My research interests lie at the intersections of the ecological and social sciences. Using tools from multiple disciplines, I explore community-level ecological responses to human behaviors, with a focus on how to best utilize working landscapes for conservation and restoration.
Read on below to find out more about some of my current projects, and check out the Galleries for more photos!
Avian and arthropod response to long-term management
In this project, I am contributing to long-term grassland bird monitoring in the Grand River Grasslands, a region on the Iowa-Missouri border dominated by grasslands used for cattle production.
We have several goals:
- Utilize this long-term dataset to quantify grassland bird community response to non-native plant abundance, prescribed fire, experimental herbicide application, and grazing/harvest regimes
- Relate these avian data to the abundance and biomass of arthropods, the dominant food source for grassland birds during the breeding season
This work is funded by generous support from a North-Central Region Sustainable Agriculture, Research, and Education (NCR-SARE) graduate student grant, the Competitive State Wildlife Grants program in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program, and the Frances M. Peacock Scholarship for Native Bird Habitat from the Garden Club of America.
Avian provisioning in the context of invasive plant control
The arthropods fed to nestlings potentially affect long-term health and survival, and arthropods are likely influenced by vegetation composition and structure of non-native plants. However, very few studies attempt to simultaneously quantify all three components of this food chain: vegetation, arthropods, and birds.
To this end, we have been examining the relationships between nestling provisioning, arthropod abundance, and the presence of invasive grasses that are hypothesized to strongly affect this avian prey base.
This work is the result of a collaboration with another PhD student at the University of Illinois, Scott Nelson. Together, we intensively searched for and monitored the nests of a common, but declining grassland bird: the dickcissel (Spiza americana). We filmed nests that reached the nestling phase and recorded provisioning rates, taxonomic order of fed arthropods, and other related data.
We are grateful to generous funding from the Garden Club of America and the Wilson Ornithological Society.
The influence of attitudes, norms, and abilities on landowner decision-making in productive Midwestern grasslands
In collaboration with social scientists at the University of Illinois and Iowa State University, I designed and implemented a mail-back survey sent to landowners living near the study sites used for my ecological research.
The goals of this research include:
- Determining how attitudes, norms, and abilities influence landowner willingness to manage invasive plants using fire, herbicide, or grazing
- Quantify landowner knowledge about the plants (native and non-native) that exist on their land
- Track changes in landowner attitudes toward grassland management over time
This work is funded by support from a North-Central Region Sustainable Agriculture, Research, and Education (NCR-SARE) graduate student grant, and a mini-grant from Illinois Sustainable Agriculture, Research, and Education (IL-SARE).