I investigate responses of ecosystem structure and function to global change, including climate change, development, invasive species, and biogeochemistry, using a combination of field experiments, landscape analysis, and simulation modeling.
Modeling Great Lakes coastal wetlands under
I investigate how wetlands in the Great Lakes basin are effected by several impacts of global change, including invasive plants land use change, and climate change by using a process-based ecosystem simulation model.
Disturbance and resilience in salt marshes
Large predators and drought disturbance
Salt marshes are positioned at the interface of land and sea and experience multiple interacting stressors that can originate from either of these environments. For example, the interaction of drought and grazing periwinkle snails can devastate marshes, leaving denuded mudflats behind. It is important to know what factors help increase marsh resilience to these events. I have studied how large predators, including nekton and avian species, help reduce these combined stressors reducing the number of snails in these marshes through predation and disease.
Megaconsumer invasion in salt marshes
Marshes are plagued by several large megaconsumers, including feral horses, hogs, nutria, and domestic livestock. I am interested in how these invaders impact marshes, including the ecosystem services marshes provide, and how resilience marshes are to the various types of disturbances these invaders impose. In addition, I am interested in the large scale drivers of invasion to these marshes, including habitat and human encroachment.
Restoration and function
I test the efficacy of different restoration strategies, examine factors that increase rates of restoration success, and analyze the return of ecosystem functions and services. I have tested a variety of soils to determine optimal conditions for vegetation regrowth. I have also studied various types of breakwalls and how to create marsh behind these structures.
Interactions of intense storm events and coastal vegetation
Coastal storms are becoming more intense as ocean temperatures rise. Marshes can play an important role in buffering the impacts of storms to coastal infrastructure and communities. I quantify the buffering capacity of marshes by measuring the physical structure of individual plants within an entire vegetation stand using high-tech terrestrial LiDAR. With this technique, I can calculate the how much surface area of vegetation will come into contact with incoming storm surge. With this information we can better understand the role of marshes in providing natural defenses for our coastal infrastructure.