Jen is an evolutionary ecologist studying how global change affects the ecology and evolution of plants and the microbes, herbivores, and pollinators with which plants interact.
Kane is a Ph.D. candidate in Plant Biology and EEBB. Kane’s research integrates evolutionary ecology with microbial and ecosystem processes to explore patterns of community establishment and assembly during succession. With field and greenhouse studies using a dominant early successional legume, Chamaecrista fasciculata, Kane is the studying how intraspecific variation in key traits, soil resource mutualisms (rhizobia), and nitrogen availability impact community dynamics. Moreover, by understanding how these factors and the interactions between them influence species establishment and the species interactions that follow can help guide predictions on community assembly and guiding species and population selection for particular restoration sites.
I have always been fascinated by invasive species and their ability to outcompete native species while taking over and transforming habitats. The number of invasive species is growing year-by-year, as plants, animals, and microbes are introduced into habitats where they did not historically occur. Invasive species are often destructive, costing billions in damages to native ecosystems and human interests around the world annually. Yet, despite all the problems they cause, we still do not know what causes some species to be invasive and not others. My research addresses this question by testing whether invasive species are those that are not strongly controlled by competitors, predators, and herbivores outside their native range. That is, they are successful invaders because they have left their natural enemies behind.
Tomomi is a graduate student at KBS, broadly interested in mutualism, species coexistence and diversity. Using plant-rhizobia interactions as a model system, she is currently working on two main projects:
- The potential ecological and evolutionary impacts of novel stressors (herbicides) on soil microbial organisms and, consequently, on crops that rely on the ecosystem services provided by the soil microbial community (e.g., nutrient availability, pathogen suppression).
- How ecological and evolutionary changes in plant-rhizobia interactions may feedback to influence plant community dynamics. For example, genetic changes in one species (e.g. rhizobia) might indirectly alter the strength of ecological interactions with other species (plant competition).
Before she joined the Lau lab, Tomomi did a MS degree in University of Nebraska where she studied the effects of insect herbivory and plant competition on an introduced thistle. During her undergrad, Tomomi studied the effects of nutrient availability on the evolution of tolerance to herbivory at the University of Guelph.
My research interests are motivated by applying the theoretical predictions of ecology and evolution to the practice of ecological restoration and conservation. For my PhD, I am studying the effects of species and genetic diversity on ecosystem functioning and population dynamics in grassland restorations. The two primarily goals of restoration are to increase biodiversity and improve ecosystem functioning. I am exploring the role of genotypic diversity of founder populations in establishing diverse restorations. I study populations of both common and rare plant species across environmental gradients such as soil moisture availability. By increasing biodiversity, theory and experiments suggest that we can improve ecosystem functioning and thus meet both goals of restoration. Evidence from observational studies is mixed, suggesting that the effects of diversity are contingent upon environmental gradients. I am exploring how plant species diversity interacts with factors such as soil fertility and texture, land use legacies, and management to influence multiple functions, including primary productivity, stability of biomass production, invasion resistance, pollinator diversity and abundance, and nutrient retention.
I am also a skilled botanist and maintain a healthy interest in floristics and monitoring both rare and common plant populations. A believer in the utility of herbaria for tracking floristic trends (e.g., spread of invasive plant species, response of plants to climate change), I am an avid plant collector with a perverse fascination for sedges (Carex).
I am a PhD student in the Lau lab. My research is motivated by a fascination with invasive plants. I’m particularly interested in the role of evolution in invasion success, with a focus on how gene flow within a species can influence adaptation to novel environments.
My research combines theoretical and experimental approaches that bridge the gap between evolutionary biology and community ecology. I ask how evolution affects species interactions and diversity, and reciprocally how multiple species interactions in diverse communities affect trait evolution. One focus of my research asks how evolution on ecological time scales affects the outcome of species interactions. However, the outcomes of species interactions in diverse communities are complicated by multiple direct and indirect interactions between many species. Consequently, I also examine the evolutionary importance of indirect species interactions to better understand how species evolve in a community context.I have explored these questions in a number of different model communities, including California grasslands, pitcher plant inquiline communities, subtidal seagrass beds, sea urchin congeners, and marine fouling communities.