Welcome to my research website! My research interests are in environmental science and policy with specific interests in soil ecology and chemistry, land-use change, and land-use policy. I am a Ph.D. student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, working with Dr. Erika Marín-Spiotta in the Biogeography and Biogeochemistry Lab. My dissertation research is focused on post-agricultural succession in the tropics and impacts on soil ecology and organic matter stabilization.
Legacies of land-use trajectories on above and belowground dynamics.
For my dissertation, I am investigating how different successional trajectories and recent land-use histories affect plant and microbial communities to better understand how alternative fates after agricultural abandonment affect ecosystem structure and function. For this project, I am working with the U.S. Department of Forestry in the Virgin Islands and the International Institute of Tropical Forestry (ITF) based in Puerto Rico.
Multi-scale consequences of diversity in agricultural systems.
We are studying whether increasing rotational diversity in agricultural systems can enhance microbial diversity and function, nutrient cycling, and soil organic matter retention using NanoSIMS, pyrolosis-gc/ms, 13C-NMR spectroscopy, 14C radiocarbon-based turnover measurements, and nucleic acid based assessments of microbial communities. The collaborators for this project include: Dr. Stuart Grandy, Dr. Erika Marín-Spiotta, Dr. Tom Schmidt, and Dr. Jennifer Pett-Ridge. Funding for this project comes from USDA Soil Processes.
Meta-analysis of tropical land-use change and soil carbon.
This project includes a review and synthesis of literature on carbon and land-use change in tropical soils. The collaborators for this project include: Dr. Erika Marín-Spiotta and Dr. Sapna Sharma.
Policy brief on tropical land-use change and soil carbon.
This project included a review and synthesis of literature on carbon in tropical soils with relevance for carbon sequestration and climate change mitigation policies. With this information we produced a policy brief for policy-makers and led a policy briefing for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in Washington, D.C. The collaborators for this project include: Dr. Erika Marín-Spiotta, Dr. Lisa Naughton, and the non-profit group Forest Trends. Funding for this project comes from USAID.
Analysis of land-use change in the Tijuana River Watershed.
This study was an analysis of land-use change with the objective of contributing to a habitat conservation project called the Las Californias Binational Conservation Initiative. I assessed the the dominant types of land-use change that occurred in an area encompassing the U.S.-Mexico border, the Tijuana River Watershed, and analyzed the causes of these changes. My work was conducted in conjunction with researchers at El Colegio de la Frontera Norte in Tijuana and Universidad Autónoma de Baja California in Ensenada and with funding from the Southwest Consortium for Environmental Research and Policy (SCERP).
My advisor for this study was Dr. Kathleen Farley Wolf.
Mapping land cover classes in urban areas in and around the city of Tijuana.
This study focused on the biophysical land cover changes that occur with rapid urbanization. My work included mapping and quantifying the fractions of different land cover types (vegetation, impervious surface, and bare soil) in around the city of Tijuana from 1990 to present. I utilized remote sensing tools to create a series of continuous land cover maps, which were then used to address questions regarding the process of sediment loading that is threatening the ecological health of the Tijuana River Estuary.
My advisor for this study was Dr. Trent Biggs.
Measuring spectral reflectance of vegetation in Mission Trails Regional Park.
This work was part of a department study focused on mapping 5,800 acres of natural and recreational land in one of the largest urban parks in the United States - Mission Trails Regional Park. In order to map different vegetation species in the park, I was a part of 'Team Spectra', a group working on gathering spectral reflectance signatures for a variety of vegetation inlcuding coastal sage scrub, chapparral, and sunflower scrub. The doctoral student heading the project is Yuki Hamada and her advisor is Dr. Doug Stow.
The Green Tour.
What does the term 'going green' actually mean? It seems that we as a culture have defined many things, from a country to a simple product, as being 'green', yet we have yet to actually define what is meant by this. For this project, I accompanied a fellow Masters student in her quest to investigate this very question for her thesis. We traveled from San Diego, California to Portland, Oregon asking policy officials, farmers, industry professionals, and local residents about their definitions and perceptions of 'going green'. For more information, please visit the green tour website or contact the tour's leader Emily Powers.