Sara’s research focuses on how mechanisms of individual tree survival scale to community-level forest change, particularly in response to climate and climate-altered disturbance regimes. At Cary Institute, Sara is collaborating with Winslow Hansen and Charlie Canham to study how these dynamics will influence future carbon storage in forests across the northeastern USA.
Sara earned her bachelor's in conservation and restoration ecology, and her PhD in ecology from Utah State University. She has conducted plant community research in acacian woodlands of Kenya, sagebrush steppe of the Rocky Mountains, and old-growth forests all across the western USA. Through an NSF-GRFP, Sara’s dissertation work synthesized data from Smithsonian Forest Global Earth Observatory (ForestGEO) monitoring sites. For this work, Sara examined these longterm field observations to identify 1) key pathways by which conventional methods underestimate the potential for forest loss with climate change, and 2) countervailing mechanisms of facilitation that might be harnessed by managers to prevent forest loss.