There are Three primary research themes of the lab:
(1) Urban ecology
Throughout the world there has been an explosion of urban development to meet the needs of a bulging human population. The field of urban ecology is focused on understanding the relationships among plants and animals within urban environments. Los Angeles is an incredible example of a city that is teaming with biodiversity. This is due to the exceptionally diverse geography, climates, and vegetation communities of the region, the plethora of planted native and non-native vegetation, and the addition of water from afar that supports this novel ecosystem.
Here at Cal State LA, we are lucky to be situated in the heart of Los Angeles where we are working on urban ecology projects. The major themes of our work are: (1) to describe the biodiversity of the city; (2) to engage communities to 'reconnect' with the exceptional biological diversity of the region; (3) to work on improving the management of the city's natural resources (e.g. monitoring the effects of restoration projects on biodiversity; understanding the role native and non-native vegetation have on the distribution of native and non-native animals); (4) to explore ecological and evolutionary adaptations of biodiversity to urban environments; and (5) to advocate for development that will benefit both the human population of Los Angeles, as well as plant and animal populations.
(2) Land use/land cover change and conservation
Land use and land cover change are leading drivers of global biodiversity degradation. A focus of our research is to understand the effect of anthropogenic land use on biodiversity to prioritize conservation and management actions.
We are currently working on projects to understand the effects of land use patterns on the spread of invasive species in Big Bend National Park and southern California. Further, we are exploring legacies of water use in southern California and how historic land uses are currently influencing biodiversity.
(3) Phenology, extreme weather, and climate change
Phenology is the study of annual animal and plant life history events such as bird migration or plant flowering. We work on projects that investigate the interactions of migratory animals with their seasonal food resources. In particular, we are interested in understanding the effects of extreme weather events and climate change on phenological processes and relationships.
1. The effects of climate change and extreme weather on the relationships between spring migratory birds and their seasonal food resources: I have worked on a series of projects investigating the effects of extreme spring temperatures on the relationships of migratory birds and their seasonal food resources. I began these projects while a PhD student working in Midwest oak savannas of Wisconsin. While these projects are nearing completion, we are currently working with partners to design comparative studies based in California oak savanna.
2. Project L.A Phenology: Currently, we are collaborating with colleagues at Cal State LA to initiate a student driven phenological monitoring network throughout the LA area. Our aim is for students to engage communities throughout LA and surrounding areas, while collecting data for phenological studies focused on ecology and evolution by both students and colleagues in the region. Please contact me if you are interested to know more about Project L.A Phenology.