Research is not just a tool for discovering patterns in the natural world; it is also an important and intimate way for people to become acquainted with the world around them. When a person spends time looking closely at a community as during plant and animal censuses, they come to a better understanding and appreciation of the communities around them. This is a valuable experience for all, so I often involve non-specialists, such as undergraduates and community volunteers, in my research activities.
Rodents are fascinating study subjects because of their wide distribution across ecosystems and their varied roles as seed dispersers, seed predators, and herbivores in plant communities. They are also easily captured and handled, and their foraging behavior can be studied with minimal equipment and training. In addition, the techniques used to study them can be easily scaled to a wide range of other taxa and systems, all of which makes them ideal for research involving interested non-specialists.
My current research interests include the role of small mammals in plant invasions and their effects on ecological restoration, secondary chemical and vegetative effects on small mammal foraging, and distribution of small mammals and other taxa relative to current and historic land use patterns.