Ecology and restoration of biological soil crusts (biocrusts)
Although we remain open to any and all research on biocrusts, the strongest theme in the lab right now is restoration. Re-establishment of biocrust communities is an essential step of recovering lost function, especially in the drylands of the world. We have learned multiple ways to grow biocrust organisms under controlled or partially controlled conditions. Although in many of these regions crusts naturally recover slowly after disturbance, we are finding that slow growth is not "hard wired", in fact we can obtain substantial growth in only weeks to months for some of these organisms. We are currently trying to learn best practice for applying the organisms that we grow in the field, and measure their benefits toward ecosystem recovery. This expansive research program encompasses several distinct projects in the Colorado Plateau, Great Basin, Chihuahuan Desert, Mojave Desert, the Channel Islands, and the intermountain grasslands of Montana. Our funders are also diverse, including multiple Bureau of Land Management state offices, MPG Ranch, The Nature Conservancy's Canyonlands Research Center, the US Navy, Organ Pipe National Monument, the US Geological Survey, and the Department of Defense.
Growth of a cyanobacterial-moss biocrust over 4 months.