My research seeks to understand the diversity of life. In order to understand diversity, we need to describe the ecological processes that determine how species interact together in communities, why certain species occur in some habitat types or geographic regions and not in others, and how diversity is generated in the first place. To answer these and related questions in ecology, my lab members and I conduct ecological field research in some of the most species-rich places on Earth, the rain forests of the Amazon and Borneo, as well as in grasslands and croplands of Nebraska.
Ecology is at an exciting transition: new molecular, modeling, and computational tools allow us to answer questions about the diversity of life that have never before been possible to answer! With collaborators, recent research in the Russo lab is harnessing these tools to address emerging ecological questions. We have used next-generation sequencing to quantify patterns in the diversity of soil bacteria in a tropical forest and to examine the mutualism between ectomycorrhizal fungi and trees. We are developing mechanistic, whole-tree physiological process models to investigate life history trade-offs in trees and sources of tree mortality, including carbon starvation. See the Russo lab website for details!