Predoctoral Fellow 2014-2015, Institute for Environmental Science and Policy
Cascading effects of an invasive plant on the belowground fungal-based food web and management options: An interdisciplinary approach
The proliferation of invasive alien plants in local ecosystems is a major threat to biodiversity and ecosystem functioning on a global scale, and is a disturbance that is predicted to become even more severe in the 21st century. To offset the negative effects of invasive plants on ecosystem function and overall health, a fundamental understanding of the mechanisms by which plant invaders alter ecological communities and networks is essential. The goal of my dissertation research is to provide a better understanding of the changes plant invasions can elicit within native food webs using the invasive garlic mustard plant (Alliaria petiolata) as a model system. I am specifically interested in two questions:
- How does garlic mustard alter the below ground food web in terrestrial ecosystems?
- What are the best management strategies for removing garlic mustard and restoring the structure of the belowground food web?
To address these questions, I have adopted an interdisciplinary framework, which includes a combination of field experimentation and individual-based modeling, as well as the use of Next-Generation DNA Sequencing to identify members of the soil microbial community.