My research focus includes (1) effects of forest management practices and natural disturbances on plant and animal communities, (2) amphibian population dynamics and use of ephemeral ponds in relation to climate, hydrology, and condition of surrounding uplands, and (3) production of forest food resources, such as native fleshy fruit and hard mast, in relation to forest types and silvicultural disturbances. Disturbance types are varied and include high-intensity wind events, timber harvest, and wildfire or prescribed fire, among others. The impact of disturbances varies with site conditions such as moisture, fertility, and forest communities that are associated with environmental gradients across complex topography and geology. Conditions resulting from disturbance are dynamic, with habitat structure and associated wildlife communities changing over time as forests grow. My past and current studies focus on bird, reptile, amphibian, and small mammal community response to disturbance types including hurricane-related wind downbursts, prescribed fire, and timber harvests. Concern over apparent declines in amphibian populations due to climate change, disease, reduced habitat amount and quality, and other factors, has focused attention on the need for long-term, landscape-level studies to distinguish between true population declines and natural fluctuations. A long-term study in Florida longleaf pine-wiregrass sandhills addresses population dynamics and life history of several amphibian species, and how populations are influenced by habitat quality in the surrounding uplands, climate, and hydrological patterns in ephemeral ponds. Acorns and native fruits are important food resources for both game and nongame wildlife species. Past and ongoing studies in managed and unmanaged forests of the upper Coastal Plain and the southern Appalachians help land managers to predict amounts of nuts and native fruits that are potentially produced on a given stand or landscape, and how that may change with forest age or among different forest types.
Effect of forestry practices on biotic communities; fire ecology; disturbance ecology; forest food resources for wildlife (fruit and hard mast production); Importance of fruit to wildlife; wetland ecology; restoration ecology; plant and animal ecology; exotic plant species invasions.
importance of research
Tools that forest managers use for sustainable forest management, ecosystem restoration, and other purposes include disturbances such as timber harvest and prescribed fire. Understanding how these disturbance types – both anthropogenic and natural - affect the diversity and abundance of different wildlife species and communities is an important component of science-based land management. Similarly, understanding and predicting how amounts of wildlife food resources such as acorns and native forest fruits vary among forest types and age classes over time is an important component of forest management for healthy and diverse wildlife populations. Amphibians are declining worldwide, yet long-term population and metapopulation studies are rare, especially linked to potential causal factors such as climate and the suitability of breeding and upland habitat quality. This information can only be obtained through long-term studies, and is important for developing conservation strategies for many amphibian species.