Department of Ecology, Evolution and Natural Resources


Ecology and Evolution Graduate Program Newsletter


May 2006


Previous newsletters may be found at:


E&E Academic Excellence Fund Awards -2006


The E&E Graduate Program made seven awards in response to proposals submitted by graduate students for the 2006 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. If you would like to make a contribution to help continue this important program of graduate student support, please contact Peter Morin ( for details.


·        Domenic C. D’Amore – Feeding behavior and functional dentition of the Komodo monitor, Varanus komodoensis. $1000. (Advisors – Kathy Scott, George McGhee).

·        Shannon Galbraith-Kent – Effects of differing invasive and native plant community assemblages on leaf litter decomposition and nitrogen loss. $1000. (Advisor – Steven Handel).

·        Jeanmaire Molina – Phylogeny of Leea (Leeaceae/Vitaceae) based on a chloroplast marker and the secondary structure of the nuclear internal transcribed spacer. $1000 (Advisor – Lena Struwe).

·        Matthew E. Kimball – Nekton utilization of intertidal salt marsh creeks: diel and tidal assemblage variation. $938 (Advisor – Ken Able).

·        Wayne Rossiter – Effects of parasitism on Spartina grazing snails. $700.  (Advisor – Mike Sukhdeo).

·        Kristen Ross – Leaf litter and arbuscular mycorrhizal effects on Microstigium vimineum survival. $610. (Advisor – Joan Ehrenfeld).

·        James MacDonald – Links between mangrove fish and prop-root epibiont communities: relationship to anthropogenic disturbance. $900. (Advisor – Judy Weis)


We received 17 proposals. These were ranked by the E&E Executive Committee, and the seven proposals with the highest ranks were selected for funding.




Ben Baiser, a Julie Lockwood Ph.D. student, presented a poster titled 'The Effect of Water Level on the Nesting Success of the Federally Endangered Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow (Ammodramus maritimus mirabilis) at the American Museum of Natural History symposium for Conserving Birds in Human Dominated Landscapes.


Frank Gallagher, a Ph.D. candidate in Dr. Jason Grabosky’s Urban Forestry lab, has given two presentations this month:

·        Frank gave a presentation on demographic shifts and strategic planning at The American Forest Foundation’s Project Learning Tree Conference on May 11th.  The purpose of the session was to provide context for the Foundation’s five year strategic planning initiative.    

·        Frank has also been invited by the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance to participate in a panel discussion concerning the “Value of Green Space” in the New York Harbor area. The conference which takes place on May 23 focuses on issues with providing “Green Infrastructure in the metropolitan area”.


On May 1, Rebecca Jordan gave an invited talk entitled, "Citizen science versus technical support in the control of weedy invasive plants." for administrators of the USDA Cooperative State Reseacrh, Education and Extension Service National Research Initiative program.  Additionally, Rebecca participated in a grant review panel for a USDA CSREES NRI competitive grant program from May 1-3. 


David Moskowitz spoke on the Butterflies of New Jersey at the East Brunswick Public Library and at the Washington Township Public Library. He was also a panelist and presenter on the Emerging Environmental Trends and Issues Conference at the Institute for Continuing Legal Education in New Brunswick in April. David will also be speaking to the Florham Park Senior Citizens Group on Butterflies and Gardening in late May.


Emilie Stander, a Ph.D. candidate in Joan Ehrenfeld’s lab, will be presenting at the Joint Meeting of the American Geophysical Union in Baltimore, MD on Tuesday, May 23rd in a session called "A Unique Urban Biogeochemistry?"  Her talk is titled "The Effect of Urbanization on the Nitrate Removal Capacity of Wetlands."



The 2nd edition of Urban and Community Forestry in the Northeast, Ed.; John E. Kuser. Springer. May 2006 is now available.  Dr. Kuser is a Professor Emeritus.


Cassey, P., T.M. Blackburn, J.L. Lockwood, D.F. Sax.  The shape of biotic homogenization: a stochastic model for integrating species richness extinction and invasion.  Oikos. (in press)


Jeanmaire Molina, and Lena Struwe submitted the first-ever revision of the plant genus Symbolanthus from the Central Andes (Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru) to the journal Systematics and Biodiversity. The treatment includes 14 species, six of which are new to science and two new subspecies.  The paper also includes conservation assessments according to the The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) criteria: six species and one subspecies are evaluated as critically endangered. These plants are among the most beautiful South American gentians, with up to 6 inches long pink or yellow trumpet-shaped flowers that are pollinated by moths, bats, and hummingbirds. You can see pictures of some them at: "

 Jeanmaire is a Ph.D. candidate in Lena Struwe’s lab.

David Moskowitz and his Ph.D. advisor Michael May report their latest publication:

 Martin Wikelski, David Moskowitz, James Adelman, Jim Cochran, David S. Wilcove and Michael L. May.  “Simple rules guide dragonfly migration.” Biology Letters.


It has been receiving worldwide attention... a few websites of interest are:;jsessionid=H4S5F51NI5NAXQFIQM



An article "Mayapple: An early harbinger of spring" by Linda Rohleder, a Ph.D. student in Joan Ehrenfeld's lab, was published in the May/June 2006 issue of the TrailWalker, the newsletter of the New York/New Jersey Trail Conference.


John Quinlan reports a publication based on modeling/data analysis work done with Canadian colleagues.

  • Lough, R.G., C.G. Hannah, P. Berrien, D. Brickman, J.W. Loder, and J.A. Quinlan. 2006. Spawning pattern variability and its effect on retention, larval growth and recruitment in Georges Bank cod and haddock. Marine Ecology Progress Series 310:103-212.


     Faculty Achievements and Activities:

On April 22-23 at a University Summit sponsored by the Jane Goodall Institute's Section for Environmental Education, Cook undergrads Angela Gorczyca, Allisyn Gillet, Erin Murphy, Mary McLaughlin, and Asst. Professor Rebecca Jordan presented their environmental education program entitled "A focus on the places we live."  Rebecca Jordan also sat on a faculty mentors panel to discuss encouraging the balance between undergraduate education and advocacy.  The members of the Rutgers University group were able to meet privately with Jane Goodall, the keynote speaker for the event. 


Rick Lathrop continues to be busy:

  • Rick participated in a Technical Assistance Visit with the US Forest Service on April 25, 2006 to discuss the re-establishment of a Research Work Unit at Silas Little Experimental Forest.  This USFS work unit would be a major boon to Rutgers and the RU Pinelands

Research Station.

·       He also participated in a book reading of New Jersey's Environments: Past, Present and Future (RU Press, a multi-authored volume edited by Neil Maher).  The reading was at NJIT, Newark, NJ on April 26, 2006.

·       Rick participated in a 2 day workshop (May 15-16, 2006) on Coastal Pattern Indicators, hosted by the Heinz Center, Washington DC.


Julie Lockwood received a grant from the Critical Ecosystems Science Initiative, National Park Service for “Recovering small Cape Sable seaside sparrow subpopulations: the breeding and dispersal of sparrows in the eastern Everglades”. The grant amount is $45,172.


Lena Struwe and Sasha Eisenman led at tour of the Hutcheson Memorial Forest on May 6 in beautiful spring weather for about 20 people. Among the masses of invasive European weeds, some native ephemeral spring flowers were hanging on, such as ramps, mayapple, and trout lilies.  Inga Parker, a Ph.D. student advised by Rick Lathrop, has compiled a species list from the walk.


Joan Ehrenfeld participated in a meeting of the Water Science and Technology Board of the National Research Council on May 3-4, in Washington, and in “A Workshop to Develop a Strategy for Advancing Urban Ecology” in Duluth, Minn., on May 18 -20.

Advisory Panels:

Rick Lathrop served on the USFS Forest Service team reviewing the progress on the Pennsylvania and Connecticut portions of the Mid-Atlantic Highlands Study.  The meeting was held at Grey Towers, Milford, PA on April 27, 2006.


 Qualifying and Preliminary Exams:

Congratulations to the following students who successfully completed their qualifying exam and advanced to candidacy in the Ph.D program.

  • David LaPuma, advisor Julie Lockwood, on April 21st.
  • Stacey Lettini, advisor Michael Sukhdeo, on May 3rd.
  • Esther Leibovich, advisor Gary Taghon, on May 8th.
  • Yufei Wang, advisor Ming Xu, on May 9th.
  • Aabir Banerji, advisor Peter Morin, on May 10th


Congratulations also go to three students who successfully defended their Preliminary Proposal.

  • James MacDonald, advisor Judy Weis, on March 29th.
  • Shannon Galbraith-Kent, advisor Steven Handel, on May 12th.
  • Domenic D’Amore, co-advisors Kathy Scott and George McGhee, on May 16th.


Student Awards, Achievements, and Activities:

A Michael Sukhdeo Ph.D. student, Tavis Anderson, was awarded the New Jersey Mosquito Control Association (NJMCA) Educational Scholarship for 2006 of $1000. The proposal was titled "West Nile virus: predicting mosquito emergence and disease risk using habitat characteristics".


Kyle Bennett, a Ph.D. candidate in Rich Lutz’s lab, was awarded $1,490 from the Board of Directors of the Conchologists of America (COA), for his proposal titled Phenotypic plasticity and multiple cryptic species in discretely different habitats of the scorched mussel, Brachidontes exustus, species complex in the Florida Keys”.


Domenic D’Amore, a Ph.D. candidate co-advised by Kathy Scott and George McGhee, received a grant from The Explorers Club through a program called The Exploration Fund. The website states that this fund provides graduate students and young scientists grants in support of exploration and field research. It is specifically reserved for those who are just beginning their research careers. Dom is using his $1,200 to fund travel to the Denver Zoo to study feeding by Komodo dragons.


At the end of June, 2006, Ph.D. candidate Teresa Johnson and her advisor  Bonnie McCay are going to Galway, Ireland, to participate in a workshop of the International Commission for Exploration of the Seas (ICES) on Fisheries Management Strategies.  They are both co-authoring papers with European colleagues based on their National Science Foundation project, “Experience-Based Knowledge in a Science Policy Context.” 


Celine Santiago Bass, a Ph.D. candidate in Judy Weis’ lab, was one of three graduate students chosen to represent Rutgers University at the Northeast Alliance Science Days at Penn State University May 1-2.  Celine presented a poster entitled "Effects of heavy gill parasite burdens on Fundulus heteroclitus anatomy and physiology." 

The Northeast Alliance is “an NSF-funded consortium of 10 research-intensive institutions in the Northeast United States dedicated to increasing minority participation in research and university teaching careers.” All travel expenses were covered by the GSNB.


Jonathon Schramm, a Ph.D. candidate in the Joan Ehrenfeld lab, received a graduate student research award from the New England Botanical Club for this summer, in the amount of $925. The title of the research is "A multiscale analysis of contemporary and historical facilitators of the invasion of an exotic grass into hardwood forests of New Jersey." Jonathon will be using the funds primarily for travel expenses between field sites.


EcoGSA activities:

The spring semester is always busy for the Ecology and Evolution Graduate Student Association and this one was no exception. In addition to the weekly Friday seminar series in which graduate students present their own research to the group, they organized the following events:


5K Run for the Woods:

  • On Saturday, April 22nd, the graduate students held a fundraising event called "The Run for the Woods."  This is an annual 5K run at the Helyar Woods and Rutgers Gardens to benefit the Woods and the Ecology & Evolution Graduate Student Association.  Despite a rainy, cold morning, there was a good turnout of runners and the event was a success.




Ag Field Day:

  • On Saturday, April 29th, the EcoGSA held a fundraising event at the annual Ag Field Day.  This year the students sold empanadas and organic french fries as well as Ecology & Evolution T-shirts (designed by Domenic D'Amore) and canvas bags.  Amazing weather helped to make the event a great success!  They worked very hard but had a lot of fun too, all to benefit the Ecology & Evolution Graduate Student Association. T-Shirts and canvas bags are still available for sale. Contact Stacey Lettini at hicks@

Eminent Ecologist Lecture:

  • On Wednesday, May 3rd, the E&E graduate students, in conjunction with the Environmental Science graduate students, hosted the Third Annual Eminent Ecologist Lecture. This year’s invited speaker was Dr. Peter Vitousek, an ecosystem ecologist from Stanford University.  Dr. Vitousek gave a seminar titled, "Human-Environment Interactions in the Hawaiian Islands."  The Alampi Room at the Institute for Marine and Coastal Sciences was filled beyond capacity for this event, with faculty and students attending from a diversity of disciplines.

Dr. Vitousek also met with the graduate students informally at a luncheon earlier in the day and with various lab groups and individuals before his seminar. A well-attended open house that evening afforded the students another chance with talk him in an informal setting.

We owe a special thank you to IMCS for the use their facilities.



  • Dennis Gray, advisor John Dighton, successfully defended his Ph.D. dissertation on April 21st.  His dissertation was titled “Low Intensity Prescribed Fire and the Fate of Fire Mobilized Nutrients.”  Congratulations Dennis!
  • Robert Somes, advisor Julie Lockwood, successfully completed his Master’s on March 31st. Congratulations Robert!



Marielle Anzelone, (M.S. 2000, Jean Marie Hartman), had a big event recently, promoting the sale of native plants at NYC Greenmarkets.  For more information go to this website and click on Gotham Gardeners: Go Native. . On another front, Marielle is expecting her first baby and will be out on maternity leave for the summer. She says “not very good timing for a botanist.”


David Bart, ( Ph.D. 2003,  Jean Marie Hartman), is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Soil Science, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

He reports the following publications:

  • Bart, D., D. Burdick, R. Chambers, and J. Hartman.  2006.  Human facilitation of Phragmites australis invasions in tidal marshes: a review and synthesis.  Wetlands Ecology and Management 14: 53-65.
  • Bart, D. 200x. Integrating local knowledge into experimental studies to understand the causes of environmental change.  Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment (In Press).
  • Bart, D. 200x.  Looking for cause with all the small changes: using event ecology to find human causes of biological invasions.  Against the Tides: The Vayda Tradition in Human Ecology and Ecological Anthropology.   B. McCay, B. Walters, C. West, and S. Leeds (eds.) Boston: Lexington Press.  Chapter 7 (in Press).


Jeremy Fox (Ph.D. 2000, Peter Morin) reports from Calgary B.C.:

Fox, J. W., and D. S. Srivastava.  Predicting local-regional richness relationships using island biogeography models.  Oikos 113:376-382.


Chris Martine (M.S. 2001, John Kuser), currently at the University of Connecticut, successfully defended his doctoral dissertation titled "Two in the Bush: On the evolution, distribution and natural history of dioecyin Australian Solanum". The second chapter will appear in the next issue of Systematic Botany. Chris has also just accepted a tenure-track faculty position in plant

biology at SUNY Plattsburgh that will begin in August '06.  Rachel, Isabel (4) and Jackson (18 mos.) are all excited about moving to the shores of Lake Champlain. Congratulations Chris!