Gardner Hall 3203
I am committed to the conservation of biodiversity. My major research focuses on one aspect of biodiversity, conservation of rare plant populations. The broad goal of the work conducted by me and my students, both graduate and undergraduate, is to develop knowledge of the biological characteristics of rare plant species that will inform efforts to conserve these species. The particular work conducted with individual species depends on the perceived threats to its conservation; therefore, the goals of my various projects have varied considerably. For example, we have recently determined that ineffective insect pollination is one of several mechanisms that nearly totally preclude seed production in rough leaf loosestrife, a federally endangered species. Given this knowledge, we recommended that consideration be given to planting a thoroughly pollinated species of loosestrife with mitigation plantings of rough leaf loosestrife in hopes that insects will also visit it. Another study examined survivorship and growth of spring-flowering goldenrod, a state endangered species, on soils varying in wetness in the Croatan National Forest. Despite the fact that this goldenrod is an obligate wetland species, its survivorship was negligible on the wettest soil. Survivorship and growth were maximized on drier soils. These results will inform the selection of a mitigation site for transplanting this species from a large population that will be severely impacted by a highway construction project. Another project nearing completion involves determining whether or not seed production and fitness in small populations of smooth coneflower, federally endangered, is less than that in the single large population in North Carolina. Preliminary results suggest that seeds from small populations are equal in number per head and in fitness to those from the large population. This suggests that mechanisms other than pollination limitation are more threatening to small populations of this species.
I am also involved with floristic projects. A recent study compared the soils and flora of a conserved savanna with those features of neighboring savannas. Results showed that the flora and soils of the conserved savanna are unique. Another study in the early stages of development is designed to describe the flora, soils, and plant community types of a Coastal Plain environmental education center and to provide educational materials relating to the flora and communities for the center’s use in its educational programs.