My research focuses on insect-plant interactions, invasive species, and biological control at the community and ecosystem levels.
Ecological interactions among native and non-native species
Our lab has several projects examining the interactions of native and non-native plants and insects in riparian systems in the arid southwestern United States, and how non-native plant invasions alter these ecosystems. Study plants include giant reed (Arundo donax), common reed (Phragmites australis), perennial pepperweed (Lepidium latifolium ), and Tamarisk (Tamarix spp.), and the insect herbivores associated with these species. We are assessing the effects of native and introduced herbivores on plant growth, survival, and competition.
Population dynamics and distributions
In a collaboration with Kristin Saltonstall (Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute), I am evaluating the genetic structure and distribution of Phragmites biotypes in the southwest US using molecular techniques. This information is part of a larger effort to develop a GIS database and detailed distribution maps for native and non-native biotypes in the region to facilitate conservation efforts for native biotypes and control efforts for the non-native biotype.
My research often focuses on both pairwise and tri-trophic interactions between plants and insects. One of my projects examines the multilevel relationship between secondary chemicals and defensive structures in agriculturally important plants, the herbivores that feed on them, and their insect predators. Future research will focus on the relative effects of plant defenses on generalist versus specialist insect predators, and whether host-specific adaptations to plant defenses 'protect' specialist predators from the negative effects that generalists experience. I am also interested in how allelochemicals differ among plant genotypes and how these differences affect plant quality, competitive interactions among closely related plants, and herbivory.
If you are interested in working on any of these projects, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org