Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources


Ecology and Evolution Graduate Program Newsletter


April 2010


Previous newsletters may be found at:





Rutgers- Princeton-Penn Student Conference:

The annual P-R-P Conference was held on April 10th at Rutgers 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. Five papers were presented by Rutgers students.

  • Aabir Banerji, Ph.D. candidate in the Peter Morin lab, “Indirect Offenses in Ecological Communities: What If My Enemy Has Allies, Too?”
  • Cara Faillace, Ph.D. candidate in the Joan Ehrenfeld lab, "Snowy Plovers exhibit variable response to human disturbance on two islands in southwest Florida” Cara defended her master’s on April 26th.
  • Sona Mason, , master’s student in the Judy Wies lab,  “Effects of enhanced nutrient content in polluted sediments on feeding time budgets of Uca pugnax
  • David Mellor, Ph.D. candidate in the Rebecca Jordan lab, “Sexual selection as a diversifying force in Malwai cichlids.” 
  • Ai Wen, co-advised by David and Joan Ehrenfeld, “Avian use of cranberry farms in the Pinelands”. Ai defended her Ph.D. dissertation on March 31st.


Joan Ehrenfeld visited the University of Wisconsin as the “Distinguished Speaker” for the spring ecology symposium organized by Wisconsin Ecology, the organization of the many departments and students working in ecology throughout the university.  Joan was selected by the graduate student committee that organizes their spring symposium.  During her visit she gave two public lectures, “Understanding Plant Invasions in Fragmented Landscapes” and “Invasive plants, soils and ecosystem processes:  what have we learned so far?”  She also met with many faculty and graduate students.

Nina Fefferman has been busy.

She has presented:

  • An invited talk at the AAAS meeting in San Diego on uses of Virtual Worlds in Scientific Education and Research, entitled "Playing with Plague: Exploring Disease Dynamics from Within".
  • An invited talk at the Computer Science Departmental Seminar series at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute entitled "Self-Organizing Networks, Social Complexity, and Disease Dynamics".


Nina Fefferman's work was included in an article featured in Cell, "Video Games and the Second Life of Science Class" by A. Maxmen (Cell, Volume 141, Issue 2, 201-203, 16 April 2010)


Nina Fefferman was interviewed for a German Broadcast Radio program. The program (in German, of course) can be found at <>


Visiting Scholar Frank Gallagher (Ph.D 2008, advisor Jason Grabosky), Urban Forestry Program, presented on urban greenspace at the Shaping the ‘City’ of New Jersey Workshop sponsored by the Center for Urban Environmental Sustainability on April 16, at the Rutgers Continuing Studies Conference Center.


Brian Johnson, a master's student in the Mike Sukhdeo lab, received the 2010 NJAES Student Research Poster Competition in the Graduate Applied/Field Research category for his poster titled "Urban Wetlands Decrease Disease Risk for West Nile Virus."


Charlie Kontos, a Ph.D. student advised by Rick Lathrop, gave the following presentations:

  • "The Rare Forest Carnivores of New Jersey: Bobcats, Coyotes, and Fishers" for the Boy Scouts of America on March 22, 2010, and also for The Nature Conservancy at Mashipacong Bogs Preserve on April 17, 2010.
  • A poster at the New Jersey Academy of Science annual meeting on April 24, 2010 entitled "Assessment of Bobcats (Lynx rufus) in northwestern New Jersey."


Inga LaPuma, a Ph.D. candidate in Rick Lathrop’s lab, presented a talk at the US-Landscape Ecology Conference in Athens, GA on April 7th. “Defining the ecological wildland urban interface: relating fire and altered land to forest succession in the pinelands of New Jersey.”


Rick Lathrop gave the following invited presentations:

  • “Issues pertaining to Forest Carbon in New Jersey. Assessing the Potential of New Jersey’s Forests for Carbon Sequestration.” NJ Society of American Foresters. Hamilton, NJ. January 22, 2010.
  • “Climate change, Impacts and Interventions for Coastal Landscapes.” NJ American Association of Landscape Architects. Atlantic City, NJ January 24, 2010.
  • “Ecological Restoration: Why Bother?  Establishing Restoration Priorities in New Jersey’s Coastal Zone.”  Society for Ecological Restoration – Mid-Atlantic Chapter: Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ February 19, 2010.
  • “Protecting Water Quality in the Pinelands: Reversing the Barnegat Bay crisis. Presenter and facilitator on the topic of Land Use.”  Pinelands Science-Policy Forum – Lakehurst Naval Air Station, Lakehurst, NJ. March 16, 2010.
  • “Assessing the Vulnerability of the New Jersey Coast to Climate and Landscape Change.” Rutgers University Bloustein School for Planning and Policy seminar series. New Brunswick, NJ, March 25, 2010.
  • “Preparing Your Community in the face of a Changing Climate.” Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve. Presenter and panel member. A Status Update on Local Indicators of Sea Level Rise. Tuckerton New Jersey. April 1, 2010.


Sona Mason, a master’s student in the Judy Weis lab, presented “The effects of contaminated sediment on the feeding habits of Uca pugnax" at the Spring 2010 Atlantic Estuarine Research Society meeting in Atlantic City, March 4-6, 2010. 


Marci Meixler gave the following two invited presentations:

  • Meixler, M. S. 2010.  “Applications of satellite imagery in mapping and spatial modeling”.  TIROS 1 50th Anniversary, Science on Saturday, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ. 10 April.

Meixler, M. S. 2010.  “Non-target fish timing and extent of seasonal movements”.  Great Lakes Fishery Commission, Sea Lamprey Research Board, Ann Arbor, MI. 3 March.


Lena Struwe has the following presentation:

  • Sharma, A., A. Novy, S. Bonos & L. Struwe. 2010. New Jersey's Swamp Pink: Genetic diversity and what it means for conservation. 24th National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR), Missoula, MT, 15-17 April, 2010 [poster by Aresty undergraduate student, selected presentation out of 2600 submitted abstracts]





The Debashish Bhattacharya lab reports the following publications:

  • Moustafa A, Evans AN, Kulis DM, Hackett JD, Erdner DL, Anderson DM, Bhattacharya D (2010). Transcriptome profiling of a toxic dinoflagellate reveals a gene-rich protist and a potential impact on gene expression due to bacterial presence. PLoS ONE, 5(3):e9688.
  • Reyes-Prieto A, Yoon HS, Moustafa A, Yang EC, Andersen RA, Boo SM, Nakayama T, Ishida KI, Bhattacharya D (2010). Differential gene retention in plastids of common recent origin. Molecular Biology and Evolution. Advance Access Feb 1, doi:10.1093/molbev/msq032


and the following three book chapters in:

Seckbach J & Chapman D (eds.) Cellular Origins, Life in Extreme Habitats and Astrobiology, Vol 13: Red Algae in the Genomic Age. New York:

Springer, ISBN 978-90-481-3794-7.

·        Yoon HS, Zuccarello GC, Bhattacharya D. "Evolutionary history and taxonomy of red algae."

·        Gantt E, Berg GM, Bhattacharya D, Blouin NA, Brodie JA, Chan CX et al. "Porphyra: complex life histories in a harsh environment."

Reeb V, Bhattacharya D. "The Thermo-Acidophilic Cyanidiophyceae (Cyanidiales)."


Joan Ehrenfeld and two of her former students Jonathon Schramm (Ph.D. 2008) and Heather Bowman-Cutway (Ph.D. 2004) report the following publications:

  • Schramm, Jonathon and Joan G. Ehrenfeld. 2010.  Leaf litter and understory canopy shade limit the establishment, growth and reproduction of Microstegium vimineum. Biological Invasions DOI 10.1007/s10530-010-9711-1
  • Cutway, Heather Bowman and Joan G. Ehrenfeld. 2010. The influence of urban land use on seed dispersal and wetland invasibility. Plant Ecology. DOI 10.1007/s11258-010-9746-5


Nina Fefferman reports:

  • Lofgren, E.T., J.B. Wenger, N.H. Fefferman, D. Bina, S Gradus, S. Bhattacharyya, Y.N. Naumov, J. Gorski, E.N. Naumova.  Disproportional Effects in Populations of Concern for Pandemic Influenza: Insights from Seasonal Epidemics in Wisconsin, 1967-2004" was accepted for publication by the journal Influenza (online publication ahead of print,

              DOI: 10.1111/j.1750-2659.2010.00137.x).


Julie Lockwood reports the following article in press:

  • Lockwood, J.L. Book review of Bioinvasions and Globlization by C. Perrings, H. Mooney, and M. Williamson. Biological Invasions.


Julie Lockwood and two of her former students Ben Baiser (Ph.D. 2009) and Alison Seigel (Ph.D. 2008) have the following publications:

  • Baiser, B. and J.L. Lockwood.  In press. The relationship between functional and taxonomic homogenization.  Global Ecology and Biogeography.
  • Baiser, B., G.J. Russell, and J.L. Lockwood.  In press.  Connectance and species richness determine invasion success via trophic interactions in model food webs. Oikos.
  • Seigel, A. and J. L. Lockwood.  In press.  How increasing levels of private land enrollment in conservation agreements affect the population viability of grassland birds.  Biodiversity and Conservation.  


Marci Meixler has the following publication

  • Meixler, M. S. and M. B. Bain.  2010.  A water quality model for regional stream assessment and conservation targeting.  Environmental Management 45(4): 868-880.

Peter Smouse has the following publication:

  • Scofield, D. G., V. L. Sork, and P. E. Smouse. 2010. Influence of acorn woodpecker social behaviour on transport of coast live oak (Quercus agrifolia) acorns in a southern California oak savanna. Journal of Ecology 98:561-572.


Lena Struwe reports the following publication:

  • K. B. Lepis, P. J. M. Maas, & L. Struwe. In press. A new species of Sipapoantha from northern Brazil (Gentianaceae: Helieae). Blumea.


Faculty Achievements and Activities:

Steven Handel is part of an award winning website.

  • The urban ecology website,, has been awarded the 2010 American Society of Landscape Architects National Honor Award for Communication.  The site helps redefine the urban environment, and engages a non-traditional audience, subway riders, about the environment through which they are traveling.  Steven Handel wrote and recorded the "Weed Walk" component of the safari, explaining ecological function and history of the more common plants in the urban sphere.  The Award will be presented at the ASLA national meeting in Washington, D.C.


Student Awards, Achievements, and Activities:

A Pre-Dissertation Award of $1000 from the GSNB was received by Andrea Egizi for her research proposal titled “Population genetics of a newly introduced disease vector in Hawaii.” The award monies will be used to travel to Hawaii to collect mosquitoes for genetic analyses. Andrea is a Ph.D student working with Dina Fonseca.


E&E Small Grants Awards – 2010

The E&E Graduate Program was pleased to make five $1000 awards in response to proposals submitted by graduate students for the 2010 competition for research grants. These awards are made possible by generous donations made by alumni/ae, faculty, and friends to the E&E Graduate Program.


The awardees and their proposal titles are:

  • Zac Freedman “Some like it hot: The interactions of microorganisms with mercury in Yellowstone hot springs”. Advisor: Tamar Barkay.
  • Orin Robinson “Determining the Relative Importance of the Native Shorebirds In the Diet Of Foxes, and the Importance of Anthropogenic Input Into Coastal New Jersey Island Food Webs”. Advisor: Julie Lockwood

·        Laura Shappell “Flood Tolerance of an Exotic Invasive Grass, Microstegium Vimineum (Trin.) A. Camus”. Advisor: Joan Ehrenfeld

  • Alicia Shenko “The Role and Function of Small Mammals in Post-Agricultural Wetlands”. Advisor: Rebecca Jordan

  • David SmithThe Impact of Regional Land Use Patterns on the Succession Dynamics of New Jersey Pine Barrens Riverside Savannas”. Advisor: Rick Lathrop. Dave’s proposal was awarded The Ted Stiles Memorial Award for Ecological Research and Conservation from the EcoGSA and thus was funded in part by EcoGSA funds.


If you would like to contribute to the funding on these awards please visit our Support E&E web link.


Karen Wylie, a Ph.D student working with Nina Fefferman, has been selected to attend the joint DIMACS/MBI/US-African Biomathematics Initiative's Advanced Study Institute on Conservation Biology (July 28 to August 10) and their Workshop on Conservation Biology (August 11th - 13th). Karen has been granted full funding to attend the study institute and workshop, which will be happening at the Kenyan Wildlife Service Training Institute in Naivasha, Kenya. The institute and workshop are jointly sponsored by DIMACS, the Mathematical Biosciences Institute at Ohio State University (MBI) and the US National Science Foundation.



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

  • Amy Karpati, advisor Steven Handel, on May 10, 2010.
  • Kenneth Elgersma, advisor Joan Ehrenfeld, on May 11, 2010.


Congratulations to following on the successful defense of their Master’s thesis:

  • Cara Faillace, advisor David Ehrenfeld, on April 26, 2010.
  • Scott Haag, advisor Rick Lathrop, on April 9, 2010.
  • Jay Turnure, advisor Ken Able, on April 23, 2010.