I am a tropical forest ecologist, and my research broadly seeks to better understand the biodiversity and carbon dynamics of tropical forest ecosystems and help to answer vital questions such as: How are tropical forests responding to global change? and what does this response of tropical ecosystems mean for humanity? To answer these questions, I use a range of different approaches including remote sensing, large-scale macroecology and phylogenetics. First and foremost, I am a field ecologist, and all of my research is grounded in botanical field plots. To date my research has focussed on Amazonian forests with a particular concentration in Northern Peru.
More specifically my research can be grouped into a few key themes:
1. Quantifying tropical plant diversity using new technologies
I firmly believe that to understand how the composition, structure and function of tropical forests are changing we need to better integrate new technologies and approaches alongside existing resources and techniques. The goal of my NERC Independent Research Fellowship is to develop and apply some of these technological approaches (including satellite and airborne remote sensing methods as well as leaf-level spectroscopy) in order to better measure taxonomic diversity and composition in Amazonian forests.
2. Exploring and measuring tropical peatland forests
Peatlands are among the most important and least understood ecosystems in the tropics. I have worked extensively in the peatland forests of western Amazonia, and my research has confirmed these peatlands to be the most carbon dense and most species poor ecosystem type in Amazonia. I am keen to further explore the role of peatlands across the tropics, and in particular look for solutions to help conserve these vital ecosystems.
3. Understanding dominance in Amazonian tree communities
While tropical forests are famed for their record-breaking biodiversity, several recent studies have highlighted that a small number of ‘hyperdominant’ species account for a majority of individual trees at very large spatial scales. These dominant species therefore hold a key role in driving the ecosystem functioning of perhaps the most important biome on Earth. My research seeks to better understand these patterns of dominance from both an empirical and conceptual/theoretical perspective.