My research focuses on the ways human activities and species interactions shape biodiversity. Most of my work is experimental and addresses two major questions: 1) how do human land-use activities and restoration practices shape diversity and composition of natural communities? And 2) how do interactions between plants and animals shape each other’s ecology and evolution? Below are quick summaries of my research projects.
Intensive human land-use activities (such as agriculture) can negatively affect biodiversity for centuries or even millennia after land abandonment. Abandoned agricultural lands covers an area that is 3X the size of France, which could be restored to promote native biodiversity. But to do this we need a better understanding of these land-use legacies. Big questions remain: What causes land-use legacies on biodiversity? How long will they last? And, is there anything we can do to recover biodiversity on degraded landscapes? We are studying these questions in longleaf pine savannas at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina. Our study sites have areas that were once in agriculture but were abandoned over 60 years ago. We compare those to adjacent areas with no history of agriculture. We’ve also conducted large-scale habitat restoration to understand if, and how, active restoration can promote biodiversity spread into these degraded habitats.