TOP-DOWN VS. BOTTOM-UP PROCESSES ON ECOSYSTEM FUNCTION
Natural environments are shaped both by organisms from higher trophic levels affecting those below them (top-down), and by the factors which control the production and population dynamics at the base of food webs (bottom-up). Part of my research focuses on understanding the importance of these two processes in maintaining different ecosystems and how outside factors can disrupt or alter the strength of these processes.
PHYSIOLOGICAL DRIVERS OF FORAGING
The importance of top-down control in many environments necessitates a more thorough understanding of what drives feeding decisions. The ultimate goal of feeding for any animal is to obtain nutrients, but what makes a food good for one animal and not another? This portion of my research addresses how the nutritional demands and digestive physiology of consumers interact with the chemical and nutritional content of food to drive feeding decisions, and explores the feedback between animal physiology and nutrient cycling in natural ecosystems.
CASCADING EFFECTS OF ANTHROPOGENIC MODIFICATIONS TO THE NATURAL ENVIRONMENT
Humans are changing the way the natural world works faster than ever before. Through our activities we are removing habitat, altering ecosystems, changing global temperatures and fertilizing our planet at unprecedented rates. While some of the outcomes of these activities are rather predictable, there are many more that we don't yet understand.
Temperature and nutrients will affect primary producers by altering growth rates and the nutritional content of plants, while at the same time changing the metabolism and nutritional demands of consumers. Understanding how these changes will shape communities and interact with top-down and bottom-up processes is vital to predicting the impacts of a changing climate on both natural and managed systems.