Ervin Lab research interests

Aquatic Botany and Wetland Plant Ecology

I have maintained an interest in wetland ecology since my earliest research as an undergrad.  In this area, my students, colleagues, and I have investigated basic and applied wetland ecology from numerous perspectives, focusing on many taxonomic groups, and at multiple spatial and temporal scales.  My own primary focus has been on the ecology of vascular wetland plants, but thanks to a breadth of early training, I have been able to collaborate effectively on a diversity of projects.  Recent graduate student projects include work on the biology and ecology of an invasive aquatic plant in the Midwest, Butomus umbellatus (flowering "rush"), and studies of restored wetlands of the Mississippi Alluvial Valley (the "Delta").

 

Invasive Plant Ecology

My lab has been funded through grants from the US Department of Agriculture and US Geological Survey, as part of an Invasive Species Research Group at MSU. Those efforts resulted, in part, in the development of two web-based database and extension/outreach programs: the Cactus Moth Detection and Monitoring Network (CMDMN) and the Invasive Plant Atlas of the Mid-South (IPAMS). IPAMS is aimed at evaluating relationships of invasive plant distribution and spread with land use, and then using that information to educate agriculture stakeholders, natural resources managers, and other interested parties about potential human-induced opportunities for invasive species spread, as well as on approaches for managing invasive plants.

IPAMS research activities have resulted in development of a database on plant distribution throughout Mississippi and adjacent states, and a portion of those research records have been made available publicly by deposition of voucher plant specimens in regional herbaria, sharing of distributional data directly with other interested scientists, and through scientific publications and presentations at regional and national conferences. Other data collected as part of surveys associated with IPAMS are the focus of ongoing research by me and students in my lab.  See my publications page for examples of some of this work.


General Plant Ecology Interests

My interests in plant ecology are not limited to wetlands, nor to invasive species.  I have general interests in plant ecology – I like to think of my lab as looking for answers to the question “Why does that plant live there?”  However, some of my students have had interests even beyond that.  For example, Jason Bried was heavily interested in Odonates ("Why does that dragonfly live there?"), but we managed to come at those questions in such a way that they contributed to plant ecology, as well.  I have collaborated recently with many people on studies of the introduced South American cactus moth (an herbivore of native North American prickly pear cacti), and one of my Master’s degree graduates developed his thesis around regional distribution of Blackland Prairie remnants.