To summarize one’s research in a few short paragraphs is an impossible task, so please excuse the use of caveats and the general vagueness of this section. You’ll also note from my posts and publications that this is not an exhaustive list of my interests and activities. I’ve tried to give a broad overview of the kinds of work I am currently doing and where I’d like to take them, but obviously there is a long list of ongoing projects that have rolled over from previous interests, collaborations and skills I have developed over time.
My current research is focused on global change in South African terrestrial ecosystems and revolves around field studies and spatial data analyses with the goal of informing policy and management. Most of my projects predominantly focus on fire, water, land cover (including invasive species) and climate change.
My field studies typically involve repeat vegetation community surveys, although I do dabble in lineage/species/population-focused studies too. I feel that the community is the scale of biological organization most appropriate for studying global change and the societal implications. In my chapter on The assembly and function of Cape plant communities in a changing world in the 2014 book Fynbos: Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation of a Megadiverse Region I argue that developing an understanding of how communities are assembled is essential if we are to understand ecosystem function, how global change impacts are altering ecosystems and the functions they perform, and how best to manage ecosystems for desirable outcomes.
Obviously the relevance of focal, site-based studies can only be realised if we can scale up findings to larger regions. Vegetation community data are very useful for this as they are typically collected at a spatial scale appropriate for linking with remote sensing data from satellites or drones. Making this link, often using trait-based approaches, allows us to develop a better understanding of community/biodiversity effects on ecosystem processes at broader scales, but also of how vegetation composition affects signals received by remote sensing platforms, allowing detection and interpretation of ecosystem change.
Beyond vegetation survey and remote sensing, I am leading or involved in many projects using spatial analyses and statistical models to explore ecosystem threat assessment, land transformation and habitat fragmentation, fire spread, and the effects of invasive plants on hydrology.