studying our changing planet
Under the direction of Dr. Jean-Philippe Gibert, I have explored the interactive effects of elevated temperatures and carbon dioxide on protist community abundances and function in peatlands and laboratory experiments. Protists serve a vital role in controlling for C cycling dynamics, and understanding how their community assemblages and function changes can help us estimate the future impacts of climate change on vital ecosystems such as peatlands.
Seeds provide 30% to 100% of a forest's food web energy. Understanding how climate change alters mass seed production events ("masting") is vital to understanding the future of not just trees, but species which rely on these vital ecosystem engineers. I contributed to a global analysis of masting data, collated by the Clark Lab at Duke University to predict future masting events across landscape scales, and better understand the drivers of these synchronous events that affect migrations, disease ecology, and the health of forests.
The Predicting Biodiversity with Generalized Joint Attribute Models (PBGJAM) project is a collaborative, multi-year study to understand our changing planet. With the support of NASA, we use satellites to monitor our changing planet, and through the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON), we track how these changes will impact North America's species and wildlife communities, leveraging Bayesian models to project nearly 100 years into the future. The website that I developed offers users the opportunity to explore changing biodiversity in their community and download data for their own research projects.
Our relationship with nature is quite complex, and fundamentally may come down to how we relate to ourselves. Is our body and conscious one? or two? If the former, then our relationship with nature must include a dialectic give and take. If the latter, then nature serves as a means to our end. In examining these questions, I explored Indigenous philosophies through both Marxist and Hobbesian lenses to understand our place in today's changing world.
I served as the ecologist and website developer on the DECIPHER 4: Decisions on complex interdisciplinary problems and health and environmental risk project through Duke's Bass Connections. Our project, titled GOING TO MARS: SCIENCE, SOCIETY AND SUSTAINABILITY focused on the risks of martian settlements from a variety of angles. Our team of students and faculty worked together to develop a series of risk-based decision scenarios of the settlement of Mars, which includes associated contexts, histories, decisions and outcomes. We have developed and published analyses and recommendations on key elements of settling Mars, drawing on tools from multiple disciplines.
While studies in fire-intense regions have uncovered the effects of these natural disturbances on soil microbiomes, I seek to understand the immediate disturbance effects in 500-year fires on less fire adapted systems, and how the change in abundance of soil microbes relates to the microbial phylogeny. Using a natural experiment in the Great Smoky Mountains
I conducted research under the direction of Drs. Jennifer Lippincott-Schwartz, Carolyn Ott, Prabuddha Sangupta, and Arnold Seo in the development and analysis of multi-spectral RUSH cargo assays for the investigation of autophagic pathways and the role of various nutrient depletion regimes on autophagy. I also developed Pulse-Chase fatty acid trafficking assays, to exploreinter & intra cellular fatty acid trafficking and mitochondrial exchange dynamics under various nutrient depletion regimes. This research aims to better understand endoplasmic reticulum/golgi body/plasma membrane dynamics and the physiology of cancer, diabetes, and obesity.
I conducted research under the direction of Dr. Kathleen Dwyer, focusing on the functions of the Receptor Like Kinase (RLK) and S-locus Cysteine Rich Like (SCRL) genes of Arabidopsis thaliana via GUS Reporter Gene Analysis, RNAi, anti-sense RNA, and CRISPR-Cas9 genetic engineering. Our research aims to better understand gene function and the viability of CRISPR/Cas9 for understanding plant functions and teaching these techniques to undergraduates.