My main interest is plant functional morphology - I explore the role of morphological traits such as height, shoot development, adventitious sprouting from roots, etc. in daily plant life and how plant ecological functions are constrained by morphology and architecture. Comparisons between my own field collections and published accounts allow me to identify which plant architectural traits have been overlooked and to focus my research on them. Two of my favorite questions that guide my research are: (1) what is the role of adventitious sprouting from roots in the life history of a plant? and (2) how does plant architecture promote coexistence of plants in species rich meadows?
The objective of my project at SERC is to develop a database of clonal traits for herbaceous plants growing in wetland and forested habitats in eastern North America. Clonal traits will be assessed according to the methodology I developed for the Central European database CLO-PLA 3. Plants will be excavated from the soil to examine organs (rhizomes, stolons, bulbs) associated with clonal growth. This research is important because of ongoing rapid changes in environmental conditions, e.g. fragmentation of forests and the loss of coastal wetlands due to sea level rise, and disruption of plant communities by invasive species. The database will be used to predict the role of clonality in plant communities experiencing these disturbances and invasions. The database will also allow scientists to conduct risk assessment and vulnerability analyses of selected plant communities and to compare the effects of disturbance and invasion at SERC with similar environments and perturbations in Central Europe.