I got my first scar at the age of five when I fell out of a cherry tree. I look at this permanent mark everyday and remember my times day-dreaming in my make-believe tree house in my parents back yard.
Now I am a professional biologist, a plant ecophysiologist, which means that I study how plant function is driven by environmental conditions. I am particularly interested in understanding how plants handle stressful situations, especially those that may be imposed by changes in climate. I have been working in this field, plant ecophysiology, for 16 years and have had the great fortune of conducting research in tropical dry forests, seasonal wet tropical forests and starting in 2009, in the tropical montane cloud forests (TMCF) of Mexico, Hawaii and Costa Rica.
In 2012, I joined the faculty at Franklin and Marshall College and I have started a research program on the ecophysiology of epiphytes in the TMCF of Monteverde Costa Rica. Epiphytes are a fascinating community of plants to study. We don’t know too much about them, they are of critical importance to ecosystem functioning in the TMCF and they are likely very vulnerable to projected changes in climate.
Last summer my students and I were able to, for the first time, quantify whole-plant transpiration in the canopy epiphyte community and determine the extent to which epiphytes can reabsorb cloud water directly through their leaves as a strategy to improve water status. In addition, we discovered that epiphytes exhibit a variety of ecological strategies but that all species have high water storage capacity.
In addition to my research program, I have recently begun the construction of two aerial platforms near our study sites that will be the location of a tropical tree climbing school.