Monday, September 29, 2014

Meet our new faces

We have a new group of graduate and undergraduate researchers working on a range of topics in coastal plant ecology. Their research will continue to advance our understanding of the many complex and interacting factors across barrier island landscapes, which provide the first line of defense against storms for millions of people living in coastal areas.

April Harris joined our lab as a master's student.  Her research interests include investigating the competitive/facilitative interactions between the three dune building grass species:,Ammophila breviligulata, Uniola paniculata, and Spartina patens, in the presence and absence of sand accretion.  These interactions are particularly interesting because they ultimately lead to differences in dune morphology and barrier island stability.

Joey Thompson joined our lab as a master's student.  His research interests include plant diversity, how it is affected by human caused disturbances, and the most efficient ways to implement restoration and conservation.  He is interested in identifying native plants and understanding relationships with other organisms.  Knowing interactions between species in an ecosystem  helps him to better understand how that ecosystem functions.  Joey has a strong interest in naturalism which is expressed partly through photographing nature and identifying species and phenomena.  He uses photography and knowledge of the natural world to inspire others who are less interested in the scientific community.  Joey's main interest is plants, although he has a general passion for science and philosophy of all types.  Botany, ornithology, entomology, mycology, physics, and metaphysics are some topics that he is particularly interested in.  Music is another favorite ways to express himself outside of science.  Joey plays a doumbek and listen to blues, soul, folk, and classic rock. Other hobbies include mountain biking, longboarding, and reading.


Joseph Brown joined our lab as a master's student.  His research interests include looking at how sand accretion and competition of two dune building species, Ammophila breviligulata and Uniola paniculata affects functional traits and growth of these species. His research will contribute our understanding of how grass distribution and island morphology could change on barrier island depending on the northern migration of Uniola paniculata due to climate change.

Ashley Moulton joined our lab as a master's student.  Her research interests include understanding how feedbacks between abiotic and biotic factors influence the distribution of vegetation in coastal landscapes. She is also interested in utilizing spatial analysis to better understand variance within these dynamic systems. Her research aims to further develop best management practices which aid professionals who work to restore coastal systems to improve their resiliency and stability. 

Audrey Kirschner joined our lab as an undergraduate student.  Her research interests include understanding the physiological responses of barrier island graminoids (Spartina patens and Fimbristylis spadicea) to salinity, flooding, and drought. These physiological responses affect their distribution across the landscape with changing climate (i.e. variable precipitation, sea-level rise).  In addition to studying at VCU, Audrey spent a semester abroad in Western Australia where  she took courses learning about Australian flora and fauna.