Joshua Atwood is a Ph.D. candidate in the Meyerson laboratory. His research examines rapid evolution in nonnative plant populations. His dissertation research will provide the first test for the Evolution of Reduced Competitive Ability (ERCA) hypothesis using three species of nonnative plant species that are widespread invaders in New England.
The video below is an introduction to Joshua's dissertation research and describes the common garden method employed by ecologists to infer evolved differences between populations. Future episodes will highlight other studies in Joshua's dissertation, including field work and genetic analyses.
I study plant invasions and their consequences for native species. My goals are to reduce the negative effects of invasive pests and to prevent future invasions. I experiment on the invasive reed grass, Phragmites australis, as a way to better understand all invasions. In North America, Phragmites has successfully infiltrated wetland ecosystems from Canada to the Gulf Coast.
"Phragma" is Greek for fence, and when Phragmites spreads, it blocks out native species and decreases local biodiversity. It is so successful because it can reproduce both clonally and by seed. This strategy allows Phragmites to rapidly capture new areas and dominate the use of available resources.
I am also interested in national and international policy and as a AAAS Fellow worked with the U.S. EPA, the Global Invasive Species Programme, and the Convention on Biological Diversity. At URI, I use my research to help solve the riddles of why some introduced species become aggressive invaders. I aim to reach out beyond the scientific community to citizens and to policy makers to help make positive environmental change.