Research Interests

I am interested in the ecology and conservation of wetlands, and particularly of wetland vertebrates. These creatures are adapted to environments that are extremely productive, yet often very unpredictable, and whose nutrient cycling is completely different from terrestrial, oceanic or lacustrine environments. The field of wetland science is dominated by studies of energetic flow, plant ecology, and nutrient flux, in which wetland vertebrates are often assumed to play minor roles. Yet animals, even vertebrates, are often key in the healthy functioning of these ecosystems, and the conservation and restoration of these ecosystems depends strongly upon an understanding of how larger animals use them, especially in terms of movement behavior, foraging ecology, and reproduction. Wetland vertebrates are often wide ranging and highly mobile. So understanding their roles often requires understanding various aspects of ecosystem function at once, and often at regional and international scales. In my research program, wetland birds have been used intensively and extensively as indicators of ecosystem health, ecosystem function, and as guides for the spatial and temporal scale at which conservation and restoration should occur. The work in my lab has included vertical studies of long-legged wading birds in the Everglades (health, reproduction, foraging ecology, energetics, movement behavior, demographics, nutrient cycling), comparisons of ecosystems (Everglades, Miskito Coast, Okavango Delta, Brazilian Pantanal, Venezuelan Llanos), and measuring anthropogenic effects (human disturbance, nutrient pollution, powerlines, construction, contaminants, fire, invasive pythons). Recently, my work has become more oriented towards ecosystem restoration (Everglades and Gulf of Mexico), and I have also been working on the role of ecological facilitation in wetlands (alligators as protectors of nesting wading birds, oyster reef ecosystem services).