Main Research Themes in the Lab

Population Dynamics and Conservation of Migratory Species: Migration is a topic that has fascinated scientists as far back as the ancient Greeks and migratory species are ecologically, economically, and culturally important. However, describing the population dynamics of migratory animals remains a difficult challenge due to the large geographical distances involved in obtaining extensive field observations on these highly mobile species. In my lab, we are developing theory under the framework of Migratory Networks to understand full-life cycle dynamics and conservation of migratory animals. We are also working on specific, usually field-based, projects to learn about population ecology of migratory birds and butterflies during breeding, winter, and migration. Currently, almost all projects in the lab fit under this research theme.

Coastal Ecology : Environmental stresses from climate change as well as restoration actions and development have significant impacts on sensitive coastal ecosystems leading to unique problems, especially here in Louisiana.  Several projects in the lab explore the human and natural factors that influence the sustainability of coastal ecosystems as habitats for avian species during breeding, wintering, and migration seasons.

Urban Ecology: Urban Ecology is the study of urban and urbanizing ecosystems. Importantly, the field includes humans and therefore requires an interdisciplinary approach incorporating ecology, sociology, economics, architecture, and landscape design to understand how human and ecological processes can coexist in human-dominated systems and how these systems can be sustainable. In our lab, the ongoing project on monarch butterflies focuses on the population and disease dynamics of an urban, apparently sedentary population in New Orleans and how this population interacts with the migratory population. Previous urban ecology projects in the lab have also investigated coupled feedbacks between socio-ecological diversity and infectious disease in rodents in post-Katrina New Orleans.

Socio-Ecological Systems: Even outside of urban areas, there are virtually no ecosystems that are not shaped by people and people depend on ecosystems and the services they provide. This intertwining of people and nature necessitates the need for development of frameworks that can explore the complex adaptive systems that we refer to as social-ecological systems. In the lab, as well as the urban ecology of monarch butterflies, we are studying agricultural systems that allow for forest and bird conservation in coffee-growing regions of Honduras.