Plant Community Ecology

Research in my lab focuses on understanding the factors that influence the patterns of biodiversity. We examine the role of habitat heterogeneity in influencing plant distributions and species coexistence. We also examine how plant communities are impacted by disturbances, such as climate change and deforestation.

Research in my lab is mostly field-based in both temperate and tropical forests but we also conduct controlled lab-based ecophysiological studies to test hypotheses of patterns we see in the field. We rely heavily on observation-based hypothesis development and rigorous quantitative analyses to address our research questions.

Follow me on Research Gate

Find me on Google Scholar

Read about my research in the temperate rainforest

Read about my collaborative research in the tropical canopy (Discover Magazine)

Listen to a podcast about me and my research here

Read about our colleague's research in Ethiopian church forests here (National Geographic).

Follow the Woods lab on Instagram #woodsupslab
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Murdock College Science Research Conference

November 2020

Congrats to Rei Ishii for being nominated by the Biology Department to present his thesis research on network analyses of slime molds at the Murdock conference this year.


Ethiopia papers published

October 2020

Our latest papers on Ethiopian Church Forests came out this year. They show that human disturbance influences physical and chemical soil properties, and similarity in species composition across dispersal syndromes more than distance between forests. Robyn Thomas, a recent UPS graduate, is a co-author on the paper.


The Woods lab was well attended at ESA

August 2020

We had several attendees at ESA this summer. Current undergraduate student Sean Grealish presented his reseasrch on temperate forest nurse logs, current post-doc Michelle Spicer presented some of her epiphyte work from Panama, recent graduate Kaela Hamilton presented her thesis research on epiphyte distributions, and I presented my own nurse log research. 


Field Season 2020

June - August 2020

While it was definitely a challenging field season this year with covid-19, we managed to spend several weeks out in the Olympic rainforest without incident thanks to our team social distancing, wearing masks, and sanitizing everything! Nisa and Sean collected a lot of data for their projects, Michelle and Ellen (our field assistant) set up the epiphyte experiment, I collected my seedling data, and Rei worked away in the lab for his research.

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Post-doc Michelle Spicer joins the Woods lab!

February 2020

NSF-funded post-doc Michelle will lead a project examining the assembly and development of epiphyte communities in Panama and in the Pacific Northwest using an experimental approach. Michelle joined the lab in February and has become an integral member of the lab and an excellent mentor to students. Learn more about her here: Welcome Michelle!

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Murdock College Science Research Conference

November 2019

Kaela presented her thesis research on the drivers of epiphyte distributions in northern temperate rainforests and won the best poster award. Go Kaela!

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Temperate rainforest epiphyte paper published

October 2019

The first paper from the Woods lab on temperate rainforest epiphytes has been published with two undergraduate students McKinley Nevins and Emma Didier. This paper examined the broad-scale distribution patterns of non-vascular epiphytes in bigleaf maple trees.


Field Season 2019

June-July 2019

We had a successful field season this summer. Kaela continued her fine-scale epiphyte surveys, Sean joined the lab to age nurse logs using dendrochronology, and I resurveyed my seedling plots. 


Ethiopia paper published

March 2019

Our most recent paper on Ethiopian Church Forests has been published. This paper highlights the dilemma faced by these forests: the forests are threatened by human use but humans have protected them for thousands of years and depend on them. See the media article here for more.

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Murdock College Science Research Conference

November 2018

Anna Marchand and Kaela Hamilton represented the Woods lab at the Murdock conference this year. Anna presented her nurse log research and Kaela presented her epiphyte research.


The Woods lab at ESA

August 2018

Kimmy Ortmann represented the Woods lab at ESA this year in New Orleans. Kimmy presented her thesis research on forest floor rugosity and species diversity and I presented my epiphyte work from the Olympic rainforest. It was great to reconnect with old friends and colleagues and build some collaborations.


Field Season 2018

June-July 2018

We had a successful field season this year. Anna worked on nurse logs and Kaela joined our epiphyte research. Our summer research was highlighted by the University of Puget Sound. You can read the article on "moss goggles" here.


Murdock College Science Research Conference

November 2017

McKinley Nevins presented her research on epiphyte distributions and Eric Hartel presented his research on fern distributions this year. Great job at representing the Woods lab this year.


The Woods lab was well attended at ESA

August 2017

Kimmy Ortmann presented her density-dependence research and Katy Maleta presented her research on the influence of nurse log bryophyte communities on tree seedlings. Robyn Thomas and Mairan Smith also came from UPS. I presented my epiphyte succession model. We had a blast!


Field season 2017

June - July 2017

We had a successful field season! McKinley Nevins, Kimmy Ortmann, and Micaela Seaver all did cool projects with epiphytes, and Eric Hartel did research on understory ferns. 


Two paper published

January 2017

Two papers just came out. One is on the use of stone walls as a conservation tool in Ethiopian's Church Forests and the other is a model of primary succession in epiphytes. See the Publications tab.

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Murdock College Science Research Conference

November 2016

Emma Didier presented her research on epiphytes and Kimmy and Katy presented their research on nurse logs. Thanks for representing the lab so well!


Field Season 2016

June-July 2016

We just completed four projects in three weeks in the Olympic rainforest! My students (Kimmy Ortmann, Katy Maleta, Jeremy Wood, and Emma Didier) did great collaborative and independent work!

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Ethiopia Research Trip

May 2016

We completed our first field season on our NSF-funded research on the management of Ethiopian Church Forests. We were joined by Robyn Thomas (UPS student), Kate Bazany and Max Israelit (Colgate students), and Kelsey Jensen (Cornell grad student). 


Murdock grant

March 2016

Thanks for the Murdock Charitable Trust for the research grant to study epiphytes in northern temperate rainforests on the Olympic peninsula! This grant will provide research funds for me and two undergraduate students for the next two years.

University of Puget Sound (

1500 N Warner St., Tacoma, WA 98416

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