Amazon. My key collaborator for this project was Dr. Reinaldo Imbrozio Barbosa (National Institute for Amazonian Research, INPA). This work was revolutionary at the time, because only anecdotal data existed about the pollination and fruiting patterns of this keystone species. My field assistants and I spent over two years climbing these palms to carry out experiments in the canopy and report novel findings on this species' reproductive ecology.
In addition to my research in northern Brazil, I also conducted research in the pine rocklands of the Florida Everglades during my graduate work. My doctoral advisor, Dr. Suzanne Koptur, and I studied the pollination of key palm species in the pine rocklands including silver palm (Coccothrinax argentata).
I also have research experience in the Colorado Rockies. As a faculty mentor for the McNair Scholars Program at the University of Northern Colorado, I carried out fieldwork with my McNair student at Mountain Research Station. Together, we studied the reproductive ecology of a native legume, Thermopsis divaricarpa.