Research in my laboratory focuses on the interface between plants and their environment. The tools of physiological and evolutionary plant ecology are currently being applied towards the study and interpretation of this interface. Investigations draw upon a variety of physiological methods, modeling and the use of stable isotopes as avenues for improving our understanding of how the ecophysiological characteristics of plants are shaped by and respond to the environments they inhabit. Projects done in my laboratory pay special attention to how aspects of plant form and function combine to permit adaptation to environmental variation, whether naturally or anthropogenically imposed, and how plants and their unique traits influence the structure and function of the communities and ecosystems they compose.
Current research themes include (1) measuring how the ecological and physiological characteristics of plants influence community and ecosystem processes. Here, work on the water, carbon and nutrient relations of plants and how they influence ecosystem hydrology and biogeochemistry are of particular interest; (2) elucidating how particular functional adaptations of plants are either constrained by or the result of their unique evolutionary history. Here we are examining the adaptations that confer tolerance to low soil nutrient status, periodic drought, or low light and disturbance in plant species or groups where we know about something about their evolutionary history; and (3) looking at the fluxes and exchanges of materials such as carbon, water and nitrogen between organisms and their biotic and abitoic environments. Here the application of novel stable isotope techniques is proving to be especially powerful in looking at the origin of CO2 from different ecosystems and the exchange of water and nitrogen between plants and their fungal (mycorrhizal) symbionts or their neighbors.
In the News
On the first weekend of spring, UC Berkeley’s newest research station, the Blue Oak Ranch Reserve, threw an open house to show off its new facilities, nestled amid rolling green, flower-studded hills east of San Jose.
Tropical montane cloud forest trees use more than their roots to take up water. They also drink water from clouds directly through their leaves, University of California, Berkeley, scientists have discovered. While this is an essential survival strategy in foggy but otherwise dry areas, the scientists say that the clouds the trees depend on are now disappearing due to climate change.
UC Berkeley geologist Bill Dietrich and biologist Todd Dawson are two of many UC scientists placing remote sensors in natural reserves to map land, track animals and collect environmental data.
Scientists at UC Berkeley and Cal State University-Humboldt are conducting a three-year research project on redwood trees. Their goal: to determine what conservation efforts are needed to ensure the trees' preservation for generations to come.