Visiting Asst Prof - Biology
Education and Training
Putnam Postdoctoral Fellow (2018-20) and Visiting Fellow (2020-present)
Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University
PhD, Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior (2018)
University of Minnesota
MFR, International Forestry (2012)
University of Washington
BA, Biology and Environmental Studies (2008)
Teaching (current and projected)
Ecology (BIOL 036) - Fall 2020
Climate Change Science and Communication (BIOL 042/ENVS 061) - January Term 2021
Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functioning (BIOL 137) - Spring 2021
Over the years, I have supervised undergraduate research on topics ranging from plant water-use relations to soil microbial ecology and leaf litter decomposition. As a mentor, I:
- work with students to create projects that will be interesting and meaningful, even if they don’t turn out as planned;
- never ask students to do things I won’t do or think are dangerous or a waste of time;
- model ethical practices and good citizenship in science;
- emphasize research that connects to students’ identities and experiences and promotes sustainability.
I welcome anyone interested, and particularly Black, Brown, Indigenous, and Queer students, to get in touch with me about working together.
How are trees and forests responding to climate change and biodiversity loss in a rapidly changing world? I try to answer this question by studying temperate woody species in North America. Below are some of my ongoing and past projects. For more, check out my personal website or my Google Scholar and ResearchGate profiles.
Climate Change Vulnerability of Temperate Trees. Climate change will stress trees in a variety of ways. I focus on the effects of two key stressors on maples (Acer spp.) and aspens (Populus spp.) two diverse genera of temperate trees spanning the Northern Hemisphere.
- Drought. In many parts of the world, less frequent, more intense bouts of rainfall will mean that plants functionally experience a drier environment. I use greenhouse experiments, field observations, and benchtop physiological measurements to understand how trees differ in their capacity to withstand dry conditions.
- False springs. Climate change is leading to earlier springs and warmer winters in many places. This means that some plants start growing earlier in the year. This often means losing cold hardiness earlier in the season. But what happens if warmer conditions “trick” trees into growing while there is still a risk of vert cold weather? I use freezing experiments and monitor phenology to learn how susceptible trees are to these false springs.
Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functioning. Humans have a huge impact on the biodiversity of the world around us. We intentionally introduce our favored species around the world and unintentionally bring along other companions. More disturbingly, we have also reduced the biodiversity of many ecosystems across the globe by overharvesting, destroying habitat, and altering the climate. I use large field experiments to ask how loss in biodiversity alters the way a forest works.
In the Forests and Biodiversity (FAB) experiment at the Cedar Creek LTER site, I managed the planting of trees in artificial “forests.” In these plots, a given red oak might be surrounded only by other red oaks, or by a wide diversity of other species. This allows us to ask whether the red oak in the less diverse environment grows more slowly or is more subject to pests and disease. In other words, how important is biodiversity to the functionality of forests?
Diversity and Outreach
Science, like the rest of life, is better when people of diverse identities and experiences participate fully, equitably, safely, and joyfully. This must be true both in terms of who is doing science and who benefits from scientific education and research. As a white, cisgender, able-bodied, American man coming from an upper-middle class family, I bring a lot of privilege to my role in science. My identity as a practicing Jew and a gay man intersects with this privilege, encouraging me to act always and in all ways to promote well-being, justice, and access for all people, whether in the sciences or beyond. Through teaching and mentoring, advocacy and activism, and ongoing efforts (internally and in my community), I am committed to greater diversity, equity, and inclusion in science. I welcome feedback on how I am doing and opportunities to collaborate in this lifelong work.
As a passionate science communicator, I love writing and speaking about the amazing diversity in our natural world and what we can do to nurture and protect it. I have contributed articles to the Arnoldia magazine on biodiversity, aspen conservation, and the evolutionary ecology of the maples. I have also been fortunate to work with some Boston University students to create multimedia projects on my activism and outreach and climate change research.