What we do

The Dukes Lab studies how people are affecting Earth. Researchers in the lab study how ecosystems respond to environmental disruptions such as climate change and invasive species, and also conduct more basic research to better characterize how species and ecosystems work. Researchers most frequently study plants and microbes, and use experiments and models to ask questions across a wide variety of subdisciplines, including ecophysiology; community, ecosystem, and global ecology; and biogeochemistry. Ultimately, the laboratory seeks to help people better understand how particular actions and choices are likely to influence the environment.

A sample of current and past research questions

  • To what extent can the world's terrestrial ecosystems slow climate change by sequestering carbon?

  • How will multiple, interacting global environmental changes affect the functioning of ecosystems?

  • How will global environmental changes, such as climate change, increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide, and increasing nitrogen deposition affect the composition of communities and the success of invasive species?

  • How much ancient organic matter did it take to make a gallon of gas? A year's supply of fossil fuels? How much modern organic matter would be needed to replace fossil fuels?

  • What attributes of a community affect its susceptibility to invasion by non-native species?

  • What properties of a community make it vulnerable to impacts from invading species?