Trained as a geographer and landscape architect, Tara is a dual-PhD candidate in physical geography and human dimensions of natural resources and the environment (HDNRE) at Penn State. Her research interests transcend disciplinary boundaries with publications in climate risk management, natural and cultural resource management, landscape planning and design, and carbon storage in wetlands. More recently, her work integrates physical science and nature-society geography with emphasis on wetland ecology and invasive plant management. She is interested in examining the impact of invasive plant species in wetland systems by evaluating the patterns and processes underlying their establishment and facilitation. She interprets the interactions of different plant species and their environments and the consequences of these interactions related to population, community, and ecosystem dynamics using a mixture of observational and modelling methods to assess field data as well as remote sensing data. This work integrates qualitative and quantitative approaches to not only comprehend the ecological underpinnings of plant invasions but also the role of human activity and perception in invasive plant assessments.
Tara earned a B.S. in geography and a bachelor’s in Landscape Architecture prior to obtaining a master’s degree in geography in 2018 from Penn State. Before attending graduate school, Tara worked as a GIS Analyst at the Hamer Center for Community Design (Stuckeman School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture at Penn State). Currently, Tara is working as an undergraduate instructor for a course on global parks and sustainability. In addition, she is working with members in Riparia to devise educational and training modules to help educate both students and professionals about the intricacies of wetland systems, with the end goal of transforming these 2D modules into VR experiences.
At the end of the day, she is motivated by a fundamental interest in moving beyond the human-nature dichotomy to elucidate the potential of people-plant interactions to transform ecosystems and communities into more sustainable and resilience entities. She believes a deeper understanding between ecological systems, their composite species, and society must be developed to truly comprehend how human activity is creating ripple effects of change across entire ecosystems, and how these species adapt to human impacts which may spawn novel ecosystems.