Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources


Ecology and Evolution Graduate Program Newsletter


March 2010



Previous newsletters may be found at:




Congratulations to the recipients of the

DEENR Outstanding Student Awards 2010

Each spring the Ecology, Evolution, & Natural Resources Department honors graduating seniors in four areas with Outstanding Student Awards. Awardees are nominated by faculty based on their assessment of the student's professionalism and performance both in and out of the classroom.  Attention is also given as to how the awardee reflects the ideals of the individual to whom the award is dedicated.


 This year’s recipients are:

  • Nathan Rausch – E. B. Moore Forestry Award
  • Daniel Clark – J. Applegate Wildlife Conservation Award
  • Ryan Tallmadge – M. Buell Ecology Award
  • Allison Shiffner – R. Locandro Natural Resources Award.
  • Amanda Giesler – P. Smouse Evolution Award. This is the inaugural year for this award.


A departmental reception for our five undergraduate award winners and their families prior to Baccalaureate on May 17th

 Congratulations to E&E graduate students and faculty!

The Graduate School-New Brunswick annual awards for graduate student teaching, graduate faculty teaching, and graduate student research have been announced.

Ecology and Evolution is very pleased to report that students and faculty in our program have received an award in each category.


  • David Mellor, a Ph.D. candidate in Rebecca Jordan’s lab, received the GSNB Excellence in Graduate Student Teaching Award. David’s resume states he is currently an instructor in the SEBS Portals to Academic Student Success (PASS) where he serves as coordinator and instructor for science learning skills for freshman and science majors on academic probation. David has developed a curriculum for 100 students with the goal of decreasing science major attrition. Last year David was the Head TA for the General Biology courses taught through the Division of Life Sciences, a position he attained after being a teaching assistant in General Biology for 4 years
  • Lena Struwe, a Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources faculty member and a member of both the Ecology and Evolution and Plant Biology graduate programs, received the Excellence in Graduate Faculty Teaching. Lena was nominated by Plant Biology with a co-nomination of from Ecology and Evolution.
  • Steven Gray, a Ph.D. candidate in Rebecca Jordan’s lab, received the Graduate Student Research Award. Steven has several publications in peer-reviewed journals and more in review. He has received funding for his research from NOAA, NSF, the EPA and a Rutgers University Governors Fellowship. His research covers areas as diverse as education research, risk management, and ecosystem-based resource management; specifically his studies are in the area of fisheries management.


The Graduate School–New Brunswick also announced the recipients of the Bevier Fellowships. We are very pleased to announce that an Ecology and Evolution graduate student was also awarded a Bevier.

  • Wes Brooks’ research proposal titled “A community-based approach to biological invasions and its implications for ecological restoration” will be funded next year by a Bevier Fellowship. The Bevier fellowship is awarded to a graduate student who has completed all the course work and requirements for the Ph.D degree and is ABD (all but degree) and in the writing stages of their graduate career. Wes is also a Ph.D candidate in the Rebecca Jordan lab.


Congratulations should also go to Rebecca Jordan for her success in mentoring these students.


School of Environmental and Biological Sciences 17th annual “A Celebration of Excellence awardees have been announced:

·        Congratulations to Steven Handel on his receipt of the Sustained Research Excellence and Impact Award from the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences. The nomination forms states that this award is presented to a faculty member whose research has demonstrated sustained excellence; achieved broad recognition; published in highly visible outlets; and had a major long-term impact on the scientific community, as evidenced by grants or awards or through recognition by industry, government, public policy, or the general public.



5th Annual Society of Ecological Restoration - Mid Atlantic Chapter:

DEENR co-sponsored the Mid-Atlantic Chapter meeting of the SER. held at the Cook Campus Center on February 19th.

Rick Lathrop gave the plenary address titled” Ecological Restoration: Why Bother?  Establishing Restoration Priorities in New Jersey’s Coastal Zone.

Two grad students and an alumna gave presentations at the meeting

  • Amy Karpati, a Ph.D. candidate in Steven Handel’s lab, presented a poster titled "Quercus rubra associated ectomycorrhizal fungal communities in disturbed candidate restoration sites and old-growth forests".  Steven Handel and John Dighton coauthors.
  • Brooke Maslo, (Ph.D. 2010, advisor Steven Handel) presented a poster titled:  "Restoring Beaches for Atlantic Coast Piping Plovers (Charadrius melodus): a CART Analysis of Nest-Site Selection.”
  • Carrie Norin, a Ph.D. candidate in Steven Handel’s lab, presented a poster titled “Testing the role of Heat Shock Protein 17.6 in Arabidopsis thaliana success: An investigation into plant genotype selection for urban ecosystem restoration.” The poster was coauthored with Steven Handel.
  • Elena Tartaglia, a Ph.D. candidate in the Handel lab, presented a poster titled “Mutualistic Interactions in the Urban Landscape: Can We Restore Specialist Pollinators? Coauthored with Steven N. Handel and  Kathryn Barry

Several projects involving work by faculty at the Haskin Shellfish Research Lab are featured in the latest issue of Estuary News produced by the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary: On page 6 is an article Dave Bushek (IMCS) wrote about the Delaware Estuary Living Shoreline Initiative (DELSI) project pictured on the cover. 

Aspa Chatziefthimiou a Ph.D. candidate in Tamar Barkay’s lab has given two presentations:

  • An invited talk at the "Joint Symposium of Young Scientists in Ehime University and National Institute for Environmental Studies in Japan that took place on January 28-29, 2010. The title was: "Mercury Contamination and its Effects on Phylogenetic, Functional and Metabolic Diversity of Soil Mercury Resistant Bacterial Communities". The authors were: Aspa D. Chatziefthimiou, Allison L. Isola, Keya Thakkar and Tamar Barkay.
  • Fermentation Club Seminar in the Biochemistry and Microbiology Department on the 12th of February. The title of Aspa’s talk was: "The Combined Effect of Mercury Toxicity and Nutritional Stress on Soil Mercury Resistant Communities."


Siobain Duffy gave an invited talk in the "Rare Events in Biology" meeting at the Princeton Center for Theoretical Sciences Feb 3-4 entitled "Drift and adaptation in viral evolution." 


On March 22, David Ehrenfeld gave an invited lecture in the Spring 2010 Seminar Series of the Intercollege Graduate Degree Program in Ecology at Pennsylvania State University.  The title of the talk was: "Success and Failure in Species Conservation."


Visiting Scholar Frank Gallagher, (Ph.D 2008, advisor Jason Grabosky) Urban Forestry Program, gave a presentation entitled "Brownfields to Greenfields, Ecological Risk and Ecological Function."  The presentation was given to the faculty and students Jersey City University, at the Center for Learning and Teaching in Jersey City, New Jersey on  March 31.

On February 4, Frank Gallagher gave a presentation entitled "Brownfield to Greenfield, The Science and the Art" for the Association of Science Museum Directors, during their 2010 Mid-Winter Meeting at Liberty Science Center, Jersey City, New Jersey.


 Emma Green-Beach, an MS student working with Dave Bushek, received a travel award in the form of lodging to attend Aquaculture 2010, the triennial meeting of the National Shellfisheries Association, The American Fisheries Association Fish Culture Section and the World Aquaculture Society in San Diego, March 1-5, 2010.  Emma presented a poster on her MS work "Dermo Disease On Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts: Patterns Of Exposure And Population Structure".


Rebecca Jordan gave two invited presentations:

  • “Targeting ecological understanding for different audiences”.  Michigan State University Center for Research into College Science Teaching and Learning seminar series. February 22, 2010.
  • “Science literacy and citizen science: exploring the broader impacts of our work”. Bowling Green State University Biological Sciences seminar series. February 24, 2010. 


Rick Lathrop has given the following invited presentations:

  • NJ Society of American Foresters “Issues pertaining to Forest Carbon in New Jersey. Assessing the Potential of New Jersey’s Forests for Carbon Sequestration”. Hamilton, NJ. January 22, 2010.
  • NJ American Association of Landscape Architects. “Climate change, Impacts and Interventions for Coastal Landscapes”. Atlantic City, NJ January 24, 2010.
  • Pinelands Science-Policy Forum – “Protecting Water Quality in the Pinelands: Reversing the Barnegat Bay crisis. Presenter and facilitator on the topic of Land Use.”  Lakehurst Naval Air Station, Lakehurst, NJ. March 16, 2010.
  • Rutgers University Bloustein School for Planning and Policy seminar series. “Assessing the Vulnerability of the New Jersey Coast to Climate and Landscape Change”. New Brunswick, NJ, March 25, 2010.
  • Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve. Preparing Your Community in the face of a Changing Climate. Presenter and panel member. “A Status Update on Local Indicators of Sea Level Rise”. Tuckerton New Jersey. April 1, 2010.

Bonnie McCay was keynote speaker at a meeting advertised in the following way: KATOOMBA XVI TO FOCUS ON MARINE AND COASTAL ECOSYSTEM SERVICES:  The Katoomba Group is an organization dedicated to sharing information, ideas and developing the implementation of payment for ecosystem services, or PES, where the providers of an ecosystem service (e.g. fishermen) receive some sort of incentive from the consumers of an ecosystem service to incorporate sustainable practices.  According to the Katoomba Group, “the oceans provide a great many critical but undervalued ecosystem services that are nearing thresholds for healthy functioning, putting coastal populations ever more at risk. Given the failure of many conventional management measures and the insufficient resources available for effective management, the time is ripe for the development of new market-based tools. This first-ever Marine Katoomba Meeting capitalizes on ever-expanding interest in finding innovative solutions to conserve our valuable marine ecosystem services.”  The meeting was 9-10 February at the Moore Foundation in Palo Alto, CA.  Find more information at    Bonnie’s  keynote talk was on The Role of Community and Other Institutions in Providing Innovative Solutions for Marine and Coastal Conservation,” summarized asCommunity and other institutions, both formal and informal, play a critical role in setting the stage for development of marine markets and market-like mechanisms. But communities can also be at risk from private sector investment, if issues of equity, access, common property, and governance are not well understood and appreciated.”


Joshua Moody, a MS student working in the Dave Bushek lab, received a travel award of $125 to attend the Spring 2010 Atlantic Estuarine Research Society meeting in Atlantic City, March 4-6, 2010 where Josh presented a poster on his MS work titled, "The Relationship Between Ribbed Mussel (Geukensia Demissa) Density And Salt Marsh Shoreline Erosion",

Jack Siegrist, a Ph.D. candidate in Peter Morin’s lab, together with Scott Ferson of Applied Biomathematics, helped teach an all-day workshop on "Probabilistic Risk Analysis with Hardly Any Data".


Jack Siegrist also gave a talk on "Recommendations for quantifying uncertainty in regulatory cost assessment" at the Society for Risk Analysis annual meeting in December in Baltimore.


Jason Turnure, a master’s student in the Ken Able lab, presented a poster titled "Small-small movements and site fidelity in adult weakfish, Cynosion regalis: Diel and seasonal patterns in a mid-Atlantic bight estuary" at the 24th Annual Meeting of the American Fisheries Society Tidewater Chapter held in Annapolis, MD from March 18-20.  Jay’s co-authors were Kenneth W. Able and Thomas M. Grothues.  Jay received $200 for the "Best Student Poster" award.


Rachael Winfree (Department of Entomology) gave the following three invited presentations:

  • Cornell University, Dept of Entomology, Jugatae Seminar Series: "The conservation and restoration of wild bees".
  • Entomological Society of America meeting, Indianapolis, IN: "Native bee conservation".
  • Michigan State University, Dept of Entomology: "Ecosystem services from native bees".


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

  • Brooks, WR & RC Jordan. Enhanced interspecific territoriality and the invasion success of the spotted tilapia (Tilapia mariae) in South Florida. Biological Invasions DOI 10.1007/s10530-009-9507-3


Julie Lockwood reports the following publication in press:

  • Van Houtan, K., O.L. Bass Jr., J.L. Lockwood, and S.L. Pimm. In Press. The importance of estimating dispersal for endangered bird management. Conservation Letters.  


    Faculty Achievements and Activities:

Rebecca Jordan led a professional development seminar for teachers on Feburary 1.

Title: “Frameworks, Models, and Ontologies”. Funding was through a small grant offered through MetroWest's Partnership, NJ. 


Avian Invasions: The Ecology and Evolution of Exotic Birds by Tim M. Blackburn, Julie L. Lockwood, and Phillip Cassey. Oxford University Press, 2009 was reviewed in Trends in Ecology and Evolution Vol.25 No.3.



Rachael Winfree (Department of Entomology) reports the following two grants:

  • Strategies for Promoting Reliable Crop Pollination by Native Bees. USDA AFRI. $400,000. PI, with N. Williams (Co-PI)
  • Developing science-based pollinator restoration protocols for use in Farm Bill conservation programs. NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant, State of New Jersey. PI. $32,304.


Student Awards, Achievements, and Activities:

Wes Brooks, a Ph.D. candidate in Rebecca Jordan’s lab, was awarded an Eagleton Institute’s Governor’s Executive Fellowship. Wes will be interning with the US EPA’s National Center for Environmental Economics’ Science Policy & Analysis Division in Washington, D.C., as part of a team of economists and scientists working to improve current economic models of climate change by incorporating predictable ecological costs and benefits of increasing carbon dioxide and temperatures.

Jeremy Feinberg, a Ph.D. candidate in Joanna Burger’s lab, was  selected as this years recipient of the New Jersey Mosquito Control Assocaition  (NJMCA) Jobbins Scholarship. The scholarship was $4000. 


Josh Moody, an MS student in the Dave Bushek lab, was notified that he will be the 2010 recipient of the Melbourne R. Carriker Grant for Student Research from the National Shellfisheries Association.  Josh will receive $1250 in support of his research on "The relationship between ribbed mussel (Geukensia demissa) density and salt marsh shoreline erosion".

On March 8th, 2010, Jessica Sanders, a PhD candidate in Jason Grabosky's lab, competed in the Rutgers Strong Man competition.  The competition included four strong man events.  Jess took first place in the lightweight women's division.  More information on the strongman competition can be seen at


The Torrey Botanical Society awarded Elena Tartaglia, a Ph.D. candidate in the Handel lab, the first Andrew M. Greller Graduate Student Research Award for Conservation of Local Flora and Ecosystems.  The award was $1000.



Congratulations to following on the successful defense of their Ph.D. dissertation:

  • Allison Candelmo, advisor Judy Weis, January 26th.
  • Yufei Wang, advisor Ming Xu, March 25th
  • Ai Wen, co-advisors David and Joan Ehrenfeld, March 31st


Congratulations to following on the successful completion of their Qualifying Exam:

  • Brian Clough, advisor Joan Ehrenfeld, March 2nd.
  • John Ruppert, advisor Ravit Golan Duncan, March 30th .


Congratulations to following on the successful defense of her Preliminary Proposal:

·         Faye Benjamin, advisor Rachael Winfree, March 1st.


We wish good bye and good luck to two of the E&E family:

  • Marisol Gutierrez, a post-doc in Henry John-Alder’s lab, has accepted a research position at Energizer Personal Care.
  • Kristen Ross, (Ph.D. 2008, advisor Joan Handel) has accepted a position as a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Kristen will be funded on an NSF grant from the Coupled Human and Natural Systems program given to the Chicago Wilderness Science Team. The position is for 3 years. For more info on what Chicago Wilderness is, here is the website:



Greg Dahle, (Ph.D. 2009, advisor Jason Grabosky), has a new publication:

  • Dahle, G.A. and J.C. Grabosky. 2010. Variation in Modulus of Elasticity (E) along Acer platanoides L. (Aceraceae) branches. Urban Forestry Urban Greening DOI: 10.1016/j.ufug.2010.01.004


Karena DiLeo (MS 2010, advisor John Dighton) has the following publication:

  • Di Leo, K., Donat, K., Min-Venditti, A. & Dighton, J. (2010) Chytrid abundance and ecological integrity in New Jersey pine barrens waters and possible contributory environmental factors. Fungal Ecology doi:10.1016/j.funeco.2009.11.004.

Kimbery Donal and Amelia Min-Venditti were undergraduates on the Pinelands REU program in 2008 and 2009 respectively.


Jerald Dosch (Ph.D., 1996 advisor Donald Caccamise) was recently appointed as the Director of Macalester College’s Field Station, the Katharine Ordway Natural History Study Area (KONHSA).  For the past six years, Dosch has been serving as a visiting assistant professor in the departments of Biology and Environmental Studies.  As Director of KONHSA, Dosch will lead an effort to reinvigorate the field station, with the goal of making Ordway one of the college's showcase facilities and most distinctive educational resources.  Dosch's appointment becomes effective on June 1, 2010." (see


John H. Graham (Ph.D. 1986, advisor Robert Vrijenhoek) Reid Professor of Biology at Berry College, Mount Berry, Georgia, has the following publications and presentations:

  • Лайус, Д. Л., Грэм, Д. Х., Католикова, М. В., и Юрцева, А. О. 2009. Флуктуирующая асимметрия и случайная фенотипическая изменчивость в популяционных исследованиях: история, достижения, проблемы, перспективы. Вecтник Сaнкт-Пeтeрбургского Унивeрситeтa 3: 98-110. [Lajus, D.L., Graham, J.H., Katolikova, M.V., and Yurtseva, A. O. Fluctuating asymmetry and random phenotypic variation: history, achievements, problems, perspectives. Bulletin of Saint-Petersburg University 3: 98–110.]
  • Raz, S., J.H. Graham, H. Hel-Or, T. Pavlíček, and E. Nevo. Developmental instability of eight plant species in divergent microclimates at “Evolution Canyon,” Mount Carmel, Israel. June, 12-16, 2009, Annual Meeting of the Society for the Study of Evolution, Moscow, Idaho (oral presentation by J.H. Graham)
  • Graham, J.H., S. Raz, H. Hel-Or, and E. Nevo. 2010. Fluctuating asymmetry: methods, theory, and applications. Symmetry 2(2) 466-540.  From this main page, you can download the pdf file of the full paper. Symmetry is an open access journal.


Lin Jiang, (Ph.D. 2003; advisor Peter Morin) reported the following publication:

  • Jiang, L., J. Tan and Z. Pu. 2010. An experimental test of Darwin’s naturalization hypothesis. American Naturalist, 175: 415-423.


Brooke Maslo, (Ph.D. 2010, advisor Steven Handel) gave a presentation entitled "Practical Guidelines for Restoring Piping Plover Breeding Habitat" at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Piping Plover-Least Tern Workshop in Shepherdstown, WV, on January 21, 2010.


Brooke also has a publication in press:

  • Maslo, B., S.N. Handel, T. Pover. 2010.  Restoring beaches for Atlantic Coast piping plovers (Charadrius melodus): a classification and regression tree analysis of nest-site selection. Restoration Ecology.


Patricia Ramey, (Ph.D. 2008, advisors Fred and Judy Grassle) has received funding for a 2.5 year postdoctoral position in Germany;

  • German Science Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft), Title: Systematic revision and phylogeny of the Polygordiidae Czerniavsky, 1881 (Annelida: Polychaeta) based on morphological and molecular methods, Principal Investigator: D. Fiege, Senckenberg Museum of Natural History, Frankfurt. Collaborators: P.A. Ramey (2.5 year Post Doctorial position), and G. Purschke, University of Osnabrück. Awarded $133,933 Euros

Tricia also reports a publication in press:

  • Grassle, J.F., Ramey, P.A., and Petrecca, R.F. Temporal and spatial variation in infaunal community structure in physically active continental shelf sediments at a long-term ecosystem observatory (LEO-15) off New Jersey, USA.  Journal of Marine Research.

Tom Virzi, (Ph.D. 2008, advisor Julie Lockwood)  presented the following paper at the joint meeting of the Cooper Ornithological Society, American Ornithologists' Union and Society of Canadian Ornithologists held in San Diego, CA on Feb 7-11:

  • Conspecific Attraction and Population Recovery of The Endangered Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow in the Florida Everglades.  Coauthors: T. Virzi and J. L. Lockwood.

Tom also has publication to report in press:

  • The Effect Of Human Disturbance on the Local Distribution of American Oystercatchers Breeding on Barrier Island Beaches. International Wader Study Group Bulletin.