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Invasive Plant Population Dynamics

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Invasive species are problems both ecologically and economically. Studying the population dynamics of invasive species can help us predict spread rates, identify life stages that most affect per capita population growth rates, and develop effective strategies for controlling the spread of invasive species.

 

Buffelgrass is an invasive perennial bunchgrass in the Sonoran Desert where it crowds out native plant species and increases the risk of wildfire. I am currently monitoring buffelgrass populations across sites in the Tucson, AZ area to determine how biotic and abiotic variables affect buffelgrass population growth rates.

Plant interactions and community assembly in a restoration context

Ecological restoration of natural vegetation damaged by drought, overgrazing, wildfire, and invasive species is a major challenge. Drs. Trace Martyn, Lauren Svejcar, Julia Chacon Labella, and I are examining the outcome of interactions between and among common restoration species in response to variation in density, diversity, and distance from neighbors. We are using a coexistence framework to determine how these factors affect individual plant and community-wide performance to inform restoration practices.

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Spatial Dispersion Patterns in Nature

For sessile (non-moving) organisms, orientation in space determines the environment they will experience and which other organisms they will interact with. Spatial dispersion patterns of sessile organisms, like plants, can reveal underlying mechanisms that structure populations such as positive or negative feedbacks. Characterizing spatial dispersion patterns of organisms in nature can also indicate how those organisms structure communities by varying frequency of inter- and intraspecific interactions, non-random distribution of resources, and generation of physical habitat.

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