My research addresses basic and applied questions in grassland and shrubland ecology and can be broadly summarized under five topics.
• Examining post-fire regeneration in mixed-grass prairie and sagebrush steppe across a gradient of annual brome invasion
• Measuring the effect of fuel load on soil heating and subsequent vegetation responses in grassland and shrubland systems
• Evaluating the effect of post-fire drought on vegetation recovery in mixed-grass prairie
• Identifying societal perspectives on prescribed fire use across western North Dakota
• Examining drought effects on bud production, size, dormancy, and mortality of perennial grass species
• Investigating seasonal and long-term extreme drought effects on mixed-grass prairie
• Developing and Validating PhenoMap: A web application monitoring phenology (“greenness”) across the United States
• Validating the South Dakota Drought Tool which provides managers forage production predictions throughout the growing season
• Comparing the effects of precipitation frequency and grazing on growth and competition of the invasive perennial grass Smooth Brome (Bromus inermis) and the native perennial grass Western Wheatgrass (Pascopyrum smithii)
• Using plant traits to identify characteristics of noxious weeds according to ecoregion
• Assessing the status of plant and wildlife communities on the Badlands Bombing Range
Belowground plant traits
• Developing methods to measure belowground plant traits
• Documenting belowground plant traits across precipitation and temperature gradients in the Great Plains
Grasslands and shrublands were historically shaped by three major drivers: climate, grazing, and fire. In addition to these historic drivers, our society has found many uses for grasslands and shrublands, such as energy development and livestock grazing, as well as introduced new threats, such as invasive species, that can greatly alter these landscapes. My research interests center around the response of grasslands and shrublands to these drivers and anthropogenic uses and effects.
In order to provide science-based knowledge to managers, I seek to understand both the pattern of grassland and shrubland response and the underlying mechanism driving their response to these major grassland drivers. Looking at the less studied belowground mechanisms (bud banks, nutrient availability, soil heating) can provide a deeper understanding of aboveground responses. Therefore, I aim to work at the nexus of basic and applied ecology to provide fundamental and applied information and tools for scientists and managers.
My past research has included:
Managers require science-based knowledge and tools to aid in their decision-making. Research identifying and evaluating how grasslands and shrublands will respond to major ecosystem drivers is critical to enabling managers to make informed decisions. Research understanding the mechanisms driving these responses will provide managers the tools to think through how grasslands and shrublands will respond to a new situation than has been previously studied or experienced.