Brian Beckage, Ph.D.
University of Vermont, Professor, 2014-Present
I am an ecologist broadly interested in population and community dynamics including tree demography, maintenance of species richness, and the ecological effects of climate change. I emphasize the use of quantitative approaches to investigate the mechanisms structuring ecological systems, including statistical models, analytical models, and computer simulation models. There are four areas of research that I am currently most interested in:
(1) Disturbance and Savanna Dynamics. Disturbance frequency can exert a strong influence on patterns of diversity in forests and interactions between disturbances can have strong effects on community dynamics. I am currently studying the potential for fire and hurricane disturbance to mediate the transition between forests, savannas, and open grassland systems using both empirical field studies and models. We have developed a cellular automaton model of pine savanna dynamics, an agent-based savanna model, and are expanding this model into a fully spatial, individual-based model that will also incorporate our data from field sites in southeastern pinelands.
(2) Climate Change and Ecological Communities.
Forest responses to climate change. We have a variety of research projects studying the effects of climate change on forest demography, including the processes and constraints that operate at species' range limits, the influence of recent climate change on species distributions, and projecting future forest distributions under likely climate change scenarios. These projects are currently focused on species and forests across New England.
Everglades landscape dynamics. We are using a landscape model of the Everglades ecosystem to project the potential responses of Everglades plant communities to climate change, including shifts in hydrology, and disturbances such as fire. This work is being done with collaborators Drs. Louis Gross and Scott Duke-Sylvester.
(3) Tree Diversity. Identifying the mechanisms that maintain species diversity in forest stands is a central question in plant ecology. My past research in the southern Appalachians has examined the importance of several hypothesized mechanisms to maintaining species diversity. I have found little evidence supporting the role of regeneration niches, differential predation, or spatial heterogeneity in recruitment processes in contributing to species diversity within forest stands. I am interested in both empirical and theoretical studies of the role of neutral processes in forests.
(4) Complexity, NKS, and Ecology. Ecological communities are complex, nonlinear systems that often display emergent properties. I am interested in the potential for simple models such as cellular automata to capture complex behaviors and properties using simple rules.
Updated 1 May 2015