A substantial puzzle in ecology is that locally rare species do not, apparently, find rarity as challenging as theoretical ecologists do. I use simulations of mathematical models to explain the prevalence of rare species in a stochastic world. I am also interested in large scale patterns of community dynamics and how they are affected by disturbance, invasive species, and climate change.
EMPIRICAL ECOLOGY & NATURAL HISTORY
My research is at the intersection of theory and observation. Finding a way to link complex theories to the data that are actually observable in the natural world does not come easily. I have found a personal ecological knowledge to be invaluable in inspiring theory and making quantitative decisions. I use my own experience in alpine, montane, desert and tropical environments to inform and inspire my attempts to relate theory to observation.
Also read Olivier Dangles and Jérôme Casas’ The bee and the turtle: a fable from Yasuní National Park, a great story about the importance of natural history observations in developing ecological theory.
To test theory against empirical observations, I use publicly available data from multiple sources.
Ecology is increasingly a computationally intensive field, as we ask questions that are more difficult to answer with basic data and attempt to confirm complex processes that are deeper than observable patterns. In addition to mathematical modeling and simulation to develop theory, I use hierarchical statistical models to determine the strength of species interactions and community dynamics in long-term data, and how these interactions are affected by environmental change.