Dr. Power's research focuses on river and watershed ecology and food webs.
Specifically, Dr. Power is studying how attributes of species influence food web dynamics and how these species interactions change under different environments.
Environmental conditions like sunlight, habitat structure, and flood scour vary down river drainage networks. How do these changes affect the distribution, performance, abundance and food web interactions of key river-dwelling or riparian organisms? How might we couple our understanding of the ecology and landscapes of watersheds to forecast responses by both to future change?
To answer these questions, Dr. Power conducts field experiments on the South Fork Eel River within the Angelo Coast Range Reserve in Mendocino County, California, one of the University of California Natural Reserve System's 35 teaching and research reserves. Here she works with engineers and earth scientists from the National Center for Earth Surface Dynamics to study watershed scale linkages of ecosystem and landscape dynamics.
Dr. Power is also working with Jill Banfield of the Earth and Planetary Science Department at Berkeley to study "extreme" food webs, focusing on the microbial interactions that generate acid mine drainage.
Dr. Power: Q&A
Why did you decide to become a scientist?
I wanted to figure out how to earn a living watching and studying animals in their natural environments.
What led you to the questions you are now investigating in your research?
Like many ecologists, I’ve been concerned about learning about ecosystems at scales large enough to inform us about how they will respond to climatic, biotic, or land use change.
The amazing mapping, sensing, and tracing tools coming to us from disciplines in the earth sciences present new opportunities to learn about ecology at scales relevant to societal concerns (like preserving natural populations, or understanding how watersheds lose or retain nutrients).
How does your research affect your classroom and/or lab?
I use discoveries from my group’s research to illustrate concepts in the ecology classes I teach, and recruit enthusiasts from the classes to be field assistants in our research projects.
What do you enjoy most about your research?
Getting to think like an alga, a bacteria, or a fish. Or trying to. Also, getting to watch students make break-throughs in their research.
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March / April 2007