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My research broadly focuses on determining the biotic and abiotic drivers of plant and microbial community composition and how they in turn affect ecosystem-level processes. To understand these dynamics, I study both how microbes are dispersed worldwide and how fungal-plant symbioses vary over environmental gradients.

Current projects:

1) The effects of climate change on plant-fungal symbioses in montane ecosystems
Collaborators: Jennifer Rudgers, Lee Taylor, Bob Sinsabaugh 
In collaboration with researchers at the University of New Mexico, I am examining how plant-fungal symbioses will respond to predicted warming in the Colorado Rockies. We are characterizing current plant-fungal associations along elevational gradients and how these may be disrupted by differential dispersal of plant and fungal symbionts.
Funding: NSF Population and Community Ecology

2) Belowground drivers of aboveground nutrient cycling and productivity in growing forests
Collaborators: Christine Hawkes and Ann Russell
We are examining how microbial community composition and physiology in secondary tropical forests control carbon and nutrient cycling. Tropical ecosystems are affected by both climate change and deforestation with uncertain effects on belowground microbial community composition and function. We are researching these effects in long-term plantations and plant-soil feedback experiments.
Funding: NSF Ecosystems

3) Can evolutionary tradeoffs of bacterial carbon utilization predict ecosystem function in changing climates?
Collaborator: Christine Hawkes
Bacterial traits can determine how species will be influenced by climate change and how they decompose soil carbon substrates. We are examining these traits along historical climate gradients to understand if fundamental, evolutionary-conserved traits and tradeoffs can help us predict bacterial response to climate change.
Funding: UTexas Summer High-school Research Academy