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Population and Community Ecology  
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Steep gradients in temperature and rainfall and Earth's highest biodiversity make this a perfect laboratory for studying species distributions and climate change. Our current project involves looking at the factors controlling tree community composition and diversity along a transect running from the Amazon lowlands to above tree line in the Andes.

There are as many species of trees in a hectare of tropical rain forest as there are in all of North America. The Amazon is our lab for asking why. My students and I have studied the role of life history trade offs in maintaining diversity in tropical forests, continental-scale patterns of tree distributions and species diversity, landscape-level patterns of forest communities, including bamboo forests and swamp forest, and also the role of animals in the maintenance of diversity in tropical forests.

Unmanned Aerial Systems

The unmanned aerial systems project is developing new ways to use remotely piloted and fully autonomous aircraft to address hard-to-answer questions in forest ecology. Unmanned aircraft enhance our ability to observe the environment in areas that are too dangerous, too difficult, or too spatially extensive to observe directly. The lab uses a multidisciplinary approach that integrates hardware design, software development, and remote sensing techniques to collect and analyze data. Current projects include ongoing operation of a multirotor helicopter (DeaconEye) to collect a variety of types of aerial imagery and atmospheric data, development of a long-range capable airplane, and development of new, lower cost aircraft with increased capabilities. 

Theories of community structure are usually tested using space as a proxy for time. Paleoecology allows us to look at time directly. Our work uses a network of lakes ranging from above tree line in the Andes down to the lowlands to reconstruct species distributions and plant communites for the area going back 43,000 years. We also look at the historical role of humans in tropical ecosystems by analyzing charcoal and crop pollen. The work also ties together climate change, humans, and past species distribution with an eye towards predicting how these ecosystems will change under scenarios of future climate change.



For more information on our Andes work
and our collaborators see the
Andes Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research Group.