The Crandall Lab

Research in the Crandall Lab uses observations, field experiments, and modeling to understand the mechanisms by which fires influence plant population dynamics and cause resulting community patterns in plant species richness and composition. Despite the prevalent use of fires in restoration and land management, little is known about the effects of fires, especially changes in fire season, intensity, and frequency, on the population dynamics of co-occurring native and exotic plants. This is because most studies consider only one fire season and/or measure responses in a single species. As a result, ecologists cannot explain why fires sometimes successfully reduce the abundance of exotic plants and increase the abundance and diversity of native species and other times have no effect or even facilitate biological invasions. We seek to fill this gap in our knowledge by examining how differences in the life histories of native and exotic plants influence their response to fires and how fires influence plant competition. Furthermore, members of the Crandall Lab quantify whether different disturbance regimes and habitat characteristics interact to shape community patterns of species richness and composition. Results from our research are widely applicable to restoration and conservation of remnant, degraded, and restored habitats.