I have witnessed first-hand the effects that climate change can have on forests. Around the turn of the century, several abnormally warm years led to the outbreak of the mountain pine beetle where I grew up in Summit County, Colorado. Over the span of a decade, high rates of mortality transformed several thousand acres of forest, leaving behind a tinderbox of standing dead lodge-pole Pine trees. This completely changed the landscape of the area with potential effects on longer-term ecosystem functioning. Climate change will continue to impact and shape the forests of the Mountain West and the globe.
I am a field-experienced and academically-trained forest ecologist. I use many approaches to study forest ecosystems, including community and ecosystem ecology, plant physiology, plot-based studies, functional ecology, and remote sensing. My scientific motivation is to document and better understand forest (and tree) responses to global change (e.g., disturbance, warming, increasing CO2, drought). I have a fascination with high-diversity tropical forests. I have done research in both tropical and temperate forests.
My research focuses to understand the ecology of forests and their future functioning as ecosystems in the Anthropocene.
2011 - B.S. in Ecology and Biodiversity from University of Denver
2015 - M.S. in Ciencias Ambientales from Universidad de Puerto Rico - Río Piedras
2021 - Ph.D. in Biology from Florida International University
ORISE Post-doctoral fellow
USDA Forest Service, International Institute of Tropical Forestry
Rocky Mountain Research Station
240 Prospect Road
Fort Collins CO, 80526 USA
Forests Dynamics: To know how forests will change (or not; which is an open reserach question), we must understand how they work as biological systems. Forests are complex systems, which can harbor hundreds to thousands of plant species per hectare. I seek to better understand how plants survive, grow, compete for resources, and reproduce; and how these processes affect forest ecosystem functioning. Uncovering the mecahnistic controls that underlie forest demographics, and how such controls scale to the ecosystem -level is a major motivation for my work.
The Effects of Wind Disturbance on Forests: Concurrent with changes to the Earth's climate, anthropogenic climate change is expected to strengthen the intensity and increasing the frequency of disturbances, including cyclones (typhoons & hurricanes). Thus, the effect of cyclones on forests will continue to be an important agent of forest disturbance, succession and recovery. I am interested in understanding how wind disturbance interacts with the environment and other agents of change in forests (e.g. warming, drought, fire, etc.).
The Functional and Physiological Ecology of Trees: Not all plants are created functionally equivalent. The diversity of form and function in plant life has interested the scientific mind for centuries. A comparative approach that quantifies how plant form relates to physiological function has great utility in linking the variation in plant form to ecologically-meaningful differences among and within species. Scaling functional and physiological differences to the ecosystem-level can help us understand how the biology of trees will infleunce the forests of the future.
Root Biology: Roots are fascinating. If you disagree, then I encourage you to grab a shovel, step outside, and dig just below the soil surface in a vegetated area to have a look at what you find. Chances are you will unearth a variety of things; perhaps, an earthworm or two, and an engtanglement of root systems, potentially with some associated fungi and soil microbes. Biologically, roots function in a many ways simultaneously to interact with the soil to nourish the plant and absorb water. Some of my work seeks to understand these interactions in context, and help find rules that govern them.