My research focuses on the impacts of wind disturbances on plant-soil interactions in the Southern Appalachian mountains. I use a combination of greenhouse and field experiments to investigate how tornadoes can change not only what plants grow in an area, but also how they interact with each other-- through the soil. Relationships with specialist soil organisms (including pathogens, mutualists, and decomposers) can influence spatial patterns, diversity, and coexistence of plant communities. The sudden change in environment after a tornado may weaken these relationships. My research contributes to our knowledge of plant-soil feedbacks by adding a field-based view in a dynamic environment. As strong disturbances become more frequent, it becomes even more important for us to examine how ecological processes respond to abrupt environmental changes.
Area of Research: