Smithsonian Voices

From the Smithsonian Museums

María Natalia Umaña

María Natalia Umaña is a recipient of a ForestGEO Research Grant that funded a project titled: Are leaves and root traits functionally coordinated to maximize resource acquisition along a soil fertility gradient?. This project is currently being developed in one of the permanent plots of the ForestGEO network in Michigan. María is an Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan in the department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology ( She is a forest community ecologist broadly interested in explaining forest diversity and dynamics. To this end, she uses functional traits and tree demography (growth, survival, and recruitment of trees) data that provide a mechanistic understanding of species interactions and allow robust predictions of future changes in tree community composition. Most of her projects occur in tropical forests but more recently she is expanding her research line into temperate forests.

Connecting Roots to Leaves: Studying the Diversity of Plant Functions in a Temperate Forest

When looking at forests, we hardly get to see beyond a bunch of green. However, for a plant ecologist, forests represent a much more complex world consisting of different species. This diversity of species also reflects diverse forms and functions that define how plants work. Using information of plant function could help predict forests' responses to changing environments.