Lara Souza

RMBL Scientists

Dr. Lara Souza, University of Oklahoma

My research addresses how plant species interactions will mediate climate change effects on biodiversity and ecosystem function. In particular, I am interested in how the identity of commonly occurring alpine meadow plant species, together with changes in precipitation, shape community diversity and ecosystem-level carbon dynamics such as the ability of ecosystems to sequester or release CO2. At RMBL, both Festuca thurberi and Potentilla gracilis can comprise of a great proportion of total biomass in dry alpine meadows likely influencing community-level biodiversity and ecosystem-level function. Using a field manipulation, I have initiated a plant removal experiment by removing Festuca thurberi and Potentilla gracilis from certain plots while leaving them present in other plots. In 2014, I will initiate a precipitation manipulation in the existing plant removal plots to ask how concurrent changes in precipitation and plant species interactions will alter biodiversity and ecosystem carbon dynamics. Undergraduate students will have opportunities to develop a variety of independently driven research projects in the existing field experiment potentially coupling such with field surveys.

My labgroup is small, typically comprised of myself and one or two undergraduates conducting independent research. In addition, I collaborate with with Drs. Aimee Classen and Nate Sanders and their extended labgroup. This collaboration offers students an opportunity to interact with not only myself, but professors and graduate students in a larger labgroup. Students work directly with me to develop a research project. My students conduct research projects mostly in the field, with only a little labwork. I meet with students at least weekly and usually more often during project development. Once studies are in place, students may do most of their field work by themselves or with me or my technician, depending on the details of their independent project.