University of Maryland Maile C. Neel  
Natural Resource Sciences & Landscape Architecture
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Welcome

Alyxia oliviformis My career has been devoted to the discipline of conservation biology, especially as it applies to plants. I seek to understand the maintenance, loss, and restoration of the earth's biological diversity, and to use this understanding to help conserve diversity in the face of adverse human impacts.

After earning a B.S. in Conservation Biology, I spent nearly a decade working as a Botanist for the U.S.D.A. Forest Service. Increasingly frustrated by the dearth of available science on which to base management decisions, I obtained a Master's degree and then a Ph.D. studying rare plant species and communities.

My goals as an academic researcher are to
1) expand the evidence base for quantifying and explaining biological diversity patterns and processes and
2) evaluate the efficacy of alternative approaches to conserving that diversity.

I am committed to directing my research at the most important problems that practitioners face, and communicating my results such that they provide specific, practical guidance for conservation policy and management. I am also committed to training students and post doctoral researchers to work at this critical interface between science, policy, and practice.

BanksiaAt least four types of biological diversity are recognized as important for conservation: genetic diversity within species, individual species, the community of species at a locality, and variation in species composition among localities and environments. Each conservation situation represents a unique combination of biodiversity and extrinsic threats. A single research approach is not sufficient for all situations.

Working on a wide variety of conservation issues has given me the opportunity to apply and integrate techniques from traditionally disparate fields. My research spans and integrates genetic, species, and community diversity, and consequently draws on a variety of disciplines and methodologies including population genetics, systematics, and population, community and landscape ecology and restoration ecology. Research in the lab also spans a range of localities and scales, including Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay. My largest single effort has quantified ecological and spatial patterns of biological diversity across one ~69,000 hectare area in the San Bernardino Mountains of southern California that supports five federally listed plant species.

Beyond addressing questions related to specific conservation situations I am interested in testing basic assumptions on which much of conservation biology is based. Because it is typically not possible to collect all desirable data on a particular problem in timeframes necessary to contribute to management decisions, practitioners rely on general principles derived from basic assumptions from ecology, population genetics and population biology theory. Verifying the validity of such assumptions is critical to identifying where general principles apply and where acquiring new scientific information is necessary for sound decision-making. It also assesses risks of making decisions without complete information.

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