Department of Ecology, Evolution and Natural Resources


Ecology and Evolution Graduate Program Newsletter


March 2006


Previous newsletters may be found at:




Shannon Galbraith-Kent, a Ph.D. candidate in the Steven Handel lab, gave a talk on "Native and invasive plant community research in New Jersey" to the Short Hills, NJ chapter of the Garden Club of America on March 15th. 


David Moskowitz, a Ph.D. student in Mike May’s lab, will be presenting a talk on The Butterflies of New Jersey this month to the Crestwood Garden Club in Toms River, New Jersey.

Joe Paulin, Ph.D. candidate in David Ehrenfeld’s lab, gave presentations to Union and Burrlington County Master Gardeners on reducing unwanted human-wildlife interactions around the home and garden.

Atlantic Estuarine Research Society

Congratulations to Celine Santiago Bass! Celine won the Graduate Student Oral Presentation Award for her paper at the Atlantic Estuarine Research Society (AERS) conference in Philadelphia on March 10. The paper was titled "Effects of heavy gill parasite burdens on the anatomy, physiology and behavior of Fundulus heteroclitus."  Celine also received a graduate student travel award of $250.00 from AERS.


Sean Boyd, a Master’s student in the David Bushek lab, gave a presentation at the Atlantic Estuarine Research Society titled “Establishment and Impact of an Asian Isopod in Delaware Bay.”


 Benthic Ecology

Two students attended the Benthic Ecology meeting held in Quebec City on March 8-12.

Patricia Ramey, a Ph.D. candidate working with Fred and Judy Grassle, presented a poster titled “Life history, habitat selection and dispersal of a dominant polychaete Polygordius sp. nov.”.


Di Li, a Master’s student with Judy Grassle, presented a poster titled “Evaluating essential shellfish habitat (EFH) of hard clams, Mercenaria Mercenaria, during larval settlement and early recruitment”.


Garden State Tree Conference, March 30, 2006

The Garden State Tree Conference will be held at the Cook Campus Center March 30, 2006. This conference is sponsored by the New Jersey Arborists, a chapter of the International Society for Arboriculture.

Several members of the DEENR/E&E family will be giving presentations.

  • Greg Dahle will talk on” Branch Modeling for Load Distribution”


Posters (Lead Authors listed only) will be given by several members of Jason Grabosky’s lab:

  • Frank Gallagher, Ph.D. candidate, on his Liberty State Park research.
  • Jess Sanders, a first –year Ph.D. student working with CRSSA and the Pinelands Commission, on Utility R.O.W. Vegetation Management Mapping. 
  • Bernie Issacson, a DEENR undergrad, on the  Hyperspectral Analysis of Oak Species with Bacterial Leaf Scorch

And Jason Grabosky will present the following on Tree Architecture:

·        The response of 2 oak species from reduction pruning.

·         Testing of Designed Soils for Pavement Support and Urban Tree Establishment.


The full schedule of events and registration information can be found at:


Ocean Sciences Conference

John Quinlan's DMCS fisheries research group presented two papers at the Ocean Sciences Conference in Hawaii.





John Quinlan was also a convener, along with M. McManus and P. Donaghay, of the “Oceanography and Ecology of Thin Plankton Layers" session at the meeting.


Jane Goodall Institute's Roots/Shoots Summit. Green Campus Initiative.

Rebecca Jordan and four Cook College undergraduates (Allison Gillet, Angela Gorczyca, Mary McLaughlin, and Erin Murphy) were invited to present their work as Rutgers University Affiliates with the national Roots/Shoots organization.  The work presented includes the use of habitat restoration as an environmental education program for K-12 programs. The conference was held in New York on February 11-12.




Dahle, G.A., H.H. Holt, W.R. Chaney, T.M. Whalen, D.L. Cassens, R.Gazo, R.L. McKenzie. 2006. Branch strength loss implications for silver maple converted from round-over to V-trim. Arboriculture & Urban Forestry.


Jordan, R. 2006. Educating Citizens serves to educate at all levels of higher education. On the Horizon 14: 7-8.


Petchey, O. L., J. McGrady-Steed, and  P. J. Morin. 2005. Measuring the functional diversity of food webs. Pages 334-347, in P. C. de Ruiter, V. Walters, and J. C. Moore (eds.), Dynamic Food Webs- Multispecies assemblages, ecosystem development, and environmental change. Elsevier-Academic Press.
Morin, P. J. 2005. Food Webs, Biodiversity, and Ecosystem Functioning. Pages 267-269, in P. C. de Ruiter, V. Walters, & J. C. Moore (eds.), Dynamic Food Webs- Multispecies assemblages, ecosystem development, and environmental change. Elsevier-Academic Press.

Reed, A.J., Lutz, R.A., and Vetriani, C. Vertical Distribution and Diversity of Bacteria and Archaea in Sulfide and Methane-Rich Cold Seep Sediments Located at the Base of the Florida Escarpment. Extremophiles, in press (published online: DOI: 10.1007/s00792-005-0488-6)

     Faculty Achievements and Activities:


     Congratulations on Joanna Burger. Joanna is the recipient of a Women and Wildlife Award for 2006 from the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.


Congratulations to Peter Smouse who will be receiving a GS-NB Faculty Teaching Award this year. This well-deserved honor recognizes Peter for his many important contributions that have promoted excellence in graduate education at Rutgers.


Jason Grabosky has accepted an additional three year term on the Editorial Board for Arboriculture & Urban Forestry (previously the Journal of Arboriculture).


Jason Grabosky has accepted an invitation to serve on an international committee working to develop a best management practices manual to enable the new American National Standards Institute A-300 designation for Preserving Trees During Construction Events.  The committee will be working to link and support multiple tree-construction protection guidelines in use in several countries.


Dr. Lukas Kratochvil, currently a Lecturer and Research Scientist at Charles University in Prague, has been awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to collaborate with Henry John-Alder.  Dr. Kratochvil’s fellowship is titled “Physiological perspective on the evolution and ontogeny of sexually dimorphic traits in eye-lid geckos (Squamata: Eublepharidae)”.  Dr. Kratochvil plans to spend 5 months in Henry’s laboratory beginning in March, 2007.


Congratulations to Judy Weis, who has been awarded a Fulbright grant to visit Sulawesi (Indonesia) this May focusing on marine pollution issues. 


Advisory Panels:


Rebecca Jordan was one of two Cook College faculty representatives sent by the Cook Executive Dean's Office to the Santa Barbara Environmental Studies Summit.  They reviewed the state-of-the-art of the field and discussed the formation of a new organization focused on the interdisciplinary issues of environmental studies.  The summit was held February 24-25.


Student Awards, Achievements, and Activities:


On March 3, 2006, John Balletto, a PhD candidate working with Ken Able, served as an invited member of the Selection Committee for the 2006 National Wetlands Award.  The National Wetlands Award provides national recognition for on-the-ground wetland conservation efforts and decades-long dedication to protecting these important natural resources. 


The National Wetlands Award Program co-sponsors—the Environmental Law Institute, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, USDA Forest Service, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Federal Highway Administration, and NOAA Fisheries—hope that recognizing wetland leaders for their efforts will inspire others to follow their example.  Given the national importance of wetlands, the federal agencies that sponsor the awards welcome the opportunity to recognize and encourage voluntary wetland conservation efforts. 


Jennifer Krumins was awarded a Bevier Fellowship by the Graduate SchoolNew Brunswick for the 2006-2007 academic year.  Jennifer’s research will “evaluate the causes and consequences of microbial biodiversity within the context of an ecosystem.”


David Moskowitz, a Mike May Ph.D. student, has been selected for the J.P. Stevens High School Hall of Honor for "outstanding community service and professional achievement" and will be inducted at a ceremony on April 27th at the Woodbridge Sheraton. Dave is a member of the East Brunswick Environmental Commission and was instrumental in getting Beckman Road in East Brunswick closed on special nights in the spring for the salamander migration.

To read more about the migration see .

Joe Paulin, Ph.D. candidate with David Ehrenfeld received a student travel award from the Society of Conservation Biology to attend the 20th Annual Meeting, Conservation Without Borders, San Jose, California, 24-28 June, 2006.

Linda Rohleder, a Ph.D. student in Joan Ehrenfeld's lab, received a Bayard Long Award for Botanical Research from the Philadelphia Botanical Club. The award provides $500 to fund her project entitled "Examination of the ability of Podophyllum peltatum L. to compete against the invasive herb Alliaria petiolata (Bieb.) Cavara & Grande."


Upcoming Events


The Rutgers, Penn, Princeton Graduate Student Conference is being held April 1st this year at U. Penn in Philadelphia. The ecology graduate students from Princeton, University of Pennsylvania and Rutgers meet yearly to give presentations on their research. The usual format is nine speakers, each giving 15 minute talks and an informal lunch gathering. The host university rotates yearly with graduate students at the hosting university responsible for organizing that years meeting.


Qualifiers and Prelims:


Congratulations to three students who successfully completed their qualifying exam and advanced to candidacy in the Ph.D program.

  • Matt Kimball, a Ph.D. candidate in Ken Able’s lab, on March 8th.
  • Bill Landesman, a Ph.D. candidate in John Dighton’s lab, on March 9th.
  • Joe Paulin, a Ph.D. candidate in David Ehrenfeld’s lab, on March 7th.


Tom Virzi, a Ph.D. candidate in Julie Lockwood’s lab,successfully defended his preliminary proposal on March 6th. Congratulations Tom.


Alumni News:


Peter Kourtev (Ph.D. 2001, Joan Ehrenfeld advisor) has accepted a position in the Biology Department of Central Michigan University as a microbial ecologist. The family is planning a July move.  Congratulations Peter!


Brian Palestis (Ph.D. 2000, advisor Joanna Burger) is an Assistant Professor at Wagner College in Staten Island, NY. Two recent publications are listed below, one co-authored with Robert Trivers:

  • Levin, D.A, B.G. Palestis, R.N. Jones and R. Trivers. 2005. Phyletic hot spots for B chromosomes in angiosperms. Evolution 59: 962-969.


  • Palestis, B.G. 2005. Nesting stage and nest defense by common terns (Sterna hirundo). Waterbirds 28: 87-94.


Brian also recently became a father with the birth of his son, Connor Sullivan on March 8th. Congratulations to the Palestis family.


Chris Peterson, (Ph.D. 1992, Steward T.A. Pickett advisor) and Sandra Erickson were married in Athens, Georgia on March 11th. The wedding was attended by Rutgers alums Walter Carson and Brian McCarthy and their spouses. Chris is an Associate Professor in the Plant Biology Department at the University of Georgia. Sandra is employed in the Human Resources Office for the Physical Plant at the university. Congratulations Chris and Sandra.


Scott Ruhren, (Ph.D. 1998, Steven Handel advisor) recently presented a talk at the annual meeting of the Rhode Island Natural History Survey titled, "Habitat Restoration and Management of Grasslands, Invasive Shrubs and Cows."