My principle research involves understanding insect disturbance ecology in Southwestern high elevation forests. My goals are to determine the effects of climate and human activities on historical and contemporary disturbance regimes and ecosystem stability, and to determine the causes of, and climate associated with, contemporary severe and anomalous insect outbreaks. Individual studies include dendrochronologically reconstructing fire, insect outbreak, logging, and climate effects on tree population dynamics at the mountain range scale; investigating the ecology and impact of emergent (native but previously innocuous) and range-expansive insect pests. I am also involved with investigating the ecology and impact of the exotic and invasive spruce aphid in western North American montane and maritime ecosystems, where it threatens ecosystem stability and biodiversity.
My research interests are focused on disturbance ecology of western forest insects, high elevation disturbance ecology, climate change effects, fire exclusion effects, insect impact assessment, modeling, decision support systems, and the Sky Island mountain ecosystems of the Southwest.
My research is important because it provides managers with information about the effects of legacy conditions, past disturbance events, climate and human activities on Southwestern historical and contemporary disturbance regimes and ecosystem stability. It develops tools for quantifying and assessing insect effects, and informs predictive models. Southwestern ecosystems are especially vulnerable to climate- and human-induced changes because of their southern latitude and vertical landscape connectivity, and because of their history of fire exclusion. Managers need this information in order to develop adaptive management strategies that promote forest health and resiliency, and to mitigate the negative effects of future disturbances and climate change. My research on spruce aphid is important because it provides information needed to mitigate negative effects and to develop control strategies.