The overall goal of our research is to understand the processes governing the dynamics of tree communities in temperate and tropical forests.

  • We are especially interested in developing a synthetic understanding of how resources (irradiance, nutrients, and water) and biotic interactions (plant-plant, plant – soil feedbacks) act together to influence forest community properties.
  • Furthermore, we probe the whole-plant physiological mechanisms (such as allocation to nonstructural carbohydrates) that underlie species differences in responding to the environment.
  • We have become increasingly interested in how these fundamental workings of forest communities will respond to changes in climate.

Some of the broader questions that my lab group addresses include:

  • What are the mechanisms-- both the particular environmental factors and process responses to those factors -- that cause landscape-level variation in forest composition?
  • How do anthropogenic effects on soil resources manifest through these mechanisms?
  • How can hundreds of tree species, all of which use the same resources, co-exist in wet tropical forests? Why isn't there just one or a few dominant tree species in these systems?

To address these types of questions, our lab group designs field experiments to calibrate individual-based, species-specific models of tree performance (e.g. mortality, growth, reproduction, dispersal) in relation to plant resource availability and biotic interactions. The calibrated models and coefficients are analyzed to understand community structure.