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.

Evan repairs a tower-based camera that serves as part of the Remote Electronic Lightning Monitoring System in central Panama. Photo credit: Jeff Burchfield