1. Discovery and description of the soil cyanobacterial community in the driest desert in the world, the Atacama Desert of Northern Chile, where annual precipitation averages less than 1 mm (funded by the National Science Foundation).2. Measurement and monitoring of plant biodiversity on a U.S. Army training facility in Germany using satellite imagery.3. Measurement of the effects of 75+ years if varying grazing strategies on plant diversity at the Desert Experimental Range in western Utah.
My research interests include the ecology and management of biological soil crusts, disturbance-dependent species, the role of disturbance in ecosystem functioning and biodiversity, and remote sensing applications to biodiversity.
Much of the U.S. population views deserts as empty, sterile wastelands. My research has shown that, in fact, deserts soils are teeming with life, even in very harsh conditions. This may give us clues into survival strategies under aridification and climate change. Most Americans view disturbance as universally negative. My research has shown that disturbance is often essential to the survival of many organisms, including a large number of threatened and endangered species. Disturbance that is heterogeneously distributed spatially, temporally, and in intensity and kind, promotes maximum biodiversity. This provides a fresh perspective on the repercussions of forest fires, logging, grazing by domestic livestock, off-road vehicle traffic and other 'disurbances' that are often viewed as universally negative.
Much of the research I have conducted has been as an employee of or contractor to the Department of Defense. Major endeavors include:1. Co-developed a new-generation GIS-based 3-dimensional soil erosion and sediment deposition model. Validated the model with globally extant 137Cs radioisotopes remaining from post WWII nuclear testing and fallout.2. Conducted research into the ecological roles of biological soil crusts on arid soils, and developed strategies for their restoration.3. Developed and tested the 'heterogeneous disturbance hypothesis' to explain enriched biodiversity of both flora and fauna on heterogeneously disturbed landscapes.4. Documented the dependence of endangered plants, insects and amphibians on severe landscape disturbance.