I am currently working at Mpala Research Centre, Kenya on several projects related to plant-herbivore interactions and plant defense. One of the most striking features of the Mpala landscape is the diversity of strategies that plants have evolved to defend themselves against herbivores (e.g. long spines, hooked thorns, poisonous fruits and/or toxic sap). These physical and chemical defenses can be very effective against herbivores (and researchers), but they come at a cost: plants must "decide" when and how much to invest in defense, growth, and reproduction, all in a water-limited ecosystem. Using a variety of approaches I hope to better understand how herbivores interact with plants to produce the striking patterns of defense investment that occur across rainfall gradients, in and out of associational defense relationships and throughout various stages of plant growth and development.
In addition, I am working with other members of the Pringle Lab and the EEB Department at Princeton to better understand the mechanisms and consequences of spatial patterning in grassland vegetation. Using a variety of approaches (some familiar and some totally new to me) we are working to understand how rainfall and termite mounds contribute to macro- and microscale patterning in vegetation and how these patterns, in turn, affect larger scale processes like community stability and resource availability.
I am also fortunate to have worked at Gorongosa National Park with several members of the Pringle Lab and other world-class researchers that have found their way to Gorongosa's new field station. While there, I worked closely with Josh Daskin and Tyler Kartzinel to resurvey floodplain vegetation around Lake Urema following protocols developed by Kenneth Tinley over 50 years ago.
Prior to beginning my PhD at Princeton I worked with Mark Bertness at Brown University in salt marshes and sand dunes. Our work in salt marshes focused on the causes and consequences of salt marsh die-off in New England, with a particular focus on the future of ecosystem service provisioning in the face of habitat destruction, overfishing and invasive species. Our work on sand dunes focused on the small-scale interactions between salt- and disturbance-tolerant plants and how this leads to large-scale patterns of vegetation distribution and dune community stability.