About Me

I’m broadly interested in the processes that structure ecological communities and connecting basic theory of these processes to applied ecology. Plant community assembly has been a common theme throughout my ecological research career, including both observational and experimental approaches, integrating evolutionary and ecological processes, exploring both above- and belowground drivers of species coexistence, and relating functional traits to species interactions and community structure. Within this framework, I’ve explored invasion and restoration ecology, phylogenetic community ecology, plant-soil feedbacks, and species coexistence mediated by environmental heterogeneity.

KW 1365One of the long-term monitoring plots at the Hastings Natural History Reservation that I resurveyed as part of my Ph.D. An informational video I did as part of the Reservation’s series on graduate field studies is available here.

I did my Ph.D. at Oregon State University with Dr. Eric Seabloom, where I assembled two unique grassland community data sets from sites in the University of California Natural Reserve System, one spanning >40 years across a 1000-ha site and one spanning 7 years along a 500-km latitudinal transect. I used these data to quantify the spatio-temporal patterns of native and exotic grassland species, as well as to determine which community assembly processes may be driving local-scale declines of certain species and broader phylogenetic community structure. My collaborators in this work included Dr. Marc Cadotte (University of Toronto – Scarborough) and Dr. Parviez Hosseini (Ecohealth Alliance). Funding for my graduate research was provided by the National Science Foundation, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, University of California Integrated Hardwood Range Management Program, The Nature Conservancy, and the Department of Zoology at Oregon State University.

Experimental work determining how plant-soil feedbacks contribute to species coexistence that I conducted at the Case Western Reserve University Farm during my first post-doc. Our work was featured in the podcast series One Species at a Time (bittersweet nightshade), and my bio in the farm’s newsletter can be found here.

I did my first post-doc with Dr. Jean Burns at Case Western Reserve University. We explored the links between environmental heterogeneity, species traits, and community invasibility using greenhouse and field experiments in a model system of perennial plants and their soil environment. We are continuing to explore the mechanisms driving plant responses to the soil environment, including collaborating with Dr. David Burke (Holden Arboretum) to characterize soil microbial communities. We also collaborated with the Cleveland Metroparks and Global Garlic Mustard Field Survey to investigate larger-scale patterns of biological invasions. Funding for this work was provided in part by the National Science Foundation, and support for our undergraduate research assistants was provided in part by CWRU’s Summer Programs in Undergraduate Research, funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.


Photographing a Ranunculus sp. on top of Mt. Alfred, above the Dart River valley in Otago, New Zealand.

I moved to New Zealand in 2013 to work as a post-doc with Dr. Bill Lee at Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research in Dunedin, New Zealand, in collaboration with Drs. Peter Heenan and Rob Smissen (Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research), Dr. Andrew Tanentzap (Cambridge University), and Dr. Tad Fukami (Stanford University). We  investigated how historical processes have contributed to current community structure and species distributions of the New Zealand flora, at both local and national scales. Funding for this work was provided by the Marsden Fund of the Royal Society of New Zealand.

I have continued to work at MWLR as an ecologist/modeller on a variety of projects, including assisting with co-designing an evidence-based biodiversity assessment tool for NZ farms as part of the NZ Sustainability Dashboard project and participating in the invasion impacts stream of the Integrated research and tools for wilding conifer management and ecosystem restoration research programme led by Dr. Duane Peltzer at MWLR. Both projects were funded by the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment.