Research Overview

Our grassland ecology lab works at the intersection of community and ecosystem ecology in spatially and temporally heterogeneous systems. This variability requires a combination of long-term and spatially extensive fieldwork coupled with a significant amount of laboratory analysis to quantify stocks and flows of energy and mass through plants, soils, microbes, water, and the atmosphere. Toward this end, we employ skills such as vegetation cover and biomass estimation, soil nutrient status determination, microbial biomass assays, trace gas flux analysis, surface water quality assessment, experimental and sampling design, and multivariate and ordination statistical techniques. Links between ecosystem structure and function are described and understood by combining mensurative and manipulative experiments.

The questions driving our research program include:

  • How does disturbance affect taxonomic and functional group coexistence in herbaceous communities?
  • How does plant community composition and diversity modify ecosystem structure and function?
  • How are the ecosystem services provided by grassland agroecosystems affected by management regimes?
  • What are the tradeoffs in the ability of biofuel cropping systems to perform ecosystem services?

Our approach to addressing these questions is to devise experiments aimed at practical, management-oriented solutions and at advancing plant ecology theory.

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