We work on a wide variety of projects at the intersection of theoretical, empirical, and applied ecology.


As a quantitative ecologist, I have the pleasure of being able to work on a variety of different problems and in collaboration with many wonderful scientists. I am broadly interested in population and community ecology with particular interests in how dynamics at these levels of organization play out in space. My students and I have worked on problems using a mixture of modeling, lab experiments, and field studies. Some of our current projects are described below.

Ecological theory for spatial population and community dynamics

A longstanding and continual focus of the lab is developing theory that explores how population and community dynamics play out across space. Current modeling looks at stability properties of spatial food webs on a range of spatial network types, asking how connectivity patterns alter food web structure and dynamics. We work on both "strategic" theory aimed at elucidating general principles as well as "tactical" modeling that guides work in empirically-oriented projects.

Testing the relationship between spatial network structure and food web stability

Spatial ecological networks, such as the spatial distribution of habitat, are often patchy
and irregular. Ecological theory predicts that asynchronous spatial fluctuations should lead to regional stability, while network theory predicts that dispersal among randomly arranged habitats with properties similar to real landscapes generates greater asynchrony in fluctuations compared to regular habitat arrangements. Yet, despite recent efforts, the importance of these mechanisms for typical ecological landscapes and systems is unclear. We are combining experiments and mechanistic modeling to directly test how patterns of dispersal network connectivity alter stability in food
webs across a range of system productivities. This research is funded by an NSF CAREER Award and involves extensive collaboration with UCR undergraduate scientists.

Temporal stability of river communities in dendritic networks at multiple spatial scales

The overriding goal of this project is to understand how the structure of the dispersal network and the location of a community within a dispersal network affect aggregate and compositional community stability. Using a combination of field surveys, experiments, and mechanistic modeling, we are directly testing how network structure alters patterns of dispersal network connectivity and stability in river macroinvertebrate communities. We are also interested in how the distribution of traits in the community modulate both local and larger-scale drivers of stability. This work is in collaboration with Bryan Brown, Eric Sokol, and Chris Swan and is funded by NSF. 

Ecology and conservation of the Santa Ana river, an urban, effluent-dominated system

The Santa Ana watershed is one of the largest socio-ecological systems in southern California. It contains 23 species of concern, including the federally threatened Santa Ana sucker. It also encompasses >5 million people, 26% of which are disadvantaged. We are examining the causes and consequences of large-scale ecological change in this system, with current focus on quantifying and modeling food web interactions of the Santa Ana sucker in a reach where wastewater is the major source of flow. Future work with Dr. Helen Regan aims to assess freshwater sustainability under climate change by considering the linkages between human water uses, freshwater ecosystems and governance using the Freshwater Health Index.

Innovative Learning Technology Initiative in Ecology, Conservation, and Global Change

We are developing online courses in Ecology and Conservation Biology and Global Change Ecology that employ novel instructional technologies to 1) enhance knowledge of ecology and the interaction between natural ecosystems and human populations, and 2) expand access to high quality upper division instruction in ecology, conservation, and global change. This project is a collaborative endeavor with Dr. Anne Hilborn, Dr. Loralee Larios, Dr. Paul Nabity, Dr. Nicole Rafferty, Dr. Helen Regan, Dr. Marko Spasojevic, and the staff in the UCR Instructional Design & Faculty Technology Support Group.