Bioenergy sustainability has been posed as a framework in the U.S. to lessen dependence on foreign oil, promote rural development, and to mitigate climate change through more efficient carbon sequestration. While government policies have pushed for the use of “green” energy, facets of the ultimate sustainability of pursuant options remain debatable.
Two areas of interest in the bioenergy sustainability field I am interested in on the environmental side revolve around an important biological diversity indicator: presence of taxa of special concern. More specifically, I am interested in the invasiveness of bioenergy crops themselves, and the effects that bioenergy-related landscape changes may have on bird diversity and demography. The two active projects I am affiliated with in this arena focus on switchgrass.
In collaboration with Neal Stewart, I am working on a USDA-funded project aimed at determining gene flow risks of agronomic switchgrass to wild switchgrass populations in their native range, as well as quantifying agronomic field-to-field hybridization via pollination. And in collaboration with Pat Keyser, Joe Clark, and Elizabeth Holcomb, I am assisting with comparing grassland bird diversity and demography in switchgrass fields vs. comparable grassland settings that may be targets for near-future land-use change to switchgrass monocultures.