Ecosystem Conservation

  • cows in Kansas

    Cattle grazing can have a large impact on plant community composition, resulting in altered plant productivity.

  • caterpillar on milkweed

    Invertebrate herbivores are an important, and often overlooked, driver of plant community structure and function.

  • Kansas wildflower community

    How does plant diversity promote the functioning of healthy ecosystems?

  • Spanish broom invasion

    Invasive species negatively alter the functioning of ecosystems.

  • Lupine harvest.

    How do soil microbes impact plant invasion success?

Principal Investigator


We investigate how ecosystem responses to global change drivers are mediated by biotic processes.  Specifically, we study how ecosystem function is influenced by mutualisms, competition, consumers, and alterations in abiotic resource availability. Projects in our lab examine a diverse suite of global change drivers, such as nutrient deposition and runoff, consumer loss, altered climatic regimes, and species invasions.

We use a variety of techniques to investigate ecosystem responses to global change drivers, including observational surveys, field and lab experiments, and data synthesis.

Ecosystem Conservation Lab, summer 2019 (Alitzel Villanueva, Amy Hruska, Kim Komatsu, Kathryn Bloodworth, Ashley Boyette, Ben Taylor)

Current research themes include the following:

(1) mutualisms and invasion;

(2) mutualisms and biodiversity-ecosystem function; 

(3) trophic interactions structuring plant communities;

(4) plant communities and functional traits;

(5) building consensus through data synthesis.