Projects

 

Great Basin Resurvey Project
Long-inspired by the wealth of information contained in natural history collections, Eric Rickart and I initiated a project to resurvey the small mammal communities along a series of mountain ranges within the Great Basin of western North America. By resurveying mountain ranges initially worked 80-100 years ago, we are developing a comparative dataset to assess faunal response to recent environmental change within one of the most threatened ecosystems in North America. Using this framework we adopt a trait-based approach to assess synchrony in species range dynamics within and among mountain ranges, to assess patterns of community structure over space and time, and to discern higher level trends in biomass and energy use among functional groups. Ongoing collaborations with Rebecca Terry aim to integrate Holocene and historical datasets to identify whether modern-day land-use practices are modifying climate-based expectations. With NSF support (starting June 2015) we are now working to integrate community ecology, biogeography and biogeochemistry to assess the role of local biotic interactions and resource partitioning in structuring range dynamics. Current field efforts to establish modern-day baselines and conduct resurveys are supported by the NDOW and BLM, and are in collaboration with Marjorie Matocq and the National Park Service (Bryan Hamilton, GBNP).

 

 

 

Great Basin 

Alaska Mountain  

Herbivore-Plant Associations in the Warming Arctic
The Arctic is undergoing large-scale and rapid changes. Concomitant with warming, the tundra is shifting from grass- to shrub-dominated. We are interested in the population dynamics of voles under open vs shrub-dominated habitat and whether these herbivores may influence or are influenced by this land-cover transformation. Our current study aims to gather baseline data on the density of the two common vole species (the singing vole Microtus miurus and tundra vole M. oeconomus) in both open and shrub habitat, to characterize species-specific population-level responses to microhabitat features, and to develop coarse level comparisons with demographic data from surveys conducted in this region during the mid-1980s. This work will inform collaborative efforts to address the impact of herbivory on ecosystem function. This research takes place on the northern foothills of Alaska’s Brooks Range and based at the University of Alaska’s Toolik Field Station.

Impacts of forest structure on small mammals in New England
Today, the New Hampshire landscape is forest dominated. However, tremendous land transformation has taken place over the past few centuries; from large-scale deforestation for cultivation and grazing, to widespread farm abandonment and recovery by the late 19th Century. Both the current conditions and land-use history of the region provide exciting opportunities to investigate impacts of forest structure on community dynamics. Our current work in the White Mountains National Forest (WMNF) focuses on the community structure and resource use of small mammals within and among dominant forest types.

  NH Forest

Diversity along elevation gradients
Mountain ranges provide a great opportunity to study processes generating patterns of diversity. This is because of the continuous yet dramatic changes in vegetation and climate from low to high elevation and closed nature of the system which encompasses species’ entire distributions. Our research has focused on the pattern and processes structuring small mammal diversity along multiple elevational gradients in western North America. This comparative approach within an ecoregion, provides a strong framework for assessing the degree to which factors (environmental and spatial) structuring diversity are uniform under conditions of relative constancy in regional history and fauna. We also investigate how different sampling schemes impact pattern perception.