Scaling from microhabitat modification to demography
Microhabitat modification, such as buffering temperatures and locally increasing water availability, is a common mechanism of facilitation in stressful environments. Microhabitat modification can affect diversity and abundance by increasing habitat heterogeneity and altering vital rates. It is not well understood what impact local-scale habitat modification has on plant abundance and distributions, which directly affects our success in applying effective conservation strategies. I study when and at what scale microhabitat modification is facilitative to better predict how plant communities respond to climate variation.
Seed dispersal in desert winter annual communities
Desert winter annual species are expected to have limited dispersal, in part driven by patchy availability of suitable microsites. In a Sonoran Desert community at White Tank Mountain Regional Park, I am experimentally testing these assumptions by comparing seed movement across varied vegetation types.
Plant invasion, impacts, and management
I am interested in understanding why and when some species are invasive, predicting their impacts, and identifying best management practices. During my master’s, I focused on the invasive grass, Ehrharta erecta, which is currently spreading in California. Ehrharta erecta is drought and shade tolerant, a combination that allows it to invade coastal mixed-evergreen forests. This system has high invasion resistance and only a few sparse native grasses. Visually, the difference between invaded and uninvaded forest is stark; at some locations I have measured 300% greater plant cover compared to uninvaded forests. To test how E. erecta affects native understory plants in this system, I measured native species richness and abundance in invaded and uninvaded forest plots, as well as whether native cover changed with invader density. I also tested the effectiveness of mechanical and chemical management methods at reducing E. erecta abundance, both alone and with post-removal planting of native species. This research was advised by Ingrid Parker at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Funding was through a NSF Graduate Research Fellowship and UCSC Chancellor’s Fellowship.