Emma Byerly

Mentor: Dr. S. Luke Flory
College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
"As long as I can recall, I have been utterly fascinated by the natural world. The more I learn, the more I realize its infinite complexities. I got involved with research to have the opportunity to work alongside individuals who share my passion."


Plant Science



Research Interests

  • Plant community ecology
  • Invasion ecology
  • Climate change

Academic Awards

  • Kissimmee Valley Livestock Show Scholarship
  • Florida Bright Futures
  • University Scholars Program 2016




  • Operation Christmas Child
  • Sprong's Bluff community garden

Hobbies and Interests

  • Reading
  • Hiking
  • Gardening
  • Drawing

Research Description

Facilitation Among Invasive Plant Species Under Climate Change
The effects of individual non-native invasive species on native communities are widely studied but there is a growing need for research on interactions among multiple invaders. These interactions range from competitive to facilitative. The establishment of one invader may disrupt the native ecosystem and create favorable conditions for the establishment of other invaders. This facilitation can result in an ‘invasional meltdown’ scenario where the native community is ultimately replaced by invasive species. Understanding the relationships among invasive species is becoming more critical in the face of global climate change, which may exacerbate invasions and their effects. Climate change, coupled with invasional meltdown, could promote the expansion of invasive species.

My project seeks to determine if the invasive cogongrass (Imperata cylindrica) facilitates other invaders under ambient and experimentally reduced soil moisture. Seedlings of lantana (Lantana camara), Chinese tallow (Triadica sebifera), and Brazilian pepper (Schinus terebinthifolius) have been planted into plots treated with a factorial combination of reduced rainfall and cogongrass invasion. Seedling survival, height, diameter, and final biomass will be measured to determine plant performance under each of the four treatments. Environmental conditions, such as soil moisture and light availability, will also be assessed to explore possible mechanisms of facilitation. Evaluating invaded community dynamics during a simulated drought will provide invaluable information to predict and manage invasive plant spread with the changing climate.