Generally my interests include landscape ecology, species interactions, and conservation biology. I have worked in a variety of ecosystems from mountains and prairies in Montana, to the forests of the Midwest and Northeast, and enjoy exploring ecological differences between regions. Since coming to UW I have developed a keen interest in how broad scale landscape processes down small scale microclimates influence species distributions, and how this information can be used to conserve biodiversity during unprecedented rates of change.
Climate change is expected to drastically alter species in the coming decades and studying species at range boundaries can offer important insight into how species are responding to this change. But how can we isolate the effects of climate over other landscape changes? Simply quantifying the magnitude of range shifts can be impossible if we do not know exactly where species range boundaries occurred in the first place. Understanding the proximate mechanisms by which a climate change is driving range shifts can be complex and difficult to parse out. I believe exploring these questions is critical for an accurate assessment of ecosystem responses to climate change.
Snowshoe Hares and Climate Change:
My research at UW is working closely with the Department of Natural Resources in Wisconsin. We are using detailed historical information to determine how snowshoe hares at their southern distributional limit in Wisconsin are responding to climate and other landscape scale changes. This species is an important component of northern forest ecosystems and may be particularly sensitive to a warming climate. Having detailed information on a species southern range boundary is surprisingly rare and we are fortunate data from two time periods, including a study by conservation legend Aldo Leopold.
In addition, we are interested in identifying both landscape and habitat level characteristics that are most important to snowshoe hare persistence. We may also be expanding the research to include landscape genetics into our research. This information, along with the occupancy model we are developing to account for detection probability of hares using snowshoe tracking, will be critical to long term management and monitoring of the species within the region.
Photo by NPS
B.S. Wildlife Biology, The University of Montana, 2011.