Contact: Liz Pacheco, News Writer for Environmental Science and Policy Program: (517) 432-8296 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Even though Lars Brudvig is a professor in MSU's plant biology department, he is quick to explain that his work is more than studying plants. He calls himself a "community ecologist" who studies how humans interact with plants.
Brudvig's work is best described as restoration ecology—a field "where science and people come together," he said, citing economics and sociology as important elements of his research.
"The importance of my work, and other work with restoration ecology, [in] promoting ecosystem functions and services [are the] processes that directly benefit people," said Brudvig. "Biomass production (for timber, biofuels, etc.) is one example of this; however, there are others, like clean water, pollination services, carbon storage, and recreation." Ecosystems in restored or relatively untouched conditions provide these services at higher rates.
Two of Brudvig's projects involve restoring oak savannas in Iowa and longleaf pine woodlands in the Southeast U.S., with a separate project on longleaf pine remnants. Another studies how landscape corridors that connect habitat fragments help restore plant communities.
"My research sits at the intersection of basic and applied science," he said. "I fix damaged ecosystems, but [my work] takes an academic bend by testing theories."
Understanding human interests has been an important part of this research. This summer, prescribed fire was one method Brudvig and other researchers used to help restore the oak savannas in Iowa. The site had a number of adjoining landowners and, as Brudvig explained, communicating the work to the community was essential. "We don't want to smoke out the neighbors!" he said.
Brudvig received his bachelor's from Carleton College in biology with a focus on environmental science. This was followed by a Ph.D. in ecology and evolutionary biology from Iowa State University and a postdoctoral position with the Corridor Project and Washington University.
While some professors may not enjoy teaching large classes, Brudvig said that a favorite part of his first fall semester will be teaching Biological Science 110. "I've never taught a class that big," he said. "I'm really excited…that early in their career, [the students] can latch onto that idea of studying science to better our environment."