Accessible Navigation. Go to: Navigation Main Content Footer

Maron Lab

mountains

People

John Maron
Professor and Principle Investigator

Division of Biological Sciences

Phone: (406) 243-6202

Email: John.maron@umontana.edu

 


Lauren Waller
Ph.D. student

Division of Biological Sciences

Email: lauren.waller@mso.umt.edu

Understanding the interactions between plants and soil biota is central to plant ecology. My work is focused on investigating interactions at the root-soil interface and how they affect broader scale community-level processes in temperate grasslands.  I am specifically interested in the dynamic symbiosis between herbaceous plants and arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi.  AM fungi are soil-dwelling organisms that associate with the roots of approximately 90% of all plant families on earth and deliver important nutritional and protective benefits to plants.  I combine molecular and field research to understand how interactions between plants and AM fungi are influenced by 1) plant traits, 2) biogeographic differences between native and invasive plant genotypes and 3) natural and man-made resource gradients and subsequently, how these interactions scale up to influence plant and fungal community composition.


Katie Baer
Ph.D. student

Division of Biological Sciences

Email: kathryn.mohrmann@umconnect.umt.edu

I started as a PhD student in the fall of 2011.  My own work is situated at the confluence of several disciplines, including pollination biology, plant-herbivore interactions, and population and community ecology.  Specifically, I’m interested in understanding the relative roles of biotic and abiotic environmental conditions in determining patterns of plant presence at the geographical scale.  It is generally assumed that distributional ranges (both local and geographic) are driven primarily by abiotic conditions, but research suggests that these factors may act indirectly.  This raises the question, “What is the role of biotic interactions for determining where a species is found and where it is not?”  The implications for the answer are huge: in order to effectively model changes in distributions resulting from changing climate, an understanding of the interacting roles of abiotic and biotic factors is crucial.  In an applied sense, the answer to this question will help managers to better understand the conditions that make a habitat ideal for an organism, and use this information in their attempts to establish effective preserves for threatened and endangered species.

My dissertation research focusses on the interaction of both positive and negative biotic factors and abiotic factors in determining the northern distributional limit of the Utah milkvetch (Astragalus utahensis).  This species occurs from southern Utah to southeastern Idaho, with the center of its distribution in northern Utah.  Using several field sites in northern Utah and southeastern Idaho, I am attempting to understand how herbivore pressure, pollen limitation, and interactions with soil pathogens and mutualists change from the center to the edge of the distributional range of this species, and whether this change in their roles is tied to decreasing water availability from the center to the northern edge of the range.  This work involves the use of a variety of methods, from demographic analyses using matrix models and greenhouse studies of growth rate to reciprocal transplants both within and outside the distributional range.  The outcome of this research will provide one of the first tests of the role of biotic interactions in determining geographic-scale distribution.


Loralee Larios
Post-doctoral associate

I am a community ecologist who is broadly interested in understanding the mechanisms that contribute to plant community composition and species coexistence. My interest in these dynamics is driven by how we can use this information to inform successful management and restoration practices. My dissertation research explored several processes, specifically competition for multiple resources, plant-soil feedbacks and disturbance, governing the invasion of exotics, the invasion resistance of native grasslands and the coexistence between native and exotic species within California grasslands. For my post-doctoral work I will be investigating how generalist herbivores (specifically herbivorous voles and granivorous mice) influence recruitment and ultimately the composition of species and traits within local plant communities. My approach consists of a combination of manipulative field and greenhouse experiments and observational data.


Graphics, Design, and Layout by Spectral Fusion Designs, 2013.