Department of Ecology, Evolution and Natural Resources


Ecology and Evolution Graduate Program Newsletter


April 2006


Previous newsletters may be found at:


DEENR and the E&E Graduate Program have much good news to celebrate this month.


Congratulations to the following faculty members on their promotions:

To Associate Professor:

·        Dr. Jason Grabosky

·        Dr. Julie Lockwood

To Professor I

·        Dr. Rick Lathrop

To Professor II:

·        Dr. Peter Morin



We also have good news to report from Ted Stiles. He has completed his regimen of chemotherapy and radiation and is looking forward to a full recovery. Ted will be teaching Preserving New Jersey’s Open Spaces and Concepts and Methods in Evolution as usual this fall.




The Rutgers-Princeton-Penn Conference was held April 1st at the University of Pennsylvania.  

The ecology and evolution graduate students from Princeton, University of Pennsylvania and Rutgers meet yearly to give presentations on their research. The host university rotates yearly with graduate students at the hosting university responsible for organizing that years meeting.


Three E&E students gave presentations:

  • Myla Aronson , a Ph.D. candidate in Steven Handel’s lab,  presented  “Past, present and future of an old growth forest: vegetation change and exotic species invasions over 50 years.”
  • Stacey Lettini, a Ph.D. student in Mike Sukhdeo’s lab presented work done by she and Mike titledAnhydrobiosis: an ecological strategy to increase transmission success in gastrointestinal nematodes.
  • Emilie Stander, a Ph.D. candidate in Joan Ehrenfeld’s lab, presented  Do urban wetlands leak nitrogen?  The effects of urbanization on nitrate removal capacity of urban wetlands. ”

Kenneth Elgersma,  Linda Rohleder,  Di Li,  John Ruppert, Aabir Banerji, Kristen Ross, Kim Mendillo, Bill Landesman also attended the conference.


Joan Ehrenfeld gave a plenary address, titled “Wetland Restoration in Urban Areas: Constraints and Chances” at the 2006 Sustainable Landscapes Conference (entitled “Wildland and Urban Restoration: Processes of Rejuvenating Place”) at Utah State University on April 3.


Joan Ehrenfeld gave a keynote address, titled “Finding Ecology in the ‘Burbs” at the annual meeting of the Mid-Atlantic Section of the Ecological Society of America on April 8, held in Branchville, NJ


Alex Felson a Ph.D. student in Steward T.A.  Pickett’s lab, lectured at the Natural Resources Summit, an EDAW firm-wide ecology symposium in Sacramento California March 24th.

Alex also lectured at University of Pennsylvania in the Landscape Architecture Department on March 31st.


Joe Paulin, a Ph.D. candidate David Ehrenfeld’s lab has been quite busy:

  • He was invited to participate in several symposiums at the 62nd Annual Northeast Fish and Wildlife Conference, Burlington Vermont April 23-26.
  • He gave a presentation, “Reducing human-wildlife conflicts in New Jersey,” at the general meeting of the Northeast Wildlife Damage Management Research and Outreach Cooperative.
  • Joe was an invited panelist for the symposium, “No Child Allowed Outdoors: Perceived Wildlife Risks in the Great Outdoors,” sponsored by the NEWDM Cooperative and the Human Dimensions Research Unit at Cornell University.
  • He was also invited to participate in a pilot test of a bear management simulation model being developed by Cornell University.
  • Joe gave a guest lecture in Jason Grabosky’s Urban Forestry class on suburban/urban wildlife in New Jersey.
  • He trained Ocean County Master Gardeners in techniques to reduce unwanted human-wildlife interactions around the home and garden.
  • Joe was invited to present a table display to educate children about black bears at the Mercer County Improvement Authority Annual Earth Day Event.


Jonathon Schramm, a Ph.D. candidate in Joan Ehrenfeld’s lab, presented a poster titled  "The presence of Japanese stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum) as related to intermittent hydrology and forest age," at the chapter meeting of the Mid-Atlantic section of the Ecological  Society of America.




Judy Weis visited Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge to present a seminar in the Biology Department on “Effects of the Phragmites Invasion in Atlantic Coast Estuaries.”



Joanna Burger has authored Whispers in the Pines; A Naturalist in the Northeast,  published

by Rutgers University Press.  The Rutgers University Press description reads: “Joanna Burger takes us on a series of delightful trips through the Pine Barrens... Whispers in the Pines is essential reading for everyone concerned with the history and preservation of these unique landscapes and their wildlife.”


Steven Clemants and Carol Gracie have published Wildflowers in the Field and Forest, A Field Guide to the Northeastern United States. For details visit the Oxford University Press website:


Gilman E and Grabosky J . 2006.  "Branch union morphology affects decay following pruning".  Arboriculture & Urban Forestry 32(2):74-79.


Jordan, R., Kellogg, K., Howe, D., Juanes, F., Stauffer, J., and Loew E. 2006. Photopigment spectral absorbance of Lake Malawi cichlids.  Journal of Fish Biology 68: 1291-1299. 


Steiner, C.,  Z. Long, J. Krumins, and P. Morin.  2006. Population and community resilience in multitrophic communities. Ecology 87(4):996-1007.


     Faculty Achievements and Activities:

Joanna Burger is receiving an honorary Ph.D. from the University of Alaska at their commencement exercises this spring.


The March 2006 issue of "Landscape Architect and Specifier News" has a long article about the new "Orange County Great Park" project in California where Steven Handel's lab is restoring the extensive natural habitats.  The 1,450 acre land was a former U.S. government air base. The article, "A Great Park, choosing the next Olmstead," (pages 66-74) describes the competition process and alternative proposals that were considered for this vast landscape.


Rebecca Jordan is on the Ad-hoc Cook College Taskforce for Undergraduate Education Curriculum implementation committee.


Bonnie J. McCay reports the following:

The peninsula of Baja California is the location of a research project that I share with colleagues at several universities in the US (Stanford, Texas, UC-Santa Barbara) and Mexico (UABS, CIBNOR).  It is funded through the NSF "Biocomplexity" competition, and it seeks to use empirical data and modeling to account for the performance of the benthic component of the marine ecosystems and the fishery-based social systems of the Pacific Coast of Baja (better known as the home of the "Baja taco"). A graduate student from Rutgers Anthropology, Wendy Weisman, is doing ethnographic research on site, and in March (20-24) I had a brief field trip there, together with consulting anthropologists Maria Cruz Torres (Arizona State) and Matthew Des Lauriers (Cal. State Northridge).  We spent the week on Isla de Cedros, about 20 m off the tip of the Vizcaino peninsula, within the Vizcaino Biosphere Reserve. This site and others in the region are locales for fishery cooperatives that recently (2005) received certification for sustainable lobster fishing from the Marine Stewardship Council.  This is the first time that either Latin American or small-scale, artisanal fisheries have received such certification, and we are trying to explain this case of sustainable fishing, as well as account for others that may not be so sustainable (i.e., pink and green abalone).


     Peter Morin will receive a Faculty Scholar-Teacher Award from President McCormick at a reception on May 4th.


Advisory Panels:   

 Judy Weis served on two EPA review panels for graduate fellowships and on the National Sea Grant Review Panel.


Student Awards, Achievements, and Activities:

NSF Graduate Research Fellowship

Kenneth Elgersma, a Ph.D. student in Joan Ehrenfeld’s lab, received a NSF Graduate Research Fellowship was for his project, “Invasive Species as Ecosystem Engineers: Plant-Soil Feedback Alters the Competitive Environment.”  Congratulations Kenneth!


Three students received Special Study and Pre-Dissertation Awards from the Graduate School New Brunswick:

  • Domenic D’Amore, a Ph.D. candidate co-advised by Kathy Scott and George McGhee received a $1000 for travel to Denver Zoo to study feeding behavior and functional dentition in the Komodo monitor, Varanus komodoensis.
  • Kenneth Elgersma  received a $1000 for a project investigating the temporal pattern of nitrogen uptake in an invasive shrub (Japanese barberry).
  • David Mellor, a Ph.D. student working with Rebecca Jordan, received $1500 to go to Malawi in December-January 2006/2007 to study the Lake Malawi rock-dwelling cichlids. 


Jeremy Feinberg, a Joanna Burger Ph.D. student, was awarded a Henry Phillip Kraft Environmental Grant through the Long Island Community Foundation.  This  is a grant for non-profit organizations given through the Foundation for Ecological Research in the Northeast (FERN) at the Brookhaven National Lab. Jeremy will be conducting surveys of leopard frogs throughout Long Island this summer.  The grant is for $20,000.


Sharron Hicks Crane, a Ph.D. candidate in Tamar Barkay’s and John Dighton’s labs, received a Ray Fatto Scholarship from the New Jersey Mycological Society last month. 




Jennifer Adams Krumins, a Ph.D. candidate in Peter Morin’s lab, participated in a working group at University College Cork in Ireland that discussed food webs and made preparations for further collaboration among the colleagues.  The group consisted of ecologists from across Europe and the US.  The participants ranged in career standing from early grad students to advanced professors. Jennifer presented two talks :”Causes and Consequences of Diversity in Microbial Communities" and "Microbial Food Webs Under Excess Nitrogen in Forest Soil"


Linda Rohleder, a Ph.D. student in Joan Ehrenfeld's lab, was awarded a $1500 stipend from the Adkins Arboretum in Ridgely, MD for research on "deer browse and competition in the management of the invasive herb Alliaria petiolata".


Jonathon Schramm, a Ph.D. candidate in Joan Ehrenfeld’s lab, received the Caroline Thorn Kissel Summer Environmental Studies Scholarship from the Garden Clubs of America for “ An analysis of factors influencing Japanese stiltgrass invasion at multiple spatial scales." The money will be used to support traveling among a larger number of sites along the Sourlands.


Tom Virzi, a Ph.D. candidate in Julie Lockwood’s lab, received funding for the second year in a row from the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge. The monies will pay for the field technician who will be working on the refuge collecting data for Tom’s oystercatcher project. He was awarded $2,800 plus housing for Steve Grodsky, a sophomore Natural Resource major at Cook College.


Undergraduate students, Bernie Issacson, Angela Gorczyca, and Allisyn Gillet along with Rebecca Jordan gave a presentation at the New Brunswick wide incoming student open-house on April 8.  Details about the Ecology and Natural Resource major were given.  The highlight, however, was the use of rope and sticks to produce a fire-starting ember care of Bernie.



Myla Aronson, a Ph.D. candidate in Steven Handel’s lab, has accepted a position as a Visiting Assistant Professor of Biology at Luther College beginning in the fall. Myla will be teaching Ecology and Botany and participating in a team-taught General Biology course. Myla and her husband Scott are moving to Rochester, Minnesota in June.


Alumni News:

Johanna Choo, Ph.D. 2005, advisor Ted Stiles, has accepted a postdoctoral position with the Monitoring and Assessment of Biodiversity (MAB) program at the Smithsonian. Johanna will be studying frugivory and fruit production in Gabon, Africa.


Steven D. Garber, Ph.D. 1994, advisor Joanna Burger, has received the Sierra Club's Lifetime Achievement Award. Congratulations Steve!


Paula Maas, Ph.D. 1996 , advisor Tim Casey,  has been named the Director of Assessment in the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment at the College of New Jersey.

It is a newly created position. Paula will implement and maintain assessment programs consistent with Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools accreditation requirements as expressed in The College of New Jersey's Strategic and Quality Enhancement Plans for each department/unit.  This will require developing and managing the related information systems and developing the appropriate web resources and training opportunities for faculty. More info can be found at Follow the link to "assessment."


Nan Shao, Ph.D. 2006, advisor Colleen Hatfield, has accepted a position at AtheroGenics Inc., a pharmaceutical company located north of metro Atlanta, GA. Nan is a Senior Biostatistician responsible for providing statistical support for the design, implementation and analysis of clinical trials.


Steve Weeks, Ph.D. 1991, advisor Bob Vrijenhoek, reports the following publication:

Weeks SC, TF Sanderson, SK Reed, M Zofkova, B Knott, U Balaraman, G Pereira, DM Senyo, WR Hoeh. 2006. Ancient Androdioecy in the Freshwater Crustacean Eulimnadia. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B 273:725-734.