My research centers on the community structure and dynamics of tropical rain forests. I bring insight to these topics with manipulative experiments, extensive observational datasets, mechanistic modeling, and a well-stocked statistical toolbox.
Questions I find exciting include... Why do species differ so widely in abundance? What keeps rare species from going extinct? I have several ongoing projects in French Guiana and Peru to address these and other topics. In Peru, I have monitored the performance of seedlings in permanent plots since 2003, providing substantial information on community structure and dynamics. A current project is to experimentally manipulate a subset of these plots to evaluate the relative importance of terrestrial mammals, herbivorous insects and pathogenic fungi as drivers of community assembly. By simultaneously building a database of functional traits for Peruvian tree seedlings, we will further assess the affects of these factors on the functional composition of rain forest plant communities. In French Guiana, an abundance of data on the growth and survival of trees over ontogeny, from seedling to adult stages, combined with extensive functional trait data, facilitates answering many questions. Among them: How do functional trait vales, and the strength of negative density dependence, vary over ontogeny? Combining data from both sites, we can assess to what degree do the functional traits of seedlings predict their performance?
I am actively recruiting PhD students. Motivated students are invited to contact me to discuss potential projects.