Jennifer Burt


HomePeople IGERTAlumni


Telephone                       (530) 752-8529

  e-mail kjrice[at]

 FAX  (530) 752-4361

Department of Plant Sciences

Mail Stop 1

One Shields Avenue

University of California Davis, CA  95616




 Jennifer Williamson Burt



As of September, 2009, I am officially a “Big Science Lab” alumnus.

The best way to reach me is by email:

I can receive mail (c/o Kevin Rice) at:

Department of Plant Sciences, Mail Stop 1

One Shields Avenue

University of California, Davis

Davis, CA 95616




Doctoral Dissertation Research                 Other Research                      Publications                  CV     


Doctoral Dissertation Research

I completed my PhD in Restoration Ecology at UC Davis in September of 2009. My research interests are broad and mostly applied, they center on approaches to land management, restoration of degraded habitats, and control and policy relating to invasive species.  My dissertation research, in particular, focused on the ecology and management of active and abandoned ski slopes in the Sierra Nevada.

In active ski areas, I quantified the effects of different methods of ski slope creation (machine grading vs. tree clearing) on aspects of ecosystem function, including plant community composition, diversity, and aspects of soil and hydrologic functioning. This research was published in the journal Ecological Applications in 2009.pdf

  Some ski runs are machine graded to remove rocks, stumps, and slope irregularities, while others are only cleared of trees and other tall vegetation. I have found these two basic types of ski runs to differ greatly in terms of vegetation composition and diversity, and soil depth and compaction, among other measures.

In abandoned ski areas of the Northern Sierra, I studied patterns of vegetation succession and recovery. During 2005 and 2006, I sampled vegetation and environmental characteristics in a large set of abandoned ski areas of differing ages. With this unique dataset, I pursued multiple questions, both conceptual and applied. Do abandoned ski areas recover spontaneously after abandonment? How is recovery affected by methods of creation, management, and abiotic factors? Are successional trajectories predictable based on age and abiotic environment, or contingent based on historical legacy? These abandoned ski areas present an ideal system both to improve understanding of fundamental processes of community assembly and to inform management of active ski areas.

    Abandoned ski areas present a consummate “unnatural” experiment on vegetation recovery following disturbance.

The third and final aspect of my dissertation research focused on identifying native species for ski slope restoration. Although USDA Forest Service policy mandates the use of native species where possible in revegetation, ski slopes are more often seeded with nonnative erosion control grasses.  I developed native seeding palettes for further testing in active ski slope restoration, based on a reference community analysis of plants naturally occurring on active and abandoned ski slopes across the northern Sierra Nevada. Towards this end, I identified native, herbaceous or low-growing (i.e. recreation compatible) plants that are likely to be successful in ski slope restoration because they have successfully colonized ski slopes of this region naturally, and were found with high frequency and abundance across sites.

As part of this research, I worked collaboratively with the USDA Forest Service to design and implement a ski slope seeding experiment to test a subset of these native species for success in ski slope revegetation. This experiment is being conducted on ski slopes at nine ski areas, across six National Forests. The experiment has two long-term goals: to inform and improve ski slope revegetation practices, and to develop native seed bulking sites on ski slopes (to provide locally-adapted seed for nearby revegetation projects). 

Other Research

Invasive species introductions via the horticulture and aquarium trades

As a long-term fellow in the NSF Biological Invasions IGERT program at UC Davis, I was involved for several years in a collaborative research group. We conducted two separate but related studies focused on invasive species introductions through the horticultural and aquarium trades. The first study, which I was most intimately involved with as first author, examined the perceptions and behaviors of horticulture professionals relating to invasive plants introduced via the horticulture trade. We surveyed nursery professionals to assess their awareness and attitudes towards invasive plants, the role of the horticulture trade in invasive plant introductions, and participation in preventative practices put forth by the St. Louis Voluntary Codes of Conduct. This paper was published in the journal Biological Invasions in 2007.

Our second study analyzed potential invasiveness of fish species for sale at aquarium stores throughout the California Bay-Delta region, as well as perceptions and attitudes of aquarium store managers on the topic of invasive fish introductions. This study was published in Biological Invasions in 2009. pdf


Patterns of invasion by nonnative erosion control species

My Master’s thesis research, with Dr. Susan Harrison (also at UC Davis), analyzed patterns of invasion by exotic plants used for erosion control. Pipelines and roadsides associated with a gold mining operation (within what is now the Donald and Sylvia McLaughlin UC Natural Reserve) had been revegetated (ca. 16 years previously) with nonnative grass and legume species. I looked at invasion of several of these species into various adjacent undisturbed habitat types, and experimentally tested ecological factors promoting or inhibiting further invasion of these habitats by Dactylis glomerata (orchardgrass). This research was published in Ecological Applications in 2002.


Exotic revegetation species spread into adjacent serpentine meadow, serpentine seep, and oak woodland habitats, but did not invade serpentine chaparral.



Marsico, T.D., J.W. Burt, E.K. Espeland, G.W. Gilchrist, M.A. Jamieson, L. Lindstrom, G. Roderick, S. Swope, M. Szucs, and N.D. Tsutsui.  In press. Underutilized resources for studying the evolution of invasive species during their introduction, establishment, and lag phases. Evolutionary Applications.

Burt, J.W. and K.J. Rice. 2009. Not all ski slopes are created equal: disturbance intensity affects ecosystem properties. Ecological Applications 19: 2242-2253.pdf

Chang, A.L., J.D. Grossman, T.S. Spezio, H.W. Weiskel, J.C. Blum, J.W. Burt, A.A. Muir, J. Piovia-Scott, K.E. Veblen, and E.D. Grosholz. 2009. Tackling aquatic invasions: risks and opportunities for the aquarium fish industry.  Biological Invasions 11: 773-785. pdf

Burt, J.W., A.A. Muir, J. Piovia-Scott, K.E. Veblen, A.L. Chang, J.D. Grossman, and H.W. Weiskel. 2007. Preventing horticultural introductions of invasive plants: Potential efficacy of voluntary initiatives. Biological Invasions 9(8): 909-923.

Williamson, J, and S. Harrison.  2002.  Biotic and abiotic limits to the spread of exotic revegetation species.  Ecological Applications 12: 40-51.