Dr. Jeff Corbin’s work aims to unlock the drivers and resistance to invasions. NYISRI is pleased to feature his work in this month’s researcher spotlight:
What kinds of research questions related to invasive species are you currently asking?
My focus lately has been on the biogeography of invasive species. What conditions make ecosystems susceptible to invasions? What kinds of community characteristics are associated with resistance to invasion? By studying broad patterns across the landscape that apply to multiple conditions, we can better inform policy and management.
What are the basic methods you are using to answer your research questions?
Answering these questions often relies on data collected by others, such as the National Parks Service or the US Forest Service. There is a wealth of ecological data out there that can be applied to answer questions far beyond the original intentions. For example, plot-level plant surveys, collected across hundreds or thousands of sites, can be combined with environmental, economic, or even phylogenetic data to unlock the drivers of species invasions.
Do you have a personal story or path that led to your interest in this research?
I grew up hiking in Northern California’s grasslands, unaware that most of the plants I was looking at didn’t belong there. But I still love those landscapes, and it gives me a perspective about the value of even highly invaded landscapes. We can fight to head off future invasions, and protect native biodiversity wherever we can, but we shouldn’t write off any open space as worthless. Whatever the plants and animals there, it beats a subdivision!
How does your research relate to the wider field of invasive species prevention/management?
I am always working to ask questions that have meaning for policy and management. What are best practices for control? What policies can best prevent future invasions? Lately, my work has highlighted the role of tourism as a vector for species invasions – which offers a new priority for policy-makers. Another recent finding was that habitats with a diverse native flora are better-able to resist invasions. So, preserving biodiversity can act as a “virtuous circle” by preventing invasions.
What’s the most important thing about your research for stakeholders, managers, or policy makers to know?
Well, they don’t need me to tell them, but preventing invasions in the first place is the best control method. Containment and eradication are tough work.
What do you hope the long-term impact of your work will be?
My favorite image of science is Hope Jahren’s description, in her great book Lab Girl – that we scientists stand on rocks thrown into a rushing river by scientists of the past. Our purpose is to “stand on the rock [thrown by others], bend and claw another rock from the bottom, and then cast it down a bit further and hope it would be a useful next step for some other person…” Species invasions are a reality that will get only more challenging as the climate changes. I hope that what we study now will be useful for developing even better strategies.
Read more researcher spotlights:
This month, we interviewed Dr. Cliff Kraft and Dr. Pete McIntyre of the Adirondack Fishery Research Program who study invasive smallmouth bass in the Adirondacks
This month, we interviewed David Lodge, one of the world's leading invasive species experts with a long history of collaborations to advance science into the public policy arena.
This month, we interviewed Dr. Jacquelyn Gill, a paleoecologist whose research from the past 20,000 years can help us road map into the future of plant management in a changing climate.
This month, we interviewed Dr. Julie Lockwood, an ecologist and professor at Rutgers who investigates how invasive species impact natural ecosystems through interdisciplinary research
This month, we interviewed Jennifer Andreas, who has worked in biological control for the last 25 years, and provides integrated weed management strategies and education to land managers in Washington State.
This month, we interviewed Dr. Andrew liebhold, a research entomologist with the U.S. Forest Service's Northern Research Station with over three decades of experience studying invasion ecology of major forest invasives.
We are deeply saddened by the passing of Dr. Gary Lovett, a key advisor, collaborator, and friend. His legacy will live on through his highly impactful efforts to connect science to decision makers.
This month, we interviewed Dr. Angela Fuller, whose work spans a variety of wildlife and conservation issues across the globe and helps guide natural resource management.
This month, we interviewed Dr. Steve Grodsky at Cornell University who specializes in the emerging field of energy ecology — the study of interactions among energy development, ecosystems, and people.
This month, we interviewed Dr. Annette Evans, a postdoctoral researcher at UMass Amherst/Northeast Climate Adaptation Science Center, whose work combines invasion ecology and climate change to inform land management by modeling abundance and distributions of invasive plants.
This month, we interviewed Dr. Andrew Newhouse, Assistant Director of the American Chestnut Research & Restoration Project for an update on the latest research and outlook on chestnut blight.
NYISRI interviews Dr. Scott McArt who leads research on the ecology of plant-pollinator interactions in natural and managed systems, and helps advance our knowledge of pesticide risks to pollinators.