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With continued degradation of ecosystems, we need to know how to restore biodiversity, both for conservation and to ensure the provision of essential services provided by nature. To manage and restore diversity in human-modified systems, however, we need to understand the mechanisms that originally maintained biodiversity. I study the mechanisms operating in complex systems, specifically ecological communities, that underlie diversity maintenance.
The questions I am currently tackling along these lines are:
- How do the characteristics of communities affect interaction patterns? (beginning with species turnover, changes in species community composition through time)
- How do interaction patterns feedback to affect the characteristics of communities?
- How can we design (restore) degraded communities to promote stability and evolutionary potential? (applying all the principles learned from the above)
As a native of the Central Valley, I have a personal connection to issues concerning the sustainability of agriculture, and a primary goal of my research is to make agricultural systems better for humans and wildlife. I thus also investigate strategies for designing agricultural systems to promote biodiversity conservation, and the links between conservation strategies and improving livelihoods.
Lastly, I am working on the development team of NIMBLE, a system for building and sharing analysis methods for statistical models, especially for hierarchical models and computationally-intensive methods. Statistics is the primary way scientists identify patterns within their data and, thus advances in fields applying statistics are often facilitated by computational methods.