I am a community ecologist and Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Integrative Biology at Oregon State University. I am interested in quantifying patterns of biodiversity and understanding the factors that shape the distributions and functional roles of taxa across landscapes. My research investigates how habitats, climate, resources, and community structure influence the niches of mammals and birds over gradients in space and time. By studying ecological and evolutionary patterns of diverse groups of animals across multiple spatiotemporal scales, my research aims to illuminate fundamental processes that regulate biodiversity to answer today's conservation and management challenges.
A large part of my dissertation work is based on comprehensive, multi-year benchmarking resurveys of the birds and mammals of Steens Mountain and the Alvord Desert system in the Northern Great Basin. Using modern field surveys and museum collections, I investigate temporal community dynamics of small mammals across elevational gradients in response to a century of landcover and climate change. Additionally, I use empirical field data to investigate the relationships between ecological niches, functional diversity, and habitat across communities of disparate taxa (small-bodied land birds, rodents, and shrews).
Isotopic dietary niche dynamics of sympatric rodent populations along the Steens Mountain elevation gradient.
(Laney et al. in preparation)
Deermouse (Peromyscus maniculatus), Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia), and Dark Kangaroo Mouse (Microdipodops megacephalus) during field surveys from the Steens Mountain Resurvey Project. Deermouse photo credit: Alyssa Semerdjian
A field-prepared study skin of Callospermophilus lateralis
during surveys on Steens Mountain.
Field assistants laying Sherman live traps during small mammal surveys in the Alvord Desert Basin.
My research also focusses on understanding the drivers of patterns of biodiversity and the resiliency of communities at the macro-ecological scale. Specifically, I am using BirdLife International species distribution data, multivariate modeling techniques, and geospatial datasets, to understand the degree of spatial dimensionality (co-variation among multiple biodiversity dimensions: taxonomic, functional, and phylogenetic diversity) in passerine bird species in North American Bird Conservation Areas across the continent. This research has an emphasis on the potential role of topographic complexity and landscape features as correlates and/or drivers of functional, phylogenetic, and taxonomic diversity as species occupancy changes in avifaunal communities throughout the annual cycle of songbirds in North America.
(Laney et al. in preparation)
While most of my research is currently focused on biogeography and community ecology of mammals and birds, I consider myself a question driven researcher. My extended interests in biodiversity have thus led me down other investigatory paths, including work in fields such as paleobiology and taphonomy. I co-authored a study using scanning electron microscopy and microscopic digestive wear on the bones of small mammal prey to identify their avian and mammalian predators (Terry et al. 2018). I also am interested in the intersection of community derived ecological data and the motivations of wildlife enthusiasts and naturalists who contribute such data. I authored a study that examined the behavior of American birdwatchers when rare birds are reported using records from the eBird database and geospatial datasets (Laney et al. 2021).
Hypothesized behavioral dynamics of birders
when rare species are discovered (Laney et al. 2021)
Quantifying of microscopic digestive etching on bones of small mammal prey using scanning electron microscopy
(Terry, Laney, et al. 2018).
Northern Grasshopper Mouse (Onychomys leucogaster) and Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia) in the Pueblo Basin of SE Oregon's high desert.