Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources


Ecology and Evolution Graduate Program Newsletter



April 2008



Previous newsletters may be found at:





Princeton-Rutgers-Penn Student Conference:

The annual P-R-P Conference was held at Princeton this year. The retreat is organized by students as a forum for presenting short papers on their research and a chance to share knowledge and ideas in an informal gathering. Nine papers were presented this year, with three of those presented by Rutgers students.


On April 17, Kyle F. Bennett, Ph.D. candidate working with Rich Lutz, gave an invited talk titled "Multiple cryptic species of the scorched mussel in the Florida Keys" at the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences to the Philadelphia Shell Club.


Greg Dahle, a doctoral candidate in Jason Grabosky's lab, delivered a presentation titled "Finding space for trees in urban and community landscapes" at the New York ReLeaf - Planning for Trees in Urban & Community Landscapes workshop on April 2 in Liberty NY.


Jason Grabosky spoke in Australia at the Sustainable Systems for Urban Trees Conference. The conference traveled to three cites over a four day period: Brisbane on the 14th, Sydney on the 16th & Melbourne on the 18th of April. Jason gave three invited talks in each city:


Ed Green will be the Keynote Speaker at the upcoming World Conference on Natural Resource Modeling in Warsaw, Poland, June 15-18, 2008.


Marisol Gutierrez, a post-doctoral fellow in Henry John-Alder’s lab, gave an invited presentation on April 9th at the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection in Trenton entitled "Atrazine, amphibians and New Jersey: field and laboratory evidence."


Rebecca Jordan reports the following presentations:


Julie Lockwood gave an invited seminar in the Ecology and Evolution Seminar Series at University of California, Davis. “More than just a pretty face: what can we learn about biological invasions from non-native birds.” on April 4th.


Joe Paulin, a Ph.D. candidate in David Ehrenfeld’s lab, presented 9 wildlife damage management training seminars for the Master Gardener programs of Morris, Union, Camden, Burlington, Cumberland, Monmouth, and Passaic Counties and the Environmental Stewards programs of northern and central New Jersey.

John Ruppert, a Ph.D. student working with Ravit Golan Duncan, presented a paper at the American Education Research Association in New York City on March 25. “Analyzing the relationship between general modeling practices and domain-specific knowledge in science.” 


Jackie Taylor, a Master’s student in David Bushek’s lab, gave a talk at the National Shellfisheries Association 100th Annual Meeting in Providence, RI (April 6-10) titled "An Assessment Of Habitat Value Of Constructed Intertidal Oyster Reefs And Oyster Aquaculture Systems In Delaware Bay, USA".

Jay Turnure, a Master’s student advised by Ken Able, gave an invited presentation on March 27 at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey on the use of biotelemetry and passive acoustic technologies in fisheries science.


Andrew “Pete” Vayda, Professor emeritus, gave a talk entitled “Making Causal Explanation of Events a Research Goal” on April 4 at Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick, Canada.  The talk was in conjunction with a book launch for, Against the Grain: The Vayda Tradition in Human Ecology and Ecological Anthropology (AltaMira Press, 2008), a book whose senior editor is Brad Walters, an E&E alumnus on the Mount Allison faculty.


Tom Virzi, a Ph.D. candidate in Julie Lockwood’s lab, was invited by the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife to present a talk at the 64th Annual Northeast Fish and Wildlife Conference being held April 27 - 30 in Galloway, NJ.  Tom will be presenting a paper that is currently in preparation entitled: Modeling Nest Success for the American Oystercatcher (Haematopus palliatus) Using Program MARK.


Judy Weis gave an invited presentation in the Columbia University Seminar Series in Population Biology on April 21st.  The talk was entitled “Populations in contaminated estuaries: behavioral changes and ecological consequences for five species.



Patricia Alvarez, a Ph.D. candidate in Jim White’s lab, reports two publications this month:

Rebecca Jordan reports the following publications:


Julie Lockwood has published:


Joe Paulin produced a fact sheet entitled “Evaluating NJDA’s Deer Fence Distribution Highly effective non-lethal white-tailed deer exclusion sustaining farms,” in collaboration with John Grande, Director of the Snyder Research Farm and Jack Rabin, Associate Director of the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station for distribution to policy makers and the general public.


  Rebecca Jordan received:


 Julie Lockwood reports the following grant:

·        US Fish and Wildlife Service, Developing an emergency management action plan for the endangered Cape Sable seaside sparrow (Ammodramus maritimus mirabilis) -- $37,184 (with G. Slater, R. Boulton, and S.L. Pimm).


NSF Dissertation Improvement Grant

·        Kirsten Schwarz, a Ph.D. candidate working with Steward T.A. Pickett, received a NSF

Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant for $12,000 for her research proposal titled “The Spatial Dynamics of Lead Levels in Urban Soil and Correlations with Land Cover.” Although the model created by this research will rely heavily on data collected from Baltimore, Maryland, this research will contribute to the understanding of soil lead contamination in other urban areas.  The public health community can use information generated by this model to streamline current lead remediation efforts.


Bevier Fellowship:


Graduate School New Brunswick Pre-Dissertation and Special Study Awards:

Three students were awarded Pre-dissertation or Special Study awards from the GSNB:






Faculty Achievements and Activities:

Steven Handel has been selected as a Fellow of the Institute for Urban Design, in New York City, in recognition of his work on ecological restoration of urban environments.  The Institute is a community of architects, planners, scholars and public sector leaders working in the world of urban design.


Joan Ehrenfeld organized and co-hosted the conference “The Climate Ahead:  Impacts of Climate Change on Water Resources” with the Climate and Environmental Change Initiative.  The meeting, held at the Rutgers Student Center on College Avenue, attracted nearly 200 people, including water scientists, water managers and professionals, and representatives of NGOs.


Rebecca Jordan has been involved in the following outreach projects:

·        Career Services Panelist.  3/24/08.  Discussed careers at academic institutions for graduate students near completion.

·        After School Program. April 2008.  Can you dig it?  Gardening Club for Greater Brunswick Charter School together with the University Roots & Shoots and Graduate Students David Mellor and John Ruppert.


Rick Lathrop participated on a panel discussing “Ecoregional assessment, marine spatial planning and Indicators to support regional planning and ecosystem-based management" as part of conference on "Improving Regional and Ecosystem-based Ocean management Approaches in New Jersey" held at Monmouth University, April 14, 2008.

Rick Lathrop and the Advanced Environmental Geomatics class is leading a  “Discover the Rutgers Eco-Preserve & Natural Teaching Area” event on May 3 rd from 10:00 am to 2 pm.

There will be litter removal, wildlife and bird hikes, orienteering/GPS Geo-cache, a BBQ lunch break and more. For more information contact Rick Lathrop at


Lena Struwe represented Rutgers University at the annual meeting for Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS) at Palo Verde Research Station, Costa Rica, 6-8 April, 2008.


The Garden Club of New Jersey (GCNJ) congratulated Lena Struwe, all members of the committee, every member of the Chrysler Herbarium and especially Dr. David E. Fairbrothers for the phenomenal work they have accomplished on behalf of the Native Plants of New Jersey and Northeast America.  The website states that the committee is proposing a Plant Resources Center (PRC) to provide “focus on the research, preservation, and education of Plant Resources for the current and coming generations. The Plant Resources Center would be an umbrella organization for research and outreach activities related to the Chrysler Herbarium, Mycological Collection, Online Herbarium, Molecular and Plant Extract Archive and K-12/Stakeholder programs.

The proposed PRC research infrastructure is important to providing continued enhancement of research funding for the premiere research programs at Rutgers and sister institutions, which include biodiversity, biotechnology, breeding, drug discovery, ecology, evolution, horticulture, natural product chemistry, pharmacological, bio-prospecting, nutraceuticals, and pathology.”

Advisory Panels:

Joan Ehrenfeld attended a meeting of the Water Science and Technology Board of the National Research Council, on which she is serving a second term.


Student Awards, Achievements, and Activities:

Sharron Crane, a Ph.D. candidate in Tamar Barkay’s lab, has been appointed as a Carnegie Academy for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (CASTL) fellow for 2008 -2009. A memo from Dean Barbara Bender on behalf of the Tap Project and the Center for the advancement of Teaching explained the CASTL fellowship as follows: “Rutgers has been designated a member of the Leadership Program of the Carnegie Academy for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (CASTL) by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The primary focus of our efforts for the next two years will be on enhancing graduate students' pedagogical expertise as they prepare for the professoriate. These fellowships will involve attending monthly meetings, presenting sessions on pedagogical issues for other graduate students, and participating, in a leadership capacity, in programs hosted by the project.” The fellowship stipend is to be used for scholarly expenses. Congratulations Sharron!


David Mellor, in conjunction with the Rutgers chapter of the Roots and Shoots Club, led three after-school programs at the Greater Brunswick Charter School covering gardening practices and concepts to fourth, fifth and sixth graders.  The program is both a way to reach out to the New Brunswick community as well as an opportunity to gain insight into the ways in which primary school aged children learn. David is a Ph.D. candidate in Rebecca Jordan’s lab.


On April 10th Inga La Puma, a Ph.D. candidate in Rick Lathrop’s lab, met with the Pinelands Commission Research Staff to discuss her dissertation topic, "Predicting ecosystem dynamics at the wildland/urban interface: effects of land-use/landcover change and altered fire regimes."  A working group consisting of Pinelands Commission scientists, community members and New Jersey forest fire service was formed to develop a fire management plan after last years Warren Grove forest.  Inga’s spatial fire history database and disturbance models should provide an ecological perspective to inform fire management plans in the townships of Barnegat and Stafford.


Kristen Ross, Ph.D. candidate in Joan Ehrenfeld’s lab, and Myla Aronson, Ph.D. 2007 Steven Handel advisor, have organized a symposium at this year's Ecological Society of America Annual Meeting August 3-8, 2008 in Milwaukee, WI.

Title: Using Urban Ecological Research as a Tool for Enhancing Ecological Literacy

Date: Thursday, August 7, 1:30-5:00 PM.

Some of the featured speakers are currently in the E&E Graduate Program at Rutgers or are alumni: Steven Handel, Dr. Emilie Stander, Dr. Rich Pouyat, Dr. Myla Aronson


EcoGSA Activities:

Once again the spring semester was busy for the Ecology and Evolution Graduate Student Association. In addition to the Rutgers-Penn-Princeton Conference mentioned in the presentations section of this newsletter and the weekly Friday seminar series in which graduate students present their own research to the group, they organized the following events:


Eminent Ecologist Lecture:


5K Run for the Woods:


Ag Field Day:



Congratulations to the following:

On the successful defense of their Ph.D. Dissertation:


On the successful completion of their Qualifying Exam:


On the successful defense of their Preliminary Proposal:



Carrie Norin and husband Andy welcomed Nathaniel Sanger Norin into the world on March 18th. Nathaniel weighed 5 lbs, 1 oz and was 18 inches long at birth. Mom and baby are doing great.  Carrie is a Ph.D. candidate working with Steven Handel.



Michael P. Lombardo (Ph.D. 1984, Advisor: Harry W. Power) has published the following papers:


Rodney Rountree (Ph.D. 1992, advisor Ken Able) was interviewed for an article in April 8th  NY Times Science Times on sound production in fish.

There is also a link to some great sound recordings of fish at



Eva Gonzales, a former post-doc with Peter Smouse and currently an Assistant Professor at Appalachian State in Boone NC, completed the Boston Marathon on April 21st with a time of 3:57.


Phil Stouffer (Ph.D. 1989, advisor Harry Power), reports recently running his first marathonThe time was 3:58 which Phil says isn’t bad considering his age and decrepitude.