Ecologists are under pressure to scale up their science to deal with larger areas and longer spans of time. At the same time, ecologists and their constituency demand rigor and mechanistic understanding. The goals of large scale ecology are a natural tension point because of the inherent difficulties attendant to linking large scale patterns with underlying mechanisms. My research is focused on this interface.
Most of my work has centered on pond-breeding amphibians. These organisms are an excellent case study in the difficulties and promise confronted by ecologists today. By the late 1980's amphibians were held up as a model system in ecology. As a result of more than two decades of steady effort, some of the most rigorous, complex and informative experiments in community ecology had been completed using larval amphibians.
Nevertheless, in 1990 when reports of disappearing populations became widespread, amphibian ecologists were left entirely flatfooted. We had very little concrete to say about the situation. More than a decade later, things are only marginally better. This has happened, in large part, because like most of their colleagues, amphibian ecologists have a generally poor knowledge of the patterns and mechanisms of large scale distributions. I have been working toward filling this gap via a combination of experimentation and observation. Below, I briefly sketch five areas of research: