I am a community ecologist interested in quantifying patterns of biodiversity and understanding the factors that shape the distributions and functional roles of taxa across landscapes. I investigate how habitats, climate, resources, and community structure influence the niches of mammals and birds over gradients in space and time. My research aims to illuminate fundamental processes that regulate biodiversity to answer today's conservation and management challenges by studying ecological and evolutionary patterns of diverse groups of animals across multiple spatiotemporal scales. I use and contribute to natural history museum collections to conduct my research and to catalog biodiversity in our rapidly changing world. I am dedicated to teaching and mentoring the next generation of science professionals, and I actively lead projects to create and maintain safety for at-risk individuals in field research and other natural resource settings.
BENCHMARKING MAMMALIAN BIODIVERSITY IN DESERT MOUNTAINS
Mountain ranges provide excellent scaffolds upon which to investigate patterns of biodiversity. Over the course of my Ph.D., I designed and completed a comprehensive biological resurvey of small mammal and bird communities along a desert-montane gradient in the northern Great Basin—Steens Mountain and the Alvord Desert in southeast Oregon. Using modern field surveys and museum collections, I investigated temporal community dynamics across elevation over the last century. Additionally, I used 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
Callospermophilus lateralis study skin prepared during the Steens Resurvey Project.
Field assistants laying Sherman live traps during small mammal surveys in the Alvord Desert Basin.
Dipodomys. spp. voucher
specimens from historical
surveys in the Alvord Desert.
THE ROLE OF MOUNTAINS IN MULTIDIMENSIONAL AVIAN BIODIVERSITY
Species richness is not a one-for-one substitute for other diversity axes, and understanding how evolutionary relationships (i.e., phylogenetic diversity) and aggregate ecological properties (i.e., functional diversity) of communities vary across landscapes increases our knowledge of the origin and maintenance of biogeographic patterns. My research focusses on understanding the drivers of patterns of biodiversity and the resiliency of communities at the macro-ecological scale. I mapped multiple dimensions of songbird biodiversity across North America using species ranges, evolutionary relationships, and ecological traits in communities of all naturally occurring passerines across N.A. Bird Conservation Regions. 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 across the continent.
(Laney et al. in preparation)
MY OTHER RESEARCH AREAS
While most of my research is currently focused on biogeography and community ecology, my interests in biodiversity have 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 am also interested interested in the intersection of community derived ecological data and the motivations of wildlife enthusiasts and naturalists who contribute such data. I co-authored a study that examined the behavior of 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, and Hay-Roe 2018).
Northern Grasshopper Mouse (Onychomys leucogaster) and Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia) in the Pueblo Basin of SE Oregon's high desert.