SUMMARY Our research is motivated by the overarching challenge of how do we meet the food and land use needs of a growing population with the least damage to human and natural systems. Within this grand challenge, we examine the ecological consequences of land use and land-use change, particularly in agricultural systems. To do so, we often apply statistical tools from economics and geospatial tools from geography to fundamental questions in ecology and environmental science. By combining tools and theory across fields, we strive to explore new facets and leverage large data approaches to make novel contributions to ecology and sustainable agriculture.
DRIVERS OF AGRICULTURAL PESTS & PESTICIDES To avoid massive conversion from natural habitat to agricultural land, production on current agricultural land must rise substantially to meet future food demand. One means to increase production on current land is to decrease crop loss to pests. While pesticides can be an effective tool, they also have a range of negative consequences for human and environmental health, and thus reducing the need for pesticides is a scientific and policy priority. A key way to do so is to understand the ecological drivers of pests and associated pesticide use. This vein of our research seeks to understand how local (e.g. crop type, field size) and landscape features (e.g. surrounding crop diversity, surrounding cropland area) drive agricultural pests and pesticides across time and space.
AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTION & ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH Agriculture covers an enormous fraction of ice-free land and as such, affects countless human and ecological communities worldwide. Yet, even in many areas of intensive agriculture, the effects of such technologies are poorly understood. This research foci seeks to understand the implications of agricultural intensification for both human and ecological systems.
COLLABORATIVE PROJECTS Sustainable Seafood: Food production is not a solely terrestrial issue. Like other sources of protein, demand for seafood is increasing dramatically as the global population becomes increasingly large and wealthy. In parallel to land-based food production, seafood presents numerous environmental and ecological challenges that require multidisciplinary approaches to overcome. We explore the synergies between marine and terrestrial food production and seek lessons that can be transferred from one system to the other.
Land Use Change & Vector-born Disease: Changes in land use modify ecological communities favoring some species more than others. In the northeastern US, such fragmentation has promoted populations of small mammals that are important hosts for Lyme disease and has resulted in increased interactions of people with fragmented natural areas that have a high prevalence of infected ticks. At the same time, people respond to risk by modifying behavior, which complicates efforts to understand how land use change affects disease incidence. We seek to disentangle the complex ecological and human behavioral components of land use change and Lyme disease incidence in the northeastern US.