Environmental botany for a changing world

I am an environmental biologist and science educator at New College of Florida. My interests lie in the botany of climate change. To learn what I mean, please visit my research links where I describe the kinds of questions that I have addressed in forests and using evolutionary biology.


Forest carbon resilience

Forests are the most biodiverse habitat on earth. They also drive the terrestrial carbon cycle. My research examines how tree traits and interactions influence forest carbon cylcing in changing habitats. I focus on wood decay using multilevel models of inventories and experiments.


Botanical conservation

Predicting how life will respond to climate change today requires understanding how life changed with climate in the past. Biological change ultimately reflects evolution. My research in evolutionary biology examines how key plant traits change with climate.


Teaching and Mentoring

In teaching science, I aim beyond simply stating facts: I aim to teach the process of discovering and communicating information about the living world. My approach centers on inquiry-based learning, with activities that challenge students to think critically, propose hypotheses and evaluate data together. By modelling the scientific process at its most creative and collaborative, inquiry effectively relates concepts and skills in a format that can scale up from small labs to large lectures. All of my classes, regardless of level, use inquiry in combination with other techniques such as classroom response systems, wikis, peer instruction and service learning.

An Inquiry-centered classroom paves the way to impactful student research.  I have mentored dozens of undergraduate projects that have produced great outcomes, including award winning posters, co-authored publications and $20k+ in both intra- and extramural funding. Students in my lab have gone on to top medical schools, graduate programs, national fellowships and rewarding careers in public service and industry. 


This course examines the biological dimensions of the complex interdependence between plants and people. Students learn key concepts in basic plant biology and the roles for natural and artificial selection in human-plant coevolution.

Course highlight: Students complete a plant use journal and make a quantitative comparison to people from another culture.

This course introduces the foundations of biology by considering a tangled bank of interacting species, as Charles Darwin did in the conclusion of the Origin of Species. Students demonstrate proficiency with concepts and skills necessary to evaluate biological claims including hypothesis construction and data interpretation.

Course highlight: Fall 2019 students are piloting new activities developed during an NSF-sponsored educator workshop for Avida-ED, an evolution simulation software program. 

This course examines the diversity, structure and function of organisms with cell walls including bacteria, fungi, protists, algae, and especially plants.  Students interpret results from the primary scientific literature, recognize major groups of organisms studied by botanists and understand how variation in plant structure influences performance in both natural and managed settings.

Course highlight: Successful students routinely move on to internships at Marie Selby Botanical Garden, including projects awarded the Calusa Prize.

In this class, we examine how variation in the structure and function of forests relates to the biology of their defining organisms: trees. Students master important topics in dendrology, forest community and ecosystem ecology by demonstrating proficiency with tree measurement and identification, forest inventory and analysis as well as ecosystem modelling.

Course highlight: Fall 2018 Students contributed to a Citizen Science / Service Learning Project focused on carbon cycling in restored coastal habitats that was presented at the 2018 Restore America's Estuaries National Meeting.

This advanced course examines the structure and function of biological diversity at the interface between nature and culture in cities. Students relate major topics to the peer reviewed literature and local environmental issues through discussions, field trips and service learning.

Course highlight: Fall 2017 students conducted an assessment of mangrove dieback in a local peserve and identified freshwater impoundment associated with an adjacent development as a contributing factor.  Their results influence management actions.

This course examines the history, theory and applications of evolutionary biology.  Students applying evolutionary analysis to contemporary issues in human health and the environment.

Course highlight: Students conduct a critical analysis of the Origin of Species to identify both scientific impact and cultural relevance of Darwin's magnum opus.

This course is intended for students planning to complete an Area of Concentration in Biology. Students learn disciplinary standards for evidence and writing conventions by developing a proposal for an original research project.

Course highlight: This course was developed with insights from an NSF-sponsored 2017 workshop on undergraduate research education.

I welcome students proposals for tutorials in my area of expertise.  Examples that I have sponsored include Plant Taxonomy, Mangrove Ecology, Soil Techniques Laboratory and Composting.

Course highlight: Students in the 2018 Plant Taxonomy tuotrial contributed to a new county record and range extension for a species of Orchid.

I have sponsored a plethora of January-term Independent Study Projects. Students may work on internships off campus, in small group projects under my supervision or independent study projects that I guide during weekly meetings.

Course highlight: ISP students working at Selby Gardens have learned Botanical Illustration and contributed figures to descriptions of new speceis.

Community and Collaboration

Translating good science into sound policy requires strong partnerships. I work with talented people and great organizations to promote scientific resource management internationally, on campus and in my community. I am honored to have affiliations with two internationally recognized Botanical Gardens - Marie Selby Botanical Garden and the Missouri Botanical Garden - and am active in both the Botanical Society of America and the Ecological Society of America.  On campus, I advocate for natural resources through by coordinating our participation in the Arbor Day Foundation's TreeCampus USA program.  In the broader community, I work with professionals and public servants to inform the Board of Commissioners as a member of the Sarasota Tree Advisory Council.  For more information, follow the links below.

Research Scholar

Research Scholar Associate Editor of Selbyana

Campus Tree Council Chair

Sarasota Tree Advisory Council Vice-Chair