2008-2013: Ph.D., Clemson University, Advisor: Dr. Saara J. DeWalt
Dissertation: Factors influencing the distribution and structure of tropical vascular epiphyte communities at multiple scales
2006-2008: M.Sc., University of Guelph, Advisors: Dr. Shelley L. Hunt & Dr. Andrew M. Gordon
Thesis:Exploring the relationship between canopy microorganisms and nitrogen transformations in an Ontario black spruce plantation
1998-2002: B. Sc. Honours, University of Guelph
Understanding the factors that influence the patterns of biodiversity is a central goal in ecology. As a community and ecosystem ecologist, I seek to understand the factors that underlie the processes that determine biodiversity and how those processes are impacted by global environmental problems, such as deforestation and climate change. In particular, I examine how abiotic interactions combine with variations in nutrient acquisition and ecophysiological processes to influence plant distributions and, ultimately, patterns of biodiversity. I am fascinated by species-rich communities and, in particular, those that are threatened by climate change.
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. I work primarily on the resident plants in tropical forest canopies, vascular epiphytes. Epiphytes are interesting from both a physiological perspective and from a community perspective. The former because of their diverse resource-acquisition strategies and physiological adaptations to extreme nutrient- and water-limitation, and the latter because of their high species richness in a structurally complex environment. Both of these aspects may be influenced by changes in their abiotic environment, such as those predicted with climate change. My dissertation research with Dr. Saara J. DeWalt at Clemson University aimed to understand the factors that influence the distribution of epiphytes at different scales: with forest age, with tree size, and among crown zones within the largest trees. I continue to study the factors that determine the distribution of vascular epiphytes at different scales, particularly examining how these plants, the insects and animals that depend on them, and their microhabitats will respond to disturbances, such as deforestation and climate change.
My collaborative research with Dr. Catherine L. Cardelus at Colgate University examines how ecosystem function and biodiversity will be impacted by the predicted increases in nutrient deposition and decreases in precipitation with global change. This research was done concurrently during my dissertation. I am particularly examining how habitat-partitioning by epiphytes may be affected by changes in nutrient and water availability.
News & Updates
February 2015: Sarah Hewitt, a Canadian science writer, joined us in Costa Rica and wrote this awesome article for Colgate about Cat Cardelus and I in Costa Rica. She did such a great job at describing what we do: http://news.colgate.edu/scene/2015/02/a-lab-in-the-canopy-cat-cardelus.html
January 2015: My paper on epiphyte niche partitioning just came out in Journal of Ecology: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1365-2745.12357/abstract;jsessionid=8AC2F9595C56CD7D1ED67136935E273D.f01t01#.VMDd8Iufxxo.facebook
January 2015: Our second trip to Ethiopia was a huge success. Check out the blog written by the undergraduate students who joined the research team: http://blogs.colgate.edu/biology/2015/01/conservation-of-sacred-forests-in-ethiopia-field-research-2015.html
June 2014: We got a grant from the Picker Interdisciplinary Institute at Colgate University to continue our research in Ethiopia: http://news.colgate.edu/2014/06/picker-interdisciplinary-science-institute-provides-second-round-of-funding-to-researchers.html/
May 2014: Here is the blog written by Colgate students that are working in Costa Rica with Dr. Catherine Cardelus and I on nutrient-deposition research in the tropical canopy: http://ferdelanceornah.blogspot.com/
April 2014: I wrote a follow-up blog on Small Pond Science about my first year as a Visiting Assistant Professor at Colgate: http://smallpondscience.com/2014/04/21/after-one-year-as-a-visiting-assistant-professor/
January 2014: I was invited to join a research team to Ethiopia to examine the link between forest stewardship and ecological status of Ethiopian Church Forests. One of the students wrote an article for Colgate about the trip: http://news.colgate.edu/2014/02/kelsey-jensen-14-spends-three-weeks-with-colgate-team-studying-forests-in-ethiopia.html
September 2013: My research was highlighted in the blog of the New Zealand Epiphyte Network: http://www.nzepiphytenetwork.org/1/post/2013/09/how-long-does-it-take-epiphyte-populations-to-recover.html
August 2013: I was invited by Dr. Terry McGlynn to write on his awesome blog, Small Pond Science (a blog about teaching institutions) on my interview process and decision to work at a liberal arts university as a Visiting Assistant Professor: http://smallpondscience.com/2013/08/26/what-its-like-to-start-a-job-as-a-visiting-assistant-professor/
August 2013: I received the Academic Excellence for Young Women in Ecology Award from the Ecological Society of America. I was highlighted on the Ecology at Clemson University website for receiving this award http://www.clemson.edu/cafls/ecology/