My research is focused broadly on the community ecology of symbiosis. Specifically, I’m interested in understanding how climate change will impact plant and root associated symbionts (mycorrhizal fungi and endophytic bacterial communities). We know climate change is pushing plants to new ranges and phenologies, but their associated belowground symbionts have received little attention. My research is highly collaborative with fellow RMBL researchers Quentin Read, Aimee Classen, Nate Sanders, and Lara Souza. The collaborative nature of our research group gives students a wide array of expertise and opportunities to combine aboveground processes, belowground processes, with ecosystem functioning.
As for advising style: I have had invaluable mentors in my life that have worked in the field with me, have helped with lab work, and were always willing to sit down and talk through data, so this is the advising style that I prefer to take. Although the student will undoubtedly drive the research progress, I will be available to assist the student as much as I can. Please feel free to email me with questions or to discuss specific summer research project ideas.
My RMBL work is focused in 3 broad questions:
- What are the biotic and abiotic factors that structure mycorrhizal communities? The argument of biotic versus abiotic factors has been a long-fought debate in ecology for several decades, but does the either/or debate really matter? It seems commonplace that some balance between abiotic and biotic factors ultimately control community structure. To investigate the balance of abiotic and biotic factors that are structure mycorrhizal fungal communities, I’m correlating mycorrhizal fungal community structure with several climatic, edaphic, and biotic factors along an elevational gradient. I’m interested in understanding if the balance of abiotic versus biotic factors shifts as you move along an elevational gradient?
- How will long-term warming and dominant plant species removal alter the structure and function of mycorrhizal communities? In collaboration with Quentin Read, we have installed a long-term warming & times; dominant species removal experiment along an elevational gradient. This allows us to manipulate abiotic environment and plant community structure simultaneously to understand response of mycorrhizal community structure. Additionally, we can test if changes in mycorrhizal structure correspond to changes in mycorrhizal community function.
- How do changes in mycorrhizal community structure cascade to affect ecosystem function? Mycorrhizal fungi play a key role in carbon sequestration in soils. There is evidence that mycorrhizal fungal species differ in their ability to store carbon belowground. One of the big concerns and unknowns with ongoing global change is whether mycorrhizal fungi will serve as a organisms that can sequester excess atmospheric carbon or whether mycorrhizal fungi will contribute to atmospheric carbon gain. Within our warming plots, we have begun monitoring carbon pools and fluxes between atmosphere, plants, fungi, and soils.