Moran Lab: Plant Ecology and Evolution


We use a combination of observational and experimental ecological data, genetic markers, and statistical modeling to address a variety of questions about plant population ecology.  We are particularly interested in how ecological and evolutionary processes, and their interactions, may affect responses to environmental change.

Several projects currently under development will address how dispersal, local adaptation, and disturbance rate will affect responses to climate change in Sierra Nevada pines. Specifically:
  • How is the growth, survival, and reproduction of ponderosa, Jeffrey, and western white pines from different elevations and latitudes affected by variation in temperature and moisture availability?
  • Has the climate already shifted enough that species could survive above their current range limits?  If so, is lack of seed dispersal or competition from existing vegetation more important in explaining lags in range shifts?
  • What genes and physiological mechanisms are involved in variation in drought tolerance between different populations of ponderosa pine?
  • Does allowing for evolutionary responses in trees change our projections of how forests will respond to climate change - or are generation times too long and the rate of change too fast for adaptive responses to matter?

Other questions recently investigated:

  • How do life-history tradeoffs in time to maturity, height, and fecundity affect plant species's potential rate of spread?  Do any species occupy the 'sweet spot' of short generation time and excellent dispersal ability?
  • Have invasive populations of Solidago canadensis adapted to climatic gradients in the Swiss Alps, and how might this affect their spread under climate change?