Moran Lab: Plant Ecology and Evolution

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

Several projects currently underway address how dispersal, local adaptation, and disturbance rate will affect responses to climate change in Sierra Nevada pines.

The questions we are investigating include:

  • What genes and physiological mechanisms are involved in variation in drought tolerance between different populations of ponderosa pine?

Project expanding to sugar pine and to test predictive ability of climate-associated genetic variants in post-fire restoration plantings: See news story here!

  • How do xylem anatomy and carbon allocation strategies influence survival during extended drought in Sierra Nevada conifers.

  • Does allowing for evolutionary responses in trees change our projections of how forests will respond to climate change?

  • 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?

Emily Moran & PhD student Mengjun Shu

2018 undergrad field crew: Destini Wilson, Robert Degen, Colton Reddell

Other questions recently investigated:

  • How does climate, fire, and shading by adult trees affect seedling survival and growth in the Sierra Nevada? News story here.

  • 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?