In many ways, my current research was shaped by my experiences with algal taxonomy and ecology, and has evolved from using algae as a tool to ask ecological questions. My current research falls into three primary areas:
The main focus of my current research, conducted together with Thomas Dudley (UC Santa Barbara), lies in studying the ecological impact of invasion of New Zealand Mud Snail (NZMS) and its establishment, spread, and ecological impact on native species across different trophic levels. Using a mixture of observational and experimental methods I test for the impact of invasive NZMS on native populations of species and on their diets and foraging strategies as well as shifts in growth and survival within communities as a result of introductions of this snail.
My current research in relation to paleoenvironmental reconstructions (in collaboration with James O. Sickman -UC Riverside) focuses on understanding how the increased atmospheric nitrogen deposition and climate change in the Sierra Nevada Mountains may be driving observed shifts in alpine lake diatom communities. Using paleolimnological techniques and calibration model methods I evaluate the stability of lake water chemistry and environmental conditions over evolutionary time and spatial scales.
This project is continuation of my previous studies conducted on Nebraska lakes and reservoirs (with Sheri Fritz -University of Nebraska-Lincoln) Using a diatom-based transfer function and data manipulations we provided information on the magnitude and patterns of past climatic change against which recent changes could be assessed.
Biodiversity and ecosystem properties
My previous research (with Bradley J. Cardinale — UC Santa Barbara) was centered around questions how biodiversity affects ecosystem functioning. By testing the hypothesis that nutrient loading has both a direct effect on ecosystem production as well as an indirect effect that is mediated by changes in the diversity and composition of primary producer assemblages, we investigated how rates of nutrient loading affect productivity at local and regional scales in systems comprised of differing levels of algal diversity.