Broadly we study how biotic interactions impact biogeochemical cycles. Many of us focus on how plant traits and environmental conditions regulate decay agents to impact deadwood carbon cycling. We also study global macroevolution and functional ecology of plants, microbes and termites.

Here are some field-based projects that we are currently working on:

Australia.  Queensland: We have concluded our long-term experiment quantifying the relative role of termites and microbes in carbon storage and turnover of wood across a rainforest to savanna rainfall gradient. Abbey continues to focus in this part of the world for her PhD research, quantifying internal stem damage in living trees and understanding methane flux rates from termite mounds across the savanna. For our Queensland projects we have collaborated with artist Donna Davis to highlight the important roles of hidden players, such as termites and microbes for the carbon cycle. This work was supported by an NSF and NERC grant to Amy Zanne, Steve Allison and Paul Eggleton and in collaboration with the Cernusak, Cheesman, Powell and Cornwell labs in Australia. New South Wales: From a 5-year, decay plot plot at the Hawkesbury Campus, Western Sydney University with Jeff Powell and Will Cornwell, we are exploring drivers of wood decay across different species and stem sizes, including wood traits and microbial communities.

Brazil. Goiás: We have projects looking at shifts in wetlands and greenhouse gas production in collaboration with Rafael Oliveira and Natashi Pilon in Chapada dos Veadieros. In this work we are examining carbon dynamics in a seasonally flooded grassland, the impact of murundus (earth mounds, possibly termite derived) in shifting these carbon dynamics, and termite/Vellozia interactions in cerrado systems. Additionally, Yuri has been hard at work for his PhD research on characterizing termite species distributions across the cerrado.

Chile. We are working with Eduardo Castro on projects in Southern Chile examining the impact of global warming and sea level rise on the rates and forms of carbon emissions from soils.

USA. DC, MD & VA: In collaboration with Roy Rich and Keryn Gedan, we are measuring fine scale carbon levels across Washington, DC during and after COVID19 lockdown, as well as impact of sea level rise, ghost forest formation and marsh migration on CO2 levels. With Sean McMahon and Jess Shue at Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, we are measuring downed deadwood turnover, carbon fluxes and microbial communities with decay stage. FL: Watch this space! New projects soon.

Global. Across the globe, we are determining the relative role of saprotrophic microbes and insects in breaking down wood. These projects partner with a large series of collaborators interested in examining these differences in natural and human-modified systems along different environmental gradients.

Our team also builds global scale databases to ask macroevolutionary and functional ecology questions. Here are some of our current database projects.

  1. FunFun: a dynamic functional trait database of the world’s fungi, check it out here
  2. Global Vessel Anatomy database - check it out here
  3. Global Wood Anatomy database - check it out here
  4. Data products from Three Keys to the radiation of angiosperms into freezing environments - including the global woodiness database, global leaf phenology database, global plant species freezing exposure database and phylogenetic and taxonomic resources - check it out here