Now at... the University of Wyoming, Laramie
Previously at... the University of California, Santa Cruz



I am a PhD student in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at UC Santa Cruz. In general, I am interested in studying how populations of long-lived organisms respond and adapt to changes in their environment.  Many long-lived species play key roles in shaping entire communities and ecosystems, yet these same species are challenging to study over the extended time-scales that are most relevant when considering population change (e.g., centuries or millennia).  For this reason, my dissertation research seeks to develop creative solutions to the problems of population ecology and demographic modeling for organisms with great longevity.  As a study species, I have focused on the ancient bristlecone pine trees of California’s White Mountain range, which are believed to be oldest unitary organisms on earth.  The dense, resinous bristlecone pine wood has the extraordinary ability to remain intact for millennia, preserving tree-rings that can be dated to annual accuracy; these traits enable us to reconstruct population dynamics over millennia for these incredible trees. 

My research combines dendrochronological dating techniques with mathematical population modeling in order to understand past population changes and predict future dynamics.  For example, I am tackling questions such as: Are the populations of ancient bristlecones growing or declining? Which trees are most important for population growth: the youngest, the oldest, or the middle-aged? Why do young trees sprout only rarely, and how important are recruitment pulses to overall population stability?  How does the wide variability in growth and fecundity rates among trees effect the population as a whole? Finally, what are the best ways to incorporate the unique structural elements of long-lived, sessile species into mathematical models that describe population growth?  I hope that my research can both clarify some perplexing aspects of bristlecone pine biology, and help ecologists better predict how long-lived species might respond to global climate change.

A few other relevant things about me: During the summer, my field research is based out of the White Mountain Research Station.  You can learn more about my work and about the research station by opening the bristlecone KML in Google Earth, or reading my Google Earth case study.  I am also involved in a few local conservation efforts, which you can read about following the “timberland” link.