LAB NEWS-MAY. We read Brian McGill’s guest post on Dynamic Ecology at a lab group last month. In it (https://dynamicecology.wordpress.com/2016/03/02/why-ecology-is-hard-and-fun-multicausality/#more-17438), he makes a compelling case for why ecology is so challenging: because multiple factors affect what we’re interested in and the influence of each changes from one environment to another. Perhaps this is one reason it is so hard to distill ecological knowledge into guaranteed solutions for environmental problems. That is, there are unlikely to be one-size-fits-all general answers, which should not be an excuse for inaction but rather motivation to take risks based on the best available knowledge (no matter how messy!). More @bradfordlab.

Hi, you’ve reached the homepage of the Bradford lab group at Yale University’s School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. Our research explores two main questions:

  1. How do plants and soil organisms respond to environmental change?
  2. How do these responses affect ecosystem function, especially the movement and storage of carbon in soils?

The Wordle compiles the most common words from the titles of papers we’ve published since the lab established (in 2005, then at the University of Georgia, Athens). It gives a good flavor of the topics we primarily focus on under Questions 1 & 2. Below the Wordle there’s a more detailed description of why we do what we do, and how we do it.

wordle for webpage
Why focus on carbon and ecosystems? Soils and plants store huge quantities of carbon. Disturbances that degrade ecosystems release this into the atmosphere – in forms such as carbon dioxide – contributing to our changing climate. But soils and ecosystems are much more than reservoirs for carbon – their health is directly tied to water purification, flood prevention, maintenance of biodiversity, and agricultural production. Understanding how and why plants, animals, microbes and soils respond to environmental change will therefore help us understand the consequences for human well-being, and how we might manage them.

We use experimental and observational approaches to investigate these effects of global change, both in the field and laboratory. We primarily work across forests and grasslands in the north and south of the eastern United States.

The overall goal of our research is to provide the necessary mechanistic understanding required for reliable prediction of global change impacts on ecosystems, and their likely feedbacks to the climate system.