I study how human alteration of environmental factors influences the dynamics of animals in terrestrial and aquatic food webs and ecosystems using integrative approaches. Our work investigates fundamental ecological questions that have importance for achieving sustainable environmental management in a changing world.
Our key research areas include:
1. Terrestrial Water Webs
We are studying the direct effects of animal water balance (sources and losses) on trophic interactions and food webs (which we have named "water webs"). For instance, previous work has shown that spiders and crickets will "drink" their food under dry conditions, consuming large amounts in order to meet water requirements rather than energy or nutrients.
2. Water Quantity and Quality Effects on Aquatic-Terrestrial Linkages
We study how changes in water quantity and quality influences the reciprocal feedbacks between adjacent aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. For instance, we have shown strong effects of river drying on streamside animals. We are also investigating the influence of variation in macronutrients, like phosphate, or trace chemicals, like caffeine, on rates of emergence of aquatic insects and how changes to fluxes influence streamside spiders and birds.
3. Urbanization and Climate Change
People are increasingly moving to cities and altering those environments. Cities in mesic regions are become warmer and drier in ways that can mimic the projected effects of climate change. Cities in xeric areas become wetter and may become cooler, at least at some times, in some areas. We are studying how alteration of environmental factors in cities influences animal ecology in ways that may indicate potential affects of climate change. Moreover, our research will inform management decisions in cities that could maximize ecosystem services and minimize disservices in the key places where most people live.
4. Riverine Macrosystems
Rivers are dynamic, connected systems, both in space and in time. Because of this, examining the ecology of a single stream reach, at a single time point, may provide little information about plant and animal population fluctuations. Taking a broader view, it becomes apparent that animal populations in unaltered river systems demonstrate great resistance and resilience to year to year environmental fluctuations, due to the summed effects of asynchronous population dynamics in variable habitats. But human alterations to these river systems can reduce the resistance and resilience. We study how the spatial arrangement of these human alterations can influence broad-scale, long-term population dynamics, thus connecting management decisions to riverine ecosystem services and disservices.