Dr. Heather D. Alexander
RESEARCH INTERESTS: Disturbance ecology, plant ecology, ecosystem ecology, plant successional dynamics, fire, climate change, flooding, vegetation shifts, carbon cycling, nitrogen cycling, plant-soil-microbial feedbacks
CURRENT RESEARCH: I am interested in understanding how human-driven changes to natural disturbance regimes restructure vegetation communities, and in turn, modify ecosystem-level processes. My research is largely empirical, using manipulative field-based experimental studies and observations across natural gradients. My work to date has focused on three questions:
- How do climate-driven changes to the natural fire regime influence successional dynamics and carbon (C) pools within boreal forests?
- How has fire suppression altered the regeneration capacity of eastern deciduous forests and ecosystem processes such as forest hydrology, nutrient cycling, and decomposition?
- What are the ecological implications of shrub encroachment into coastal prairies, and how resilient are native prairie grasslands following shrub removal?
- What are the major ecological stressors on Tamaulipan thornscrub seedlings, and how can alleviation of the stressors influence restoration of these forests?
- How have river diversions and damming changed soil properties and vegetation dynamics in downstream coastal salt marshes?
- How do disturbances to seagrass and mangrove habitats influence C cycling and ecological resilience?
My goal is to provide the data necessary for predicting ecosystem response to an ever-changing environment and for guiding restoration and conservation activities aimed at sustaining vital environmental resources.