- Development of regional landscape ecosystem classifications based on abiotic factors to aid in the inventory, study, and management of biota.
- The use of landscape approaches to understand natural processes and disturbance regimes, as well as land-management, restoration, and resource utilization.
- Research on biomechanical and ecological limitations of wetland plants.
- Horticultural propagation of wetland plants for restoration of native wetlands.
- 2016-2018 Botanical survey of playa lakes on Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge (OR) and Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge (NV). Surveys focus on the unique flora of fluctuating lakes within the Basin-and-Range province, with funding from Hart-Sheldon Conservation Fund.
- 2016-2018 Invasive Hydrocharis morsus-ranae (European frogbit) management. A collaborative study with Loyola University Chicago, funded by Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
- 2014-2017 Collaboration between native plant growers and Oregon Flora Project. A collaborative project with Linda Hardison of Botany and Plant Pathology’s Oregon Flora Project, funded by an Oregon Department of Agriculture Block Grant.
- 2010-2018 Restoring invaded wetlands to promote biodiversity and energy: Cattails to methane, a USEPA-funded project in collaboration with Loyola University Chicago.
- 2010-2018 Implementing Great Lakes Coastal Monitoring, a USEPA-funded project in collaboration with 9 other Canadian and US universities from the Great Lakes region.
My research focus began with the development of a state-wide ecoregional classification for Michigan, and then expanded to multi-state collaboration with state and federal agencies in MN and WI to develop a three-state regional map and classification. More localized Landtype-Association mapping was also conducted with federal and state agencies in MN and WI.
As part of the ecoregional mapping of Michigan, I investigated the original land survey notes of the state and my staff and I created a set of digital and paper maps of Michigan's original vegetation (1816-1856), which provide the basis for conducting broad-scale land-use and vegetation change analyses. These maps were republished as a Michigan road atlas to provide broader availability to the public.
As lead ecologist for the Michigan Heritage program, I developed state-wide plant community classifications and conducted state-wide inventories of the state's plant communities, including savannas, wet prairies, old-growth forests, dunes, Great Lakes bedrock shorelines, and Great Lakes wetlands. The information from these studies were used for conservation, restoration, and acquisition purposes, and a focal interest was to convert these studies into books and pamplets aimed at Michigan's general public.
Another area of focus of my research was coastal Great Lakes wetlands, which we began studying in Michigan and eventually continued throughout the US Great Lakes, and then expanded in collaboration with Environment Canada. These studies have led to the development of a widely used hydrogeomorphic classification, digital mapping of all Great Lakes wetland, creation of plant and animal metrics for evaluating wetland quality, and ongoing baseline wetland monitoring. A related ongoing research interest is regional wetland study, including involvement in restoration efforts in MI and OR.
A recent focus of my research has been exploring alternative uses of invasive wetland plants, especially along the Great Lakes shorelines. These studies have led to experimental harvest of hybrid cattail, documenting the response of native plants to the harvest. These studies have expanded to include sites along the St. Marys River, northern Lake Huron, and Saginaw Bay, involving diverse partners, including US Fish and Wildlife Refuges, Cheboygan City government, the Michgan Department of Natural Resources, and biologists from the Sault Ste. Marie tribe.
Research has also involved collaborations with the Oregon Flora Project, including participation in creating APPS for learning to identify Oregon plants, writing the Ecological Overview for the new (2015) Oregon Flora, and investigating the creation of better markets for Oregon native plant growers by providing educational materials for professional landscapers, retailer nurseries, and home gardeners.