PhD student, Conservation Biology
407 Illick Hall
Department of Environmental and Forest Biology
SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry
Syracuse NY 13210
BS, University of Vermont (1997): Wildlife Biology
MS, SUNY ESF (2003): Conservation Biology
As an ecologist, I am interested in understanding factors controlling the abundance and distribution of species. Sometimes this has been motivated by conservation concern for imperiled species, and other times related to natural resource management issues such as the harvest of fisheries and timber or the development of methods for biological monitoring of stream water quality.
My present research involves establishing ecologically-based criteria for determination of successful vernal pool restoration. Vernal pools are a unique type of temporary wetland that typically dry on an annual basis. They tend to be small in size and isolated from other water bodies such as streams. Consequently they do not support fish, and species that do inhabit them must contend with the predictable cycle of inundation and drying. Vernal pools are probably most well known as breeding and larval rearing habitats for many frog and salamander species, but they are also habitat for a diverse array of invertebrates.
The construction of vernal pools, such as for development mitigation or habitat improvement, is increasingly common despite the challenges associated with mimicking natural vernal pool hydrology and other key habitat features. I will measure structural (e.g., amphibian and invertebrate species richness) and functional (e.g., amphibian productivity and leaf litter decomposition) ecosystem properties to compare naturally occurring vernal pools with pools constructed according to various design criteria (e.g., basin dimensions, density on the landscape, etc). Results will be applied to making design recommendations to improve the effectiveness of constructed vernal pools in providing ecosystem functions comparable to naturally occurring vernal pools. I also hope to contribute to basic understanding of vernal pool ecology and community ecology in general through the analysis of community assembly patterns in newly created ecosystems.