I have worked in many fire-adapted landscapes both abroad and in the United States. A few include savannas in South Africa, black ash forests in Minnesota, rosemary scrub in Florida, and conifer forests in Wyoming and the Pacific Northwest. Being immersed in these diverse landscapes sparked questions about why post-fire recovery successfully occurs in some spots, but not others. To address these questions, my research intersects three themes:
Forest-fire dynamics: Forests are experiencing larger and more frequent fires due to climate change, built-up fuels, and human ignitions. In response, I examine forest-fire dynamics to understand how forests might respond to a changing, more fire prone world. A previous project used field data to highlight how tree age and size influence serotinous cones (closed cones that release seeds in the presence of fire) on pine trees in Florida. In another project, I used field data, geospatial data, and statistical models to show that fire opens new pathways for an exotic grass to invade lower montane forests in Wyoming.
Spatial resilience: Resilience describes the capacity of a system to ‘spring back’ after disturbance and maintain its composition, structure, and functioning. Spatial resilience acknowledges that components of resilience differ in their spatial and temporal pattern and operate at different scales. My current project combines spatial resilience as framework with field and geospatial data to understand how divergent seed source patterns shape post-fire tree recovery. This project is funded by NSF, National Geographic, Joint Fire Science Program, and NASA.
Landscape ecology: Landscape ecology examines interactions between pattern and process across space and time. The discipline is rooted in concepts surrounding scale, organizational levels, and spatial heterogeneity. It also employs quantitative tools focused on spatial data and landscape analysis. As a landscape ecologist, I often engage the discipline’s tools and theory. My current project uses landscape metrics to examine how seed source pattern at multiple scales influences post-fire tree recovery. Additionally, previous projects used tools such as GIS, Circuitscape, and FRAGSTATS.