Associate Professor, Biology
I seek to understand the mechanisms underlying the structure and coexistence of plant communities. I examine how abiotic interactions combine with variations in nutrient acquisition and ecophysiological processes to influence diversity and species distributions. I seek to also understand how those processes are impacted by global environmental problems, such as deforestation and climate change. I am fascinated by species-rich communities and, in particular, those that are threatened by human impacts.
I have conducted much of my research in tropical rainforest canopies as they are one of the most diverse yet poorly understood and threatened ecosystems on the planet. My research has focused on epiphytes, the plants that inhabit the canopy, and has found that microhabitat heterogeneity has a large influence on vascular epiphyte diversity at both the tree and forest scales.
I have several research projects in the temperate rainforests on the Olympic peninsula in Washington State. I am examining the factors that influence the distribution and diversity of non-vascular epiphytes in Big Leaf Maple trees as well as how nurse logs and the non-vascular plant community on them influences seedling and tree communities.
As I am a proponent of observational-based hypothesis development, I like to visit local ecosystems and develop research ideas from those observations. The questions that drive me as a scientist, such as what factors influence a species’ distribution and how coexistence is maintained in communities, are broad and can be applied to any ecosystem and organism. Students that work with me can work on research projects that we design together or can develop their own research projects guided by their observations.