Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources


Ecology and Evolution Graduate Program Newsletter



January – February 2009




Previous newsletters may be found at:


Please join us in welcoming two new post-docs in the Kjer lab:

  • Jessica Thomas joined the Kjer lab on February 16 as a postdoc.  Jessica is coming to us from the University of Edinburgh.  She has experience with 454 and Solexa sequencing, cloning, molecular clocks, and salt tolerance in plants.
  • Elizabeth Scott (Prendini) will be joining the Kjer lab in mid March as a postdoc.  Liz is originally from South Africa, and is now associated with the American Museum of Natural History.  She is an expert on phylogenetics, with specialties in frog morphology, and automated alignment methods.

Karl will bring them around to Friday seminars.



On January 28th   Patricia Alvarez was an invited speaker for the forestry seminar at Michigan State University. Patricia’s presentation was titled “The influence of pathogens and predators in tropical ecosystems”. Patricia, advisor Jim White, successfully defended her dissertation on February 17, 2009.


Aspa Chatziefthimiou presented a poster in the "Third Annual Mini-Symposium on Microbiology at Rutgers University: Cultivating Traditions, Current Strength and Future Frontiers" which took place on January 29-30, 2009.


The  poster title was "Mercury Contamination and its Effects on Phylogenetic and Functional Diversity of Soil Mercury Resistant Bacteria" and the authors were: Aspa D. Chatziefthimiou, Allison L. Isola, Tamar Barkay. Aspa is a Ph.D. candidate advised by Tamar Barkay in the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology.


Steven Handel reports the following talks:

  • Harvard University, Graduate School of Design, Dept. of Landscape Architecture         
  • Northwestern University, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Both talks were on advances and opportunities in urban restoration ecology.


Henry John-Alder presented an invited contribution in the symposium “Hormonal Regulation of Whole-Animal Performance: Implications for Selection” sponsored by NSF at the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology meeting in Boston (3-7 January 2009).  His contribution was as follows:


Hormones and Performance: Insights from Natural History and Endocrine Manipulations 

 Co-authors included Robert M. Cox, Dartmouth College (former E&E grad students); Gregory J. Haenel, Elon University (former post-doc); Linda C. Smith, Stockton State College (former E&E grad student).


Henry John-Alder’s  graduate students presented invited contributions in companion sessions at the same meeting:


Hormonal regulation of sexual dimorphisms in Lichtenfelderi's gecko (Goniurosaurus lichtenfelderi): expanding the comparative story of eublepharid lizards



Food Restriction Inhibits Growth Rate but Not Expression of Hepatic IGF-I Message in Yarrows Spiny Lizard, Sceloporus jarrovii  


 Richard Lathrop participated in a two day workshop on Coastal Planning and Land Use hosted by the National Oceanographic and Aeronautic Administration’s (NOAA) Cooperative Institute for Coastal and Estuarine Environmental Technology. The workshop was in Manchester NH on December 2-3, 2008.


Richard Lathrop was a featured speaker at NOAA's Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve's (JCNERR) Coastal Training Program's  Workshop entitled "How Prepared Are You for Rising Waters? Planning for sea level rise - regional and local consideration for coastal areas". The workshop was held at the JCNERR Education center, Tuckerton NJ on December 9, 2008.


On Wednesday, February 11, 2009 Brooke Maslo gave a talk titled “Evaluating 10 Years of Predator Exclusion Methods for Piping Plovers in New Jersey  at the NJ Beach Nesting Bird Partners meeting at the Jacques Cousteau Coastal Education Center in Tuckerton, NJ. Brooke is a Ph.D. candidate in the Handel lab.


Karl Kjer has been invited to Mexico City from February 28 to March 7 to give a talk and participate in a symposium on DNA barcoding.


Blake Mathys, a Ph.D. candidate from the Lockwood lab, presented a poster at the International Biogeography Society's 4th Biennial Meeting in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico. The poster was titled "Rapid Morphological Evolution of Exotic Passerine Birds on Islands". Blake and Steven Handel student Elena Tartaglia also took a week prior to the conference to experience the Yucatan's many Mayan ruins and diverse flora and fauna.

Peter Morin has been busy giving invited plenary and keynote lectures in Europe over the last few weeks.

  • Peter delivered a plenary lecture at the American Society of Limnology and Oceanography’s Aquatic Sciences Meeting held in Nice, France. Peter’s lecture on 27 January was titled “Biodiversity and Ecosystem Function in Aquatic Microbial Systems: Results, Predictions, and Challenges”. This was one of two plenary lectures in a program titled “Is there a link between biodiversity and ecosystem function in aquatic systems?” Other E&E Graduate Program Faculty attending the meeting included Kay Bidle and Costa Vetriani. For more details about the meeting, see . To view the plenary sessions visit:

  • Peter delivered a keynote lecture at an international symposium held in Leiden, the Netherlands, in honor of the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin and the 150th anniversary of the publication of “On The Origin of Species”. The symposium, titled “Evolutionary islands 150 years after Darwin”, was part of a broad celebration called Darwin Jaar2009. The symposium was held at The National Museum of Natural History – Naturalis - in Leiden, from 11-13 February, and was co-sponsored by the Darwin Center for Biogeology. The title of Peter’s lecture on 12 February was “The Ecology and Evolution of Island Communities in a Changing World”.

For more details about the symposium, see .


Rachael Winfree (Department of Entomology) reports two seminars:

  • Department of Entomology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst titled “crop pollination by native bees as an ecosystem service.”
  • Entomological Society of America, "Valuing crop pollination"



Rachael Winfree (Department of Entomology) has the following publications:

  • Lonsdorf, E., C. Kremen, T.H. Ricketts, R. Winfree, S. Greenleaf, and N.M. Williams, Modeling pollination services across agricultural landscapes. Accepted, Annals of Botany.
  • Lonsdorf, E., T.H. Ricketts, C. Kremen, R. Winfree, S. Greenleaf, and N.M. Williams. Crop Pollination Services. in The Theory & Practice of Ecosystem Service Valuation in Conservation, P. Kareiva, et al., Editors. Accepted, Oxford University Press: Oxford.
  • Winfree, R., R. Aguilar, D. P. Vázquez, G. LeBuhn, and M. A. Aizen. A meta-analysis of bees’ responses to anthropogenic disturbance. In press, Ecology.
  • Winfree, R. and C. Kremen. 2009. Are ecosystem services stabilized by differences among species? A test using crop pollination. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London 276: 229-237
  • Winfree, R. Pollinator-dependent crops: an increasingly risky business. 2008. Current Biology R968-R969


Wes Brooks, a Ph.D. candidate in Rebecca Jordan’s lab, reports the following publication:

  • Reardon, B.J. & W.R. Brooks. 2009. Vegetative Community Compositional Gradients of Tropical Hardwood Hammocks along the Florida Keys. Biotropica 41(1): 27-36


     Faculty Achievements and Activities:

Joanna Burger (Departments of Cell and Developmental Biology and Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources) received the Distinguish Achievement Award from the Society for Risk Analysis, an international scientific organization, at the Society’s 2008 annual meeting in Boston. The Society’s highest award was given to Dr. Burger in recognition of her “extraordinary achievement in science relating to risk analysis”.   Dr. Burger is a founding member of the Consortium for Risk Evaluation with Stakeholder Participation, a multi-university, multi-disciplinary organization, under which auspices much of her risk research has been conducted. CRESP is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.



Claus Holzapfel (Department of Biology, Rutgers–Newark), Charles Hofer, a Holzapfel Ph.D. student, and Frank Gallagher (Ph.D. 2008, advisor Jason Grabosky) are featured in the following interesting story on pollution at Liberty State Park.


Steven Handel and the Center for Urban Restoration Ecology (CURE) will be designing a new National Park. He has the contract to design the ecological restoration of habitats at the Great Falls State Park in Paterson. The U.S. Senate approved a bill making this site a new National Park.  The bill had already passed the House of Representatives.


The  Center for Urban Restoration Ecology (CURE)  and Steven Handel’s work at the Orange County (CA) Great Park has been awarded the 2009 Institute Honor Award for Regional and Urban Design by The American Institute of Architects (AIA). CURE  has contributed the extensive ecological restoration and environmental education components to this vast site.

The Honor Awards are the profession's highest recognition of works that exemplify excellence in architecture, interior architecture and urban design. Selected from over 700 total submissions, 25 recipients located throughout the world will be honored in April at the AIA 2009 National Convention and Design Exposition in San Francisco. Steven collaborates on this project with the architects of TEN Arquitectos in NYC, Ken Smith Landscape Architects of NYC, and Mia Lehrer + Associates Landscape Architects of Los Angeles.


The citation reads as follows:

"Orange County California's Great Park will bring over 1,400 acres of urban parkland to the city of Irvine and the surrounding region. Planned on the former site of El Toro Marine Air base, this large tract of undeveloped land will include a man-made canyon that runs through the park and will support a diverse range of active and passive programs. A great lawn, sports park, botanical gardens, and several arts and cultural facilities, including a large outdoor amphitheater will be programmed into the park."


This project has also been awarded national honors by the American Society of Landscape Architects and the American Planning Association, as well as state honors by the Society for Ecological Restoration. Steven is very pleased that the importance of ecological thought in transforming our physical environment has been recognized this year by the three major design professions of our country.


On February 13-14, Henry John-Alder participated in the American Institute of Biological Societies (AIBS) Education Committee’s planning meeting for implementation of an NSF-funded project funded through the program called Research Coordination Networks in Undergraduate Biological Sciences (NSF RCN UBS).  This grant is a collaborative project involving the University of Oklahoma, AIBS, and key national scientific and biological societies.  Gordon Uno (University of Oklahoma) is PI.  The project is titled: “Preparing to Prepare the 21st Century Biology Student:  Using Scientific Societies as Change Agents for the Introductory Biology Experience”. Henry is a member of the education committee and was appointed to the advisory board for the project.


Rachael Winfree’s (Department of Entomology) work has appeared in the following popular press articles:

  • New York Times, “A low-tech treatment for bee plague,” January 27, 2009
  • Worldwatch Magazine, “Pollination panic,” November/December 2008
  • San Diego Union-Tribune, “Radios on bees track movements that might help save pollinators,” December 18 2008
  • National Geographic Magazine online, “Tiny radio tags offer rare glimpse into bees’ universe,” November 14  2008
  • The Scientist, “A bee’s life,” October 2008
  • American Bee Journal, “Ecologists assess the impact of people on pollinators,” September 2008



Rebecca Jordan reports two grants:

  • Department of Education: Institute of Educational Studies ($1,630,450; collaboration with Georgia Tech) co-PI; Lead PI of Cindy Hmelo-Silver. Using Structure-behavior-function (SBF) Ontology to engage students in ecosystem studies.
  • Curriculum Development Award ($48,700): Enabling SEBS Students to Become Better Learners with Caron Chess and Andrew Pleasant


Steven Handel also reports two grants:

  • Duke Farms Foundation. Environmental stewardship planning for the Duke Farms property. 2008-2009. $120,000.
  • Essex County, NJ. Restoration design of woodland habitats at the South Mountain Preserve. 2008-2009. $20,000.

Student Awards, Achievements, and Activities:

On January 16,  2009. Patricia Alvarez, advisor Jim White,  was featured in “Primate Kingdom in Amazon”. Directed by Matsubayashi Akira, NHK Japanese television.


Alex Felson, a Ph.D. student working with Steward Pickett,  has accepted a position at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies as a lecturer convertible and upon completion of his Ph.D in the fall 2009 will become an assistant professor in spring 2010. Alex is  teaching an urban design studio in architecture for graduate students.


Alex Felson was project director while at EDAW for the PlaNYC reforestation plan , an initiative of Mayor Bloomberg’s to create sustainability in NYC. The design won a New York American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) award for 2009.


Alex Felson’s Tuxedo Reserve salamander study won a New Jersey ASLA award in 2008.


Zac Freedman was awarded the Robert S. and Eileen A. Robison Scholarship Award for Excellence in Graduate Studies. The award is given by the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology.  Zac is a Ph.D. student in the Barkay lab.


On February 2nd, Jessica Sanders, a Jason Grabosky Ph.D. student, taught a TA Project seminar called the "First Time TA", which is part of the Prepared TA certificate program.



Congratulations to the following on the successful defense of their doctoral dissertation:

  • Jeanmaire Molina, December 18, 2008, advisor Lena Struwe
  • Gregory Dahle on February 6, 2009, advisor Jason Grabosky
  • Patricia Alvarez on February 17, 2009, advisor James White.

Congratulations to Christine Kiesel on the successful defense of her master’s thesis on Janaury 29, 2009. Chris was advised by Joanna Burger.


Congratulations to Di Li on the successful defense of her preliminary proposal on January 22, 2009. Don Schaffner (Department of Food Science) is Di’s  advisor.



In Memoriam:

We heard sad news from Kathleen LoGuidice this month.

Joan Roth, alumna of the Ecology and Evolution program at Rutgers died on January 12th.  Joan got her master’s degree in 1994 advised by Steven Handel. She had been battling a rare cancer of the thymus gland for quite a few years.  Kathleen said in her email “Many of you overlapped with Joanie at Rutgers and frankly, to know her was to love her.”


Frank Gallagher (Ph.D. 2008, advisor Jason Grabosky) gave a presentation at the Alliance for New Jersey Environmental Education annual conference at Princeton University on January 30, 2009. The title of the talk was “Global Forest Sustainability.”

James MacDonald (Ph.D 2008, advisor Judy Weis) has accepted a position as a Fisheries Specialist with New York Seagrant. Among his many duties are fisheries outreach, education, and management work. The position is administered in Partnership with Seagrant, New York State DEC, and Cornell University Cooperative Extension.


Jeanmaire Molina (Ph.D. 2009, advisor Lena Struwe) manages the Rice Evolutionary Genomics Project at New York University, which has collaborations with Cornell, Purdue, Washington University, and the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines.

Jean also reports these publications:

  • Molina, J. In Press. Floral biology of Philippine morphospecies of the grape relative Leea (Leeaceae). Plant Species Biology.


  • Molina, J. and L. Struwe. In Press. Utility of secondary structure in phylogenetic reconstructions using nrDNA ITS sequences - an example from Potalieae

(Gentianaceae: Asteridae). Systematic Botany.