Research in my laboratory is focused on the physiological ecology of plants, including such topics as water relations and gas exchange patterns, air pollution, understory herbs and the ecology of invasive plants. In recent years we have had a large research effort geared towards understanding the impacts of tropospheric ozone on plants native to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We have identified nearly 100 species in the Park that show foliar symptoms in the field consistent with ozone exposure, which is around 6% of the Park flora. Using exposure chambers, we have found a variety of species that are sensitive to elevated ozone (early successional species in particular). In conjunction with the USDA, we are investigating gene regulation in response to ozone exposure in tolerant and sensitve genotypes of soybean. We have also studied bioenergy crops for the mountains of NC (Miscanthus x giganteus), and we are now investigating warming effects on Christmas trees (Fraser firs) and grapevines, by using elevation as a surrogate for warming. Lastly, we have begun a study of an evergreen understory plant (Sedum ternatum) which has unusually thick leaves and extreme drought tolerance. We are trying to understand the relationship between leaf structure and function in this plant.
Wachovia Award for Achievement in Environmental Research at Appalachian State University, Faculty Research Award from Assoc. SE Biologists, Donald W. Sink Outstanding Scholar Award from College of Arts & Sciences, ASU