Broadly, I am interested in the interplay between abiotic and biotic pressures that shape community composition and diversity. Historically, research has focused on the role of abiotic factors in determining species distributions and abundances. However, there is increasing recognition of the importance of biotic factors, including pathogens. My research has three interlinked foci: (1) what are the relative contributions of abiotic and biotic factors in shaping the distributions and abundances of plants; (2) how do pathogenic fungi influence plant community composition and, in turn, how do plants influence fungal community composition; and (3) how do human-driven changes to habitat affect questions 1 and 2.
Thus far, my research has focused on the identities, geographic distributions, and host ranges of fungi that attack plants (fungal pathogens) and how fungal pathogens influence plant communities in the rainforests of Panama and the grasslands of California. Plant pathogens are exceedingly important ecologically and economically, with direct relevance to horticulture, agriculture, and conservation.
In 2018, I initiated a pilot project examining similar questions in the temperate grasslands of Colorado using various survey-based and experimental approaches in the field and laboratory.