Tropical forests are diverse ecosystems that offer opportunities to expand ecology in new and exciting directions. As a quantitative forest ecologist, I am interested in how community assembly and abiotic processes shape ecosystem function in tropical systems. Specifically, my research focuses on tree communities, microbial decomposers, and nutrient cycling. I use lightning as a model phenomenon for understanding tree community assembly and the ramifications of disturbance in tropical forests. After trees die, they decompose with major implications for carbon cycling. I explore how environmental conditions, biogeochemistry, and microbial community assembly influence decomposition. Most of this research takes place on Barro Colorado Island in central Panama where I have worked as a research fellow with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute over the past few years. Please explore this website or flip through the photo gallery if you want a deeper look at my current research program and my passion for education.