Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources


Ecology and Evolution Graduate Program Newsletter


March 2008




Previous newsletters may be found at:






Julie Lockwood gave an invited presentation at the National Research Council, Everglades Restoration meeting in Miami Florida. The talk was titled “Status of the Cape Sable seaside sparrow: a view from the front lines. “


Peter Morin was invited by the graduate students to speak in the Program in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology seminar series at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign on 5 March. The title of Peter's talk was “Small Worlds: Using Experiments with Microbes to Explore Patterns in Community Ecology.”

Jess Sanders, a Ph.D. candidate in Jason Grabosky's lab, gave a presentation on March 6 at the New Jersey Arborist’s Chapter of the International Society of Arborists.  The title of the talk was: “Urban tree planting and mortality statistics in the boroughs of NYC.”


Lena Struwe reports the following presentations given at the 2008 Annual Meeting of Northeast Region of American Society for Horticultural Science, Jan 3-5, 2008 in New Brunswick, NJ

  • Raviram, R., A. Novy, S. Eisenman, L. Struwe, S. Bonos, & J. Grabosky. 2008. Assessing the genetic diversity of an ex situ germplasm collection of dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) trees. [poster]
  • Eisenman, S. W., A. Poulev, L. Struwe, & I. Raskin. 2008. Genetic and phytochemical variation in the medicinal plant wild tarragon Artemisia dracunculus L. [poster]
  • Novy, A., J. M. Hartman, P. Smouse, L. Struwe, C. Miller, W. Skaradek, & S. Bonos. 2008. Can Population Genetics Studies of Spartina alterniflora (Smooth Cordgrass) Affect Marsh Restoration Horticultural Practices?


Andrew “Pete” Vayda, Professor Emeritus, has given two presentations in England:

  • "Do's and don'ts in interdisciplinary research on causes of environmental change:  Illustrations from tropical forest-fire research," at the University of Durham, Durham, UK, March 5, 2008. 
  • "Causal explanation of events as a research goal:  Illustrations from Indonesia," at the University of Kent, Canterbury, UK, March 11, 2008. 


Holly Vuong, a Ph.D. student co advised by Peter Morin and Rick Ostfeld, gave an invited presentation at the 9th Annual meeting of the NJ Mosquito Control Association in Atlantic City, March 11-14. The title of Holly’s talk was "An exotic pathogen in an arid landscape: ecological associations of West Nile virus and avian hosts of southern New Mexico."




Steven Gray, a Ph.D. candidate in Rebecca Jordan’s lab, and Rebecca Jordan have the following publication:

  • Gray, S., C.E. Hmelo-Silver, L. Liu, R.C. Jordan, H. Jeong. M. Demeter. Learning with Ecosystem Models: A Tale of Two Classrooms. Proceedings of the International Conference of the Learning Sciences. Utrecht, the Netherlands.


Julie Lockwood has the following publication:

  • T.M. Blackburn, P. Cassey, and J.L. Lockwood.  The island biogeography of exotic birds.  Global Ecology and Biogeography 17: 246-251.


Lena Struwe reports the following publication:

  • Frasier, C., V. A. Albert, & L. Struwe. 2008. Amazonian lowland, white sand areas as ancestral regions for South American biodiversity: biogeographic and phylogenetic patterns in Potalia (Gentianaceae). Organisms, Diversity & Evolution 8: 44-57. This publications shows for the first time that white-sand savannas in the Amazon have evolutionary older plant lineages than the Andes and their foot hills, clay-sediments in the Amazon, and the foothills of the tepuis and Central America.

Andrew “Pete” Vayda published the following:

  • “Causal explanation as a research goal:  A pragmatic view," chap. 19 (pp. 317-367) in Against the Grain: The Vayda Tradition in Human Ecology and Ecological Anthropology, B.B. Walters et al., eds., Alta Mira Press, Lanham, MD, 2008.


Faculty Achievements and Activities:


John Dighton, Director of the Pinelands Field Station, would like everyone to check out the new and improved web site for the Field Station (still under partial construction) at  Thanks to Anna Duljas for helping to set this up - now watch for further improvements and additions.


Richard Lathrop, Director of the Center for Remote Sensing and Spatial Analysis (CRSSA), reports that CRSSA has been busy the past month hosting workshops and visiting scientists:

  • On Feb 28, 2007, the Walton Center for Remote Sensing & Spatial Analysis hosted an all-day training workshop put on by the Endangered & Nongame Species Program (ENSP).  The hands-on workshop held in CRSSA's Environmental Geomatics Instructional Computing Lab was focused on helping government agency and nonprofit personnel understand and work with the ENSP's Landscape Project GIS database.  The training session was filmed by NJN News network.
  • The Walton Center for Remote Sensing & Spatial Analysis (CRSSA) participated in a review of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s “Research and Implementation Plan for a National Atlas of Ecosystems Goods and Services.”  James Wickham and Anne Neale of EPA’s Office of Research and Development (Research Triangle, NC and Las Vegas, NV) traveled to Rutgers CRSSA on February 27, 2008 to brief CRSSA faculty, staff and graduate students on the proposed National Atlas, as well as a broader restructuring of ORD’s Ecological Research Program to integrate its wide-ranging ecological research around the theme of ecological goods and services.  The half day workshop culminated in a roundtable discussion on the merits of the proposed research plan and a short report summarizing CRSSA’s comments and suggestions.  Rutgers, along with Arizona State University, were the only two universities invited to participate in this review process.
  • Japanese Scientists Visit CRSSA

On February 15, 2008, Dr. Zewei Miao, CRSSA Research Associate, hosted Drs. Masayuki Yokozawa and Fulu Tao of the Agro-Meteorology Division of the Japanese National Institute for Agro-Environmental Sciences.  Dr. Yokozawa presented a seminar on his work modeling carbon dynamics in the soils of rice paddies and Dr. Tao discussed his work on modeling carbon dynamics in forests.


The Environmental Geomatics Certificate Program, in its 18th year of operation, will be graduating its 150th student this coming spring. The Environmental Geomatics Certificate is run jointly by the Departments of Ecology, Evolution & Natural Resources and Landscape Architecture and CRSSA, with Prof. Rick Lathrop serving as advisor since its inception.


Julie Lockwood and Rebecca Boulton, a post-doc in Julie’s lab, have received a grant of $75,000 from the US Fish and Wildlife Service for “Conspecific attraction and the recovery of the Cape Sable seaside sparrow (Ammodramus maritimus mirabilis)”.


Julie Lockwood has been appointed to the Editorial Board of Biological Invasions.


Robert Trivers has been awarded a Fellowship at the Institute for Advanced Studied in Berlin for 2008-2009 to complete his book on “Deceit and Self-deception.”


Lena Struwe organized a workshop in “Phylogenetic analysis of morphological and molecular data using Winclada and TNT” by invited speaker Christopher Hardy in the Graduate Program in Plant Biology on February 29th.

Judy and Pete Weis spent the month of January in a very remote western coastal area of Madagascar at a field station run by an organization called Blue Ventures. Blue Ventures has volunteers that work on reef monitoring and with local communities in setting up marine protected areas. They were there as independent investigators. Judy reports that they were the only ones who weren't diving at the reefs, but snorkeling in the mangroves about a mile away from the site. They were investigating which species of fish utilize the mangrove as a nursery habitat. Just by serendipity (which was initially thought to be very bad luck) their time there coincided with the time when the larger juveniles of many species left the mangrove followed the next week by the recruitment of new small juveniles. Judy says it turned out to be very interesting. Living conditions were very primitive - they appreciated the 6 hours a day of electricity and 3 hours a day of running water (though it looked like tea).


Grants and Funding;


Richard Lathrop of DEENR and CRSSA and Endre Boros of RUTCOR were awarded a Rutgers Academic Excellence Fund grant to develop a "Climate and Health Initiative."  Collaborating on the project is Nina Fefferman of DIMACS, Melike Baysal-Gursoy of Industrial Engineering, Dina Fonseca and Randy Gaugler of the Center for Vector Biology, and Mark Robson of NJAES.


Tom Virzi, a Ph.D. candidate in Julie Lockwood’s lab, has been awarded funding in the amount of $12,000 for the fourth consecutive year from the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife - Endangered and Nongame Species Program (ENSP) to continue his demographic study of American oystercatchers breeding in coastal NJ.  This year, Tom’s research will focus on establishing breeding season survey protocols that will be used by ENSP to continue monitoring oystercatchers after Tom completes his PhD this summer.  Additionally, he will be continuing his mark-recapture study and establishing formal protocols that will be used in the future for this long-term project.


Tom Virzi was also awarded funding from US Fish and Wildlife Service in the amount of $3,000 for the fourth consecutive year to continue to support his work studying the factors influencing American oystercatcher nest success at the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge.  This year, the funding will be used to help support a nest exclosure study being conducted by Patti Rendo who begins her work on her master's degree with Dr. Julie Lockwood this coming fall.  Tom believes this is the first attempt to use exclosures on oystercatcher nests and if successful could prove to be an important conservation tool in efforts to increase productivity for the species since nest depredation is a key limiting factor throughout the species' range.   


Advisory Panels:


Julie Lockwood served on the National Science Foundation review panel for Dissertation Improvement Grants in Ecology.



Student Awards, Achievements, and Activities:


Jean Deo, Ph.D. student co-advised by Peter Morin and Rick Ostfeld, received a Rea Grant of $3960 from the Powdermill Nature Reserve, the Biological Research Station of Carnegie

Museum of Natural History . Jean will be using this money to continue her research on the effects of acid rain on the health and reproduction of Ovenbirds and Wood Thrush.  Specifically, she will examine how calcium loss, a result of soil acidification, affects the nesting success and immune response in these two species.  


Steven Gray, a Ph.D. candidate in Rebecca Jordan’s lab, has received a grant from the National Science Foundation Office of International Science and Engineering for $10,500. The grant is titled: Improving the Management of Data-poor fisheries: Evaluating Risk and Uncertainty in Management. This money will allow Steven to spend 2 months in Sydney, Australia working with the Department of Primary Industry, Branch of Capture Fisheries under the advisement of fisheries ecologist, Dr. James Scandol)


In March and April, Esther Leibovich, a Ph.D. candidate in Gary Taghon’s lab, will be running the 3-week microteaching workshop for CASTL and the Teaching Assistant Project. Esther is a Head TA for the General Biology courses in the Division of Life Sciences.


Blake Mathys, a Ph.D. candidate in the Julie Lockwood lab, and Ai Wen, a Ph.D. candidate working with Joan and David Ehrenfeld, co-led a birding trip on March 8th for the Whitesbog Preservation Trust. The trip was to introduce the public to the avifauna in the historical Whitesbog Village and the active/abandoned cranberry and blueberry farms.


Holly Vuong, a Ph.D student co-advised by Peter Morin and Rick Ostfeld, has been accepted by DIMACS/AIMS/SACEMA for the second phase of infectious disease modeling in Muizenburg, South Africa from June 30-July 11, 2008. The program will consist of some lectures, but the main focus will be completing the research project Holly began at last year's workshop. The sponsors cover flight, food, and lodging costs.


Ai Wen, a Ph.D. candidate co-advised by Joan and David Ehrenfeld, received a $5000 grant from the New Jersey Water Resource Research Institute for year 2008.




Congratulations on the successful completion of the qualifying exam to:

  • Steven Gray, advisor Rebecca Jordan on March 11th.
  • Jeremy Feinberg, advisor Joanna Burger, on March 13th.







John Graham (Ph.D. 1986, advisor Robert Vrijenhoek) has published the following -

Graham, J. H., A. J. Krzysik, D. A. Kovacic, J. J. Duda, D. C. Freeman, J. M. Emlen, J. C. Zak, W. R. Long, M.P. Wallace, C. Chamberlin-Graham, J. Nutter, and H. Balbach.  2008.  Ant community composition across a gradient of disturbed military landscapes at Fort Benning, GeorgiaSoutheastern Naturalist (in press).


Jeremy Fox, (Ph.D. 2000, advisor Peter Morin) reports the following publication:

Fox, Jeremy W., and W. Stanley Harpole. 2008. Revealing how species loss affects ecosystem function: the trait-based Price Equation partition. Ecology 89:269-279.


Ishaani Sen, (M.S. 2008, advisor David Ehrenfeld) has accepted a position as Associate Programme Officer with the UN Fund for International Partnerships (  Ishaani is responsible for assisting with all aspects of program development and management, with a special focus on environmental programs (biodiversity, energy, and climate change).


Sharon Lawler, (M.S. 1988, Ph.D. 1992, advisor Peter Morin) has been promoted to the rank of Professor in the Department of Entomology at the University of California, Davis. Congratulations to Sharon!