Research Interests and Activities



Overview:

My major research activities have generally fallen within the domains of population, community and landscape ecology. Though much of my research has focused on addressing "basic" ecological questions, I have generally tailored my research programs towards issues which hold promise in contributing to conservation. I also have related interests in biogeography, evolution, and experimental design.

While I feel that research provides important inherent benefits, I also see enormous opportunity in research activities as arenas for education. I've spent a great deal of time working with students (undergraduates, graduates and high school students) and the experience has only solidified my sense that exposure to research activities can and should be more consistently integrated into the public's experience and impressions of science.


Specific Research Interests:

I have always been interested in factors that influence the abundance, demography, and persistence of local populations. My initial research interests centered on the role that interspecific competition might play in structuring vertebrate communities. Throughout the course of my M.S. research, I conducted a series of field experiments designed to test general theories about competition using two species of woodland rodents. As I started my Ph.D. work, I found my interests shifting towards exploring the very primary role that habitat might play as an influence on population performance.  I was particularly intrigued by suggestions that landscape-scale habitat attributes such as the size, shape, or relative isolation of habitat "patches" might prove to be important influences on the distribution, demography and persistence of populations. Furthermore, simulations I conducted in collaboration with Michael A. Bowers indicated that the nature and magnitude of competition, predation, and other important ecological relationships might also be affected by landscape characteristics. One major shortcoming in all these ideas was that there had been very little field work conducted to test most of the theoretical predictions. Between 1989 and 1998 I focused much of my research activities on field tests of these kinds of landscape predictions, focusing particularly on demographic and movement responses of small mammals living in experimental landscapes. Typically, I used mowing to isolate patches, fragments and, most recently, whole landscapes and then used capture/recapture techniques to test demographic predictions.


Current Activities:

Joining the faculty of Muskingum University in 1998 provided me with a whole host of new research opportunities - particularly in working closely with colleagues at the Wilds.  One of the opportunities was to work with students on a wide array of projects including:

For a complete record of student capstone research projects over the past few years please see: student research projects.  Most of these projects were developed, conducted and project papers written over the course of our three-semester course sequence.  Most of these projects resulted in professional presentations at the annual meeting of the Ohio Academy of Science.  

My personal research has shifted from the sort of work I conducted during my Ph.D. and post-doctoral years.  The extensive areas of land at the Wilds that was heavily disturbed by surface mining during the 20th century provide unique opportunities for studying ecosystem recovery.  For the last few years I have been collaborating with Dr. Danny Ingold in a long-term project examining the population biology of grassland birds that inhabit the Wilds' property.   Grassland birds have been declining owing to the loss of open grassland habitat in the U.S.  Ironically, recovering surface mines have been shown to provide habitat that may prove critical in managing their long-term persistence.   Though the details of our work shifts from year to year, in general we are working to monitor species diversity, population numbers and reproductive success for certain target species and changing patterns in the grassland habitat. Generally we employ 2-4 students each summer to assist us with the fieldwork.

 

Last Modified: 11 July 2014