Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources


Ecology and Evolution Graduate Program Newsletter



April 2009



Previous newsletters may be found at:



Princeton-Rutgers-Penn Student Conference:

The annual P-R-P Conference was held at Penn 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.

·        Sharron Crane, a PhD. candidate co-advised by Tamar Barkay and John Dighton, presented a talk titled “The effect of mercury on the ectomycorrhizal community of Pinus rigida (pitch pine).”

·        Tavis Anderson, a Ph.D. candidate in Mike Sukhdeo’s lab, gave a talk titled “Parasite diversity is constrained by core/periphery structure in food web networks.”

·        Ben Baiser, a Ph.D. candidate in Julie Lockwood’s lab, presented a talk titled “Food web topology and species richness control invasions success via trophic interactions in model food webs.”


Patricia Alvarez-Loyaza, Ph.D. May 09, advisor Jim White, was invited to give a seminar on plant pathogens and endophytes in tropical ecosystems at Harvard University, Museum of Comparative Zoology in the laboratory of Dr. Naomi Pierce on April 10th, 2009.


Rebecca Jordan gave an invited seminar in the Biology Department Seminar Series at Fairleigh Dickinson University on March 26. The presentation was titled “Sexual selection in Lake Malawi cichlids.”


Kirsten Schwarz, a PhD candidate co-advised by Steward Pickett and Rick Lathrop and Richard Pouyat (PhD 1992), gave an invited talk titled "The Spatial Distribution of Lead in Urban Soils: Results from the Baltimore Ecosystem Study" to the Baltimore City Health Department on April 15th, 2009.  The audience consisted of Health Department employees, representatives from other state agencies, and community members.



Rebecca Jordan and Ravit Golan Duncan report the following publication:

Jordan, R. and R.Golan Duncan. 2009. Student teachers' images of science in ecology and genetics. Journal of Biological Education 43:62-70.


Jean Deo, a Ph.D student in Peter Morin's and Rick Ostfeld's labs, published an article in the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference newsletter TrailWalkers. The title is “Nature's Teacher: The Ovenbird.” See page seven of <>.


Jack Siegrist, a Ph.D. student, in the Morin lab, reports the following publication:

Meghann A, Clark, Jack Siegrist, and Paul A Keddy. 2008 Patterns of frequency in species-rich vegetation in pine savannas: Effects of soil moisture and scale. Ecoscience 15(4) 529-535.


     Faculty Achievements and Activities:

Joanna Burger participated in a week-long series of workshops on Environmental Health and Ecological Risk Assessment at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand.  The workshops, organized by Mark Robson, included Joanna giving lectures on general principles and specific problems in ecological risk as well as formal and informal meetings with graduate students. The workshops are sponsored under the International Training and Research in Environmental and Occupational Health program of the National Institute of Health's Fogarty Foundation for international capacity building.  The trip also included field work to assess the potential for collaborative research on pesticide and other chemical exposure (including from fish consumption).


David Ehrenfeld has agreed to serve on the editorial board of Koedoe. Koedoe is conservation science and management journal published by the South African National Parks since 1958. David’s appointment to the board is for three years.


The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) has chosen Steven Handel for the 2009 National Award of Honor for Research. The award is for the Handel lab's published scientific research over the past few years, under the heading, "Ecological Restoration Processes to Enhance Urban Landscape Design." This work underlies all the planning and concepts that Steven does on sites, developing the structure and dynamic aspects of the new habitats to complement the beautiful work of the Landscape Architects. The award will be presented at the next ASLA national meeting, in Chicago in September  2009.


Rebecca Jordan, Dr. Ron Coleman and David Mellor, a Ph.D candidate in Rebecca’s lab, gave an in-service teaching workshop at the Darwin200 Celebration on March 30. The workshop was titled “Using case study to teach Darwin's ideas about parental care”.


Rick Lathrop reports the following activities of the Rutgers Center for Remote Sensing and Spatial Analysis (CRSSA):

  • The Rutgers Center for Remote Sensing and Spatial Analysis (CRSSA) and Applied Imagery, Inc. hosted a one day hands-on workshop on the LiDAR analysis software package QuickTerrain Modeler.  Approximately 40 people attended the event and included personnel from a variety of State and County agencies, private industry as well as Rutgers faculty, staff and students. LiDAR imagery provides a unique 3-dimensional view of the landscape and is useful for terrain analyses, flood and sea level rise hazard mapping, land use planning and forest inventory.  LiDAR imagery is becoming available for broad swaths of New Jersey for the first time.  The QuickTerrain Modeler provides a ready means of visualizing LiDAR imagery as well as facilitating analysis. CRSSA has a multi-seat license for the software.
  • CRSSA collaborated with the Newark Museum and NJ Audubon to develop an interactive computer display visualizing changes in forest and wetland land cover across the state of New Jersey over the time period from 1600, 1700, 1800, 1900, 1950, 2000 and out to 2050.  This display is part of the Museum's 'Skies Alive!' exhibit which focuses on New Jersey's role in bird migration. The interactive exhibit illustrates the uniqueness of the State's diverse environments and the importance of preserving its natural resources to ensure the survival of these transient birds. The exhibit opens on April 22, 2009 as part of the Museum’s Centennial Celebration. For more information, go to:


 Julie Lockwood has been appointed as Associate Editor for Biological Conservation.  Biological Conservation is a premier international journal that focuses on the conservation of species and ecosystems published by Elsevier.  



Special Study and Pre-Dissertation Awards were received two by students:

  • Faye Benjamin, a Ph.D. student working with Rachael Winfree, received a Pre-Dissertation Award of $700.00 to partially fund her first season of research on native bee pollination and agricultural crops.
  • Denise Hewitt, a Ph.D student, received a Special Study grant of $450.00 to defray the cost of attending a bee identification course offered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Shepardstown, West Virginia.


Jean Deo, a Ph.D student in Peter Morin's and Rick Ostfeld's labs, received a $3000 Rea Grant for her continued research at Powdermill Avian Research Center.


Lea Johnson, a Ph.D. candidate in Steven Handel’s lab, was awarded the 2009 Garden Club of America Fellowship in Ecological Restoration for her project “Long-term Outcomes of Urban Woodland Restoration.”  The award is $8000.


Student Awards, Achievements, and Activities:

Graduate School-New Brunswick Awards

Two students will receive Graduate School New Brunswick Awards on April 30th at the Spring Reception to be held in the Life Sciences Atrium:

  • A Dean’s Research Award will be given to Patricia Alvarez-Loyaza. Patricia successfully defended her Ph.D this spring advised by Jim White.
  • Maria Stanko, a Ph.D. candidate in Peter Morin’s lab, will receive an Award for Teaching by a Graduate Student.


Alex Felson, a Ph.D. candidate working with Steward Pickett has been named as one of Crain’s 2009 40 under 40. For information about the award and about Alex’s featured work visit:


Lea Johnson, a Ph.D. candidate in Steven Handel’s lab, was asked to join a panel discussion April 17th at the Earth Institute at Columbia University on Climate Change Adaptation in New York City, to discuss the PlaNYC Million Trees Campaign reforestation effort.


Bill Landesman, a Ph.D. candidate working with John Dighton, attended the NSF-AAAS GK12 Annual Meeting, March 27 - 29 in Washington, D.C. Attendees included PIs, graduate fellows, K-12 educators & others involved in the GK12 program.


Bill Landesman was also interviewed for an article in The Daily Climate regarding climate change and its effect on West Nile Virus.



Congratulations to the following:

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

  • Alison Seigel, advisor Julie Lockwood, on March 27th.
  • Stacey Lettini, advisor Michael Sukhdeo, on April 14th.


On the successful defense of their Master’s Thesis:

  • Kris Schantz, advisor Joanna Burger, on March 30th.


On the successful completion of their Qualifying Exam:

  • Alex Felson, advisor Steward Pickett, on April 1st.


On the successful defense of their Preliminary Proposal:

  • David Mellor, advisor Rebecca Jordan, on April 3rd.
  • Julian Avery, advisor Julie Lockwood, on April 16th.



Marielle Anzelone, M.S. 2000, advisor Jeanmarie Hartman, invites everyone to attend NYC Wildflower Week.   May 2-9, 2009 is 2nd annual NYC Wildflower Week, celebrating all things green and wild in the Big Apple—the hundreds of native flowers, trees, shrubs, and grasses that call New York City home.  It's a week of inspired environmental learning, with dozens of free activities, children’s events, walks and talks for all New Yorkers to enjoy.  NYC Wildflower Week will engage and connect people to their local environments and inspire and empower New Yorkers to create a landscape that is sustainable, beautiful and ecologically sound.  It is the largest celebration of National Wildflower Week, an initiative begun by Lady Bird Johnson.  Marielle is a botanist and native landscape designer with Drosera. She is also the founder of NYC Wildflower Week.


Frank Gallagher, Ph.D. 2008, advisor Jason Grabosky, was appointed as a visiting scholar through year end 2009.