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., University of Guelph
I am interested in the mechanisms underlying the structure and composition of plant communities. Particularly, how small-scale interactions of plants with their physical, chemical, and biotic environment can have community-level effects in plant species richness, abundance, and composition, as well as ecosystem-level effects in nutrient and water cycles. My research, therefore, encompasses many aspects of ecology including community ecology, physiological ecology, and ecosystem ecology.
I work primarily on vascular epiphytes (i.e., plants that live on other plants) in tropical systems. 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 interesting environment. Both of these aspects may be influenced by changes in their abiotic environment, such as those predicted with climate change.
My dissertation research aims to understand what influences the distribution of epiphytes at different scales. Thus far, I have surveyed epiphytes along secondary forest chronosequences in moist forests in the Barro Colorado Nature Monument in central Panama and in wet forests in and around the La Selva Biological Research Station in northeastern Costa Rica to examine how epiphyte community structure is influenced by forest conversion and climate. I have also surveyed epiphytes within the canopies of different-sized host trees to examine how epiphyte species are influenced by the changes associated with host tree size such as increased heterogeneity in substrate availability and microenvironmental conditions. I have conducted controlled experiments examining how epiphytes respond physiologically and morphologically to differences in nutrient and water supply to better understand what limits their distributions. My future research will examine how co-occurring epiphyte species divide limiting resources as a basis for plant species diversity, and how this resource-partitioning may be affected by changes in nutrient and water availability.
Ecology at Clemson University: http://www.clemson.edu/cafls/ecology/