Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources


Ecology and Evolution Graduate Program Newsletter



May 2009




Previous newsletters may be found at:


The E&E family continues to grow:

Ravit Golan Duncan, husband Alex and son Oz welcomed son Aitan Duncan. He arrived on May 1st, two weeks ahead of schedule, weighing 7 pounds and being 18 inches at birth. Everyone is doing well.


Kyle and Nina Bennett welcomed a second son on May 19th. Baby Bennett, who was born at home at 10:07 am, weighed 7 lbs 11 oz and 21.5 inches long. He joins older brother Beck. Kyle is a Ph.D. candidate advised by Rich Lutz.



Sharron Crane (co advisors Tamar Barkay and John Dighton) presented a talk co-authored by Tamar Barkay and John Dighton titled "The effect of mercury on the ectomycorrhizal community of Pinus rigida (pitch pine)" twice recently:

  • April 4 at the Penn-Princeton-Rutgers Ecology, Evolution and Biodiversity Graduate Conference
  • April 20 at the Wageningen University-Rutgers University Joint Microbiology Graduate Student Symposium


The following presentations by members of the Tamar Barkay lab were given at the 109 Annual Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology, May, 17 - 21, 2009 in Philadelphia:

  • Zac Freedman gave a presentation titled “Isolation of Chemoautotrophic Mercury Resistant Bacteria from microbial Mats in Yellowstone National Park”.
  • Aspa Chatziefthimiou’s presentation was titled “Mercury Contamination and its Effects on Phylogenetic and Functional Diversity of Soil Hg resistant  Bacteria”.
  • Sharron Crane’s poster presentation was titled “Fungal Succession on and Decomposition of Lymantria dispar (Gypsy Moth) Frass”.  Sharron’s poster was co-authored by John Dighton and Dennis Gray.


Joan Ehrenfeld presented an invited talk titledExotic species and soil microbial communities: Complex interactions complicate the issues” at the “Odum Conference 2009 - Understanding and managing biological invasions as dynamic processes: Integrating information across space and time” in Rensselaerville, NY


Zac Freedman, a Ph.D. candidate advised by Tamar Barkay, gave a talk at the Theobald Smith Society (NJ Chapter of the American Society for Microbiology) Annual Meeting at the Cook Campus Center on May 6th.  The talk was titled "Isolation of Early Evolving Mercury Resistant Bacteria from Yellowstone National Park".  Zac was awarded the "Best Oral Presentation" for the talk.


Steven Gray, a Ph.D. candidate in Rebecca Jordan’s lab, gave the following presentation

  • Gray, S. Ives, M., Scandol, J. and Jordan. R. Identifying the Risks in Fisheries Management. The presentation was given at the Society for Conservation Biology International Marine Conservation Congress. in Washington D.C. in May 2009


Rebecca Jordan reports several presentations this month

  • Jordan, R., C. Hmelo-Silver, S. Gray*, A. Goel, and S. Rugaber. Poster: Modeling Practices as a Function of Task Structure: American Educational Research Association's Annual Meeting.  April 14. San Diego (*presenting author Steven Gray is a Ph.D. candidate in the Jordan lab). 
  • Impacts Evaluation. 4-H Department Reappointment and Promotion Inservice Workshop. April 29 in New Brunswick.  
  • Developing an understanding of the ecological nature of science through public participation in research. Invited Poster. Cary Conference XIII. May 5-7, Millbrook, NY
  • Shirk, J., R. Jordan, and H. Ballard (presenting) with coauthors: C. Wilderman, E. McCallie, T. Phillips, and R. Bonney.  Environmental Learning or Environmental Action Exploring Outcomes of Public Participation in Research Workshop. World Environmental Education Congress.  May 13, Montreal.


Rick Lathrop presented the seminar "Assessing the Impact of Land-Use Change and Sea Level Rise on New Jersey's Southern Coasts" as part of the Dupont Clear Into the Future Seminar Series.  The lecture was held on May 5, 2009 at Cumberland County College.


Julie Lockwood gave an invited seminar in the Department of Biology at Villanova, University titled “Homogenization of island bird faunas.”


Oscar Schofield (Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences) has given four presentations recently:

  • Warm days in the West Antarctica Peninsula: The impact of regional warming on the marine ecosystem (Princeton University, NJ)
  • My personal story of why high school kids need to learn science: Preparing for the gathering storm (Department of 4H, Rutgers, NJ)
  • Development of ocean observatories by the United States (EuroSITES Annual review meeting, Cape Verde)
  • Using Webb gliders to maintain a sustained ocean presence. (SPIE Defense Security and Sensing Symposium, Orlando Florida)


Judy Weis (Federated Department of Biology, Rutgers-Newark/NJIT) was in Manado, Indonesia where she gave a keynote talk at the World Ocean Conference at the session on Marine Pollution. The talk was titled “Marine pollution: the state of the world's oceans.”

The week following the World Ocean Conference in Indonesia Judy Weis attended the International Marine Conservation Congress in Fairfax VA where she chaired a session on "Sea Grant work on Ecosystem-based management."



Debashish Bhattacharya co-authored a report that was published (with accompanying commentary) in the April 10th issue of Science.

  • Green Evolution and Dynamic Adaptations Revealed by Genomes of the Marine Picoeukaryotes Micromonas. Alexandra Z. Worden,et al. Science 324, 268 (2009); DOI: 10.1126/science.1167222

Debashish will be joining the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources in July.

We look forward to his arrival.


David Ehrenfeld has the following publication:

  • David Ehrenfeld, Shen Yu, and Yongguan Zhu.  Urban Conservation and Environmental Protection in China: a Major Effort by the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Conservation Biology, Volume 23, No. 3, 546–547


Steven Gray, a Ph.D. candidate in Rebecca Jordan’s lab, reports the following publication:

  • Gray, S. 2009. William D. Ruckelshaus. The Modern American Environmentalist.Ed: George Cevasco. Johns Hopkins University Press. Baltimore MD. 448-452.


Julie Lockwood has a publication in press:

  • Blackburn, T.M., J.L. Lockwood, and P. Cassey.  Following birds on the pathway to invasion, and beyond.  The Biologist


Blake Mathys and advisor Julie Lockwood have the following publication in press:

  • Mathys, B. and J.L. Lockwood.  Rapid evolution of great kiskadees on Bermuda: an assessment of the ability of the Island Rule to predict the direction of contemporary evolution. Journal of Biogeography


Oscar Schofield (Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences) reports two publications from his lab:

  • Montes-Hugo, M., Doney, S. C., Ducklow, H., Fraser, W., Martinson, D., Stammerjohn, S. E., Schofield, O. 2009. Recent changes in phytoplankton communities associated with rapid regional climate change along the Western Antarctic Peninsula. Science. 323, 1470 (2009), DOI: 10.1126/science.1164533
  • Montes-Hugo, M., Ducklow, H., Schofield, O. 2009. Contribution by different marine bacterial communities to particulate beam attenuation.  Marine Ecology Progress Series. DOI:10.3354/MEPS07883


Holly Vuong, a Ph.D. candidate co advised by Peter Morin and Rick Ostfeld, has the following paper in press:

  • Vuong, H., M. Remmenga, R. Creamer, and D. Caccamise. Ecological associations of West Nile virus and avian host in arid environments of southern New Mexico. Studies in Avian Biology.


Rachael Winfree (Department of Entomology) published an article in National Wildlife Magazine, “The buzz on native pollinators,” June/July 2009


Faculty Achievements and Activities:

Nina Fefferman’s work was reported on, or Nina was interviewed by, CNN, Wired Magazine, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Radio, BBC's Newsnight, and 938LIVE radio program (Singapore). All of the reports had to do with her work on epidemics and outbreaks (some, but not all related to the swine flu).


Rick Lathrop presented background on the trends in New Jersey land use change and open space loss at the Garden State Preservation Trust Educational Forum on Monday, May 4, 2009 in Trenton, NJ.


Rick Lathrop has been appointed by Dean Goodman as Faculty Director of the Rutgers University Ecological Preserve on the Livingston Campus.


As many may have seen reported in the Rutgers Focus:

Robert Trivers, professor of anthropology and biological sciences, was named an Honorary Distinguished Fellow by the University of the West Indies. Robert is one of only five scholars to receive the award, including two former prime ministers. He is the only non-Jamaican to be so honored. This is a lifetime appointment.


Rachael Winfree (Department of Entomology) was interviewed on Sirius Satellite Radio by Judith Regan on 4 February 2009.



Dan Cariveau, post-doctoral fellow and Rachael Winfree (both Department of Entomology) report the following grant:

  • Quantifying honey bee and native bee pollination of cranberry: examining the role of bee species and bog characteristics. D. Cariveau (PI), R Winfree (Co PI). New Jersey Blueberry and Cranberry Research Council. $6613


Oscar Schofield (Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences) reports the following grant:

  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Earth-Sun System Division 2009-2012. Satellite Driven Studies of Climate Mediated Changes in Antarctic Food-Webs. Oliver, M., Kohut, J., Irwin, A., Fraser, W., Schofield, O. ($747,880)


Advisory Panels:

 Oscar Schofield (Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences) has been appointed Chair of the Advisory Committee for the European EuroSITES program.


Student Awards, Achievements, and Activities:

The following graduate students have received summer research awards to begin or continue research conducted at the Hutcheson Memorial Forest Center. Each student has been awarded $1500 for work to be done in the coming year.

·        Julian D. Avery – will investigate how the current community of short-distance temperate migrants and year-round residents have responded to the significant changes in forest structure at Hutcheson Memorial Forest.  Graduate Program in Ecology & Evolution; Advisor – Julie Lockwood.

·        Benjamin Baiser – will continue surveys of breeding birds and compare current patterns with historical records of bird abundance from the 1970s, to evaluate recent changes in community structure. Graduate Program in Ecology & Evolution; Advisor – Julie Lockwood.

·        Alexandra Fowler – will look at how initial physical and seed bank conditions influence woody plant old-field succession. Graduate Program in Plant Biology; Advisor – Jean Marie Hartman.

·        Maria Stanko – will use the Hutcheson Memorial Forest and surrounding properties as field sites for research on networks of pollination interactions in woodland and old field communities. Graduate Program in Ecology & Evolution; Advisor – Peter Morin.

  • Elena Tartaglia – will be studying hawk moth pollination and behavior in various urban and sub-urban habitat fragments around New Jersey (including HMF) and Staten Island, New York. Graduate Program in Ecology & Evolution; Advisor – Steven Handel.
  • Holly Vuong will map individual trees in the old growth forest, using existing 50m x 50m plots at HMF, that will provide the groundwork for long-term studies of forest dynamics. Graduate Program in Ecology & Evolution; Advisor – Peter Morin.

E&E Academic Excellence Fund Awards – 2009

The E&E Graduate Program was pleased to make six $1000.00 awards in response to proposals submitted by graduate students for the 2009 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.

  • Brian Clough – will test the hypothesis that the loss of understory structure due to deer overbrowse increases mean soil temperature and encourages pulses of high moisture availability, enhancing litter decomposition rates and thus increasing loss of soil carbon through increased respiration. Advisor: Joan Ehrenfeld.
  • Denise Hewitt – will examine native bee species richness and abundance on 11 multi-crop farms in 6 New Jersey counties to acquire important baseline data regarding how native bee pollinator communities respond to fragmentation and land use differences. Advisor: Peter Morin.
  • Lea Johnson – will work documenting the long-term outcomes of urban ecological restoration by assessing effects of woodland restoration in New York City.  She will determine the current community composition of urban woodlands, and collect data on ecological characteristics of the sites and adjacent areas in order to determine what factors have influenced outcomes at each site. Advisor: Steven Handel.
  • Charles Kontos – will assess the fisher and bobcat populations in northwestern New Jersey using genetic analysis using a hair-snare survey. Charles was the recipient of the Edmund Stiles Memorial Fellowship.  This award is given in memory of the late Dr. Ted Stiles to support research on the conservation of New Jersey lands and animals. The award this year is funded equally by the Ecology and Evolution Academic Excellence Funds and the EcoGSA.  Advisor: Rick Lathrop.
  • Monica Palta – will expand on a project undertaken in 2006 in 5 wetland sites in Liberty State Park. Monica will test if the denitrifying bacteria are limited in their activity due to competition for NO3 with plants. Advisor: Joan Ehrenfeld.

·        Holly Vuong – will examine the contribution of New Jersey breeding and resident bird hosts in supporting Borrelia burgdorferi (Bb), and examine the genetic diversity of Bb based on the outer surface protein C (ospC) types detected in black-legged ticks (Ixodes scapularis) collected from these birds. Advisor : Peter Morin


Sharron Crane, a Ph.D. candidate co-advised by Tamar Barkay and John Dighton, received the Theobald Smith Society (TSS) Graduate Scholarship for $1000 on May 6. The TSS is the New Jersey branch of the American Society for Microbiology.


Jay Turnure, a master’s student advised by Ken Able, received the 2009 George Burlew Scholarship Grant of $750 from the Manasquan Marlin and Tuna Club in New Jersey, which will go towards research expenses and conference travel.



Congratulations to Esther Leibovich on the successful defense of her Preliminary Proposal on April 30th.




Patricia Alvarez-Loayza (Ph.D. 2009, advisor James White) reports the following publication:

  • S. Thompson, G. Katul, J. Terborghand P. Alvarez-Loayza. 2009. Spatial organization of vegetation arising from non-local excitation with local inhibition in tropical rainforests. Physica D: Nonlinear Phenomena. doi:10.1016/j.physd.2009.03.004. Volume 238, Issue 13, 15 June 2009, Pages 1061-1067


Michele Bakacs (MS 2003, advisor Colleen Hatfield) began employment on May 1st with Rutgers' Department of Agricultural and Resource Management Agents.  She will be working with Middlesex and Union Counties as a County Environmental and Resource Management Agent. In her capacity with RCE, Michele will provide leadership and support to develop educational programming and research appropriate to the needs of the clientele in the county-pair in natural resource management with a focus on water resource protection, watershed management, and environmental conservation and protection. Welcome back to New Jersey and Rutgers Michele!


Niall Dunne, (MS 2008 advisor Steven Handel) reports two publications:

  • K. Mathews, N. Dunne, E. York, and L. Struwe. 2009. A phylogenetic analysis and taxonomic revision of Bartonia (Gentianaceae:Gentianeae), based on molecular and morphological evidence. Systematic Botany, 34(1): pp. 162—172. 
  • Dunne, N. Healthy Soils for Sustainable Gardens. 2009. New York: Brooklyn Botanic Garden


John H. Graham, (Ph.D. 1986, advisor Robert Vrijenhoek), Reid Professor of Biology at Berry College, Mount Berry, Georgia, was appointed to the editorial board of Genetica, which publishes papers dealing with genetics, population dynamics and evolution.


Dan Hernandez (Ph.D. 2005, advisor David Drake) has received tenure at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey effective fall 2010.  Stockton changed the tenure policy/procedure; Dan’s cohort is the 1st to go through the new system.  He finished tenure review in his 4th year and signed the last 2 year contract.  After the second year of this contract he is officially tenured.


Chris Martine (MS 2001, advisor John Kuser), Assistant Prof at SUNY Plattsburgh has a new paper:

  • Martine, C.T., G.J. Anderson, and D.H. Les. 2009. Gender-bending aubergines: molecular phylogenetics of cryptically dioecious Solanum  in Australia. Australian Systematic Botany 22(2) 107–120.
    Chris is spending three weeks doing field research in Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory, Australia this month to study the roles of pollinating bees and frugivorous wallabies in structuring populations of these same "wild eggplants".


Dana Price (Ph.D. 2007, advisor May May) and Kim Bloodsworth welcomed Skylar Keaton Bloodsworth Price born on January 26th, 2009.  Skylar was 7lbs 14 oz. and 21 inches long. She joins big sister Bayley.


Patricia Ramey, (Ph.D. 2008, co advisors Fred and Judy Grassle) reports the following publication:

  • Ramey, P.A., Teichman, E., Oleksiak, J. and Balci, F. (2009) Spontaneous alternation in marine crabs: an invasive versus a native species. Behavioral Processes,


Celine Santiago Bass (Ph.D. 2007, advisor Judy Weis) has accepted a position as Academic Chair for the Science Department with Kaplan University. Kaplan is an online university. Celine has about 60 full-time and part-time faculty that teach online courses in Nutrition, Environmental Science, Biology, and Chemistry.