We've just heard from NSF that our proposal to study the wetlands of Big Cypress National Preserve will be funded! The Big Cypress landscape is a mosaic of isolated wetlands, grasslands, and pine forests. The core observation that motivates our proposal is that the Cypress wetlands appear to be regularly spaced. This sort of regular pattern occurs in dryland vegetation, in peatlands (including the nearby Everglades) and elsewhere, and is thought to arise from feedbacks that are spatially-dependent. Basically, organisms improve the environment in their immediate vicinity, but that has the effect of making more distant locations unsuitable. In Big Cypress, we think that cypress trees essentially capture water from the surrounding landscape by dissolving the limestone bedrock and creating wetland depressions. Pretty smart! Testing this core hypothesis, and all of its pieces, requires an interdisciplinary team. My colleagues at UF, who are going to do most of the field work, include ecohydrologists, soil scientists, and organic and inorganic geochemists. Brad Murray and I are in charge of developing a model of this landscape. It's gonna be fun.
Nancy Grimm visits the lab
The Bernhardt and Heffernan labs were fortunate to have our friend and mentor Nancy Grimm as our guest this past week. Nancy is a world-renowned expert in biogeochemistry, stream and riparian ecology, and urban ecosystems. She is currently on leave from Arizona State Unviersity, where she was a collaborator and unofficial committee member, while she serves as program director for the National Science Foundation's Ecosystem Science Program.
Nancy's first talk addressed her work in desert streams and their past and future response to climate variability. Some of her lab's current work builds on my dissertation research on desert wetlands, which was very exciting to see!
Nancy's second talk focused on funding opportunities at NSF, covering programs as small as supplemental support for high school students to programs as large as the new foundation-wide sustainability initiatives. There are lots of new programs at NSF as well as changes to how proposals and panels are working, so this was really helpful and interesting.
We also got a chance to take Nancy out to the Eno River, which runs through north Durham and eventually in to Falls Lake. The land surrounding the Eno is largely undeveloped, thanks to the Eno River Land Trust, and the Eno River State Park is just beautiful. We spent lots of time talking about floods, vegetation, and nitrogen in rivers; turning over rocks to see mayfly, stonefly and caddisfly larvae; and spooking turtles sunning on boulders and logs. Good times.
This is the homepage of the Heffernan Lab at Duke University. Here you can find all sorts of information about our research, teaching, and outreach. If you have any questions, contact Dr. Heffernan.
Dr. Jim Heffernan
I am an Assistant Professor in the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University. My research is focused on the causes and consequences of major changes in ecosystem structure, mostly in streams and wetlands.
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