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Research Projects

Green Roof Ecology

Green roofs involve layers of vegetation and growing medium over regular roof membranes. These "built habitats" are usually constructed for energy conservation (the soil and vegetation lead to reduced building energy costs) and to reduce storm water outputs from urban systems. Our lab is trying to determine whether native plant species outperform non-natives on green roofs in Atlantic Canada. We are also interested in determining the role of species- and trophic- level diversity on green roof performance. This project also includes basic horticultural research into the propagation of native species for use in restoration and urban greening projects.For a summary of research to date: Green Roof ResearchFor a list of species we have tested: Plant List

Species Diversity Patterns

I investigate the factors that maintain species diversity over time, with emphasis on the roles of spatial and temporal variability in resource supply. Pulsed resources can alter both species diversity and productivity relative to more constant resource regimes. Our key questions include: what is the role of plant niches vs. neutral processes in structuring communities? Does resource pulsing alter competitive and facilitative interactions? How does community structure influence invasibility and other ecosystem properties? We use several habitats for this work, including urban and highly disturbed systems, but our primary focus is on Nova Scotia coastal barrens.  For a summary of research to date: Coastal Barrens Summary.

Regeneration and Restoration Ecology

Our lab is also involved with several applied projects related to either natural recovery following natural or anthropogenic disturbances or active ecological restoration. Two of my students have conducted research to determine patterns in vegetation recovery in Point Pleasant Park, an urban forest that was heavily damaged by hurricane Juan in fall 2003. This work includes a seed bank study and comparison with reference sites. We have conducted some work on baseline vegetation classification and post-restoration monitoring for Parks Canada and other agencies (contract research in dune and salt marsh habitat). We are also collaborating with Dr. Danika van Proosdij and CBWES on salt marsh restoration projects in the Bay of Fundy and other places around Nova Scotia.

Urban Plant Communities

Conventional approaches to urban ecology view cities as places dominated by novel, human-disturbed environments. These views ignore the fact that large portions of the urban landscape may be structurally and functionally equivalent to certain types of natural systems. Specifically, urban areas are dominated by hard surfaces that have natural analogs in rock outcrop communities: cliffs, talus slopes and flat rock barrens. Our research challenges traditional approaches to urban ecology by determining whether using rock-based system templates for urban and industrial restoration will be cheaper and more effective at providing ecosystem functions (e.g. in green roof systems).