Department of Ecology, Evolution and Natural Resources


Ecology and Evolution Graduate Program Newsletter


June 2007

Please join the Rutgers DEENR/E&E students and faculty

 past and present at the

Ecological Society of America Meeting in San Jose, CA.

We will be getting together at the poster session on

Tuesday evening, August 7th at 5:00 p.m.

Hope we see all of you there.


Previous newsletters may be found at:



E&E Academic Excellence Fund Awards -2007

The E&E Graduate Program made six 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.

  • Julian Avery – “Using Microsatellite Markers To Establish The Provenance Of Bluebirds On Bermuda.” $974. (Advisor Julie Lockwood).
  • Wes Brooks - “Species Richness and Habitat Invasibility: Lessons from Rockland Hammock Restoration.”  $1000. (Advisor Rebecca Jordan)
  • William Landesman -  “The Role Of Precipitation In Structuring Soil Microbial Communities And Ecosystem Processes” $848 ( Advisor John Dighton)
  • Brooke Maslo - “A Comparison of Foraging Efficiency of Piping Plovers (Charadrius Melodus) Across Potential Foraging Habitats Along Coastal New Jersey.” $915  (Advisor Steven Handel)
  • Monica Palta - “Linking Form To Function: Using Soil Properties To Predict Nitrogen  Removal Across As Urban Wetland Landscape.” $1000  (Advisor Joan Ehrenfeld)
  • Jaclyn Taylor – “Demonstrating The Habitat Value Of Oyster Aquaculture In Delaware Bay.” $1000 (Advisor David Bushek)





Joe Paulin, a Ph.D. candidate advised by David Ehrenfeld, has been doing community outreach giving presentations to local gardening and school groups:

  • He gave 4 lectures on techniques to reduce unwanted human-wildlife interactions in suburban areas for the Master Gardener Program of Ocean and County and the Environmental Steward Programs for Northern, Central, and Southern New Jersey.
  • Joe was invited to talk to 9 classes at the Paul Robeson School Annual Career Day about becoming a wildlife ecologist, black bear ecology and research, and bear awareness training.
  • Joe was also invited to Career Day at Jefferson Elementary School in Plainfield where he spoke to 200 children about black bear ecology and becoming a wildlife ecologist.


Linda Rohleder, a Ph.D. candidate in Joan Ehrenfeld’s lab, presented a poster at the 2007 Meadowlands Symposium on May 16 in Lyndhurst, NJ entitled: “Structure and Composition of the Vegetation at Teaneck Creek Conservancy”.


Lena Struwe gave an oral presentation and two posters at the Tripartite Workshop in Biotechnology and BioEnergy held at Rutgers University on April 9th to 11th 2007. 

  • The oral presentation was titled “Brazilian evolutionary relicts in Gentianaceae: Why are southeastern Brazilian species near the ancestors of American plant lineages?”
  • “Phylogenetic studies of Prepusa Mart. and Senaea Taub. (Gentianaceae) based on morphological data” (with M. F. Calió & J. R. Pirani).  [poster]
  • “Biodiversity and evolution of Chelonanthus (Gentianaceae): the impact of phylogeny on conservation” (with K. B. Lepis) [poster]



Patricia Alvarez, a Ph.D. student in James White’s lab, received funding from the Amazon Conservation Association and Chicago Field Museum to publish the following plant guides. They will be available in September of 2007.

  • Alvarez-Loayza, P., Paine, C.E.T,  and Wissenhorn, P. Seedlings of 

Cocha Cashu, Manu National Park. Field Museum Chicago Plant Guides 

  • Alvarez-Loayza, P., Paine, C.E.T, Dexter, K. and Wissenhorn, P. 

Seeds and Fruits of Cocha Cashu, Manu National Park. Field Museum 

Chicago Plant Guides.


Kenneth W. Able, John H. Balletto, Stacy M. Hagan, Paul R. Jivoff, and Kenneth Strait. 2007. Linkages between salt marshes and other nekton habitats in Delaware Bay, USA. Reviews in Fisheries Science, 15:1–61.


Rebecca Jordan’s article “Nudging Academic Science into the Public Sphere” appeared in the May-June 2007 issue of Academe.




     Faculty Achievements and Activities:

On June 13th  and 14th  Jason Grabosky and the Rutgers Urban and Community Forestry together with the Center for Remote Sensing and Spatial Analysis hosted the Mid-Atlantic Train-The-Trainers sessions for i-TREE, a suite of software tools for managing and quantifying urban forest impacts..   i-TREE is a cooperative initiative between the US Forest Service, Davey Tree Expert Company, The Society of Municipal Arborists, and the Arbor Day Foundation.  Thirty-one people from six states and Washington, D.C. attended the session to learn about the program and develop a regional training and outreach network to help communities, extension and research groups learn and use this public access resource. 


Rebecca Jordan has been invited to share her work at a Citizen Science Conference. The conference, being held at Cornell on June 20th to 23rd, is part of an NSF supported project to generate a resource guide for others seeking to do citizen science research.


Lena Struwe arranged a BioBlitz at the Phillips Preserve in Old Bridge, NJ, on June 10, together with Richard Lear of the Middlesex County Parks Department.  About 20 people helped identify a multitude of plants, insects, and birds. The complete species list will be available at

A Memorandum of Understanding has been signed between Rutgers University and the Swedish Museum of Natural History for yearly exchange of herbarium material between Chrysler Herbarium and the herbarium in Stockholm, Sweden. This was facilitated by Lena Struwe and The School of Environmental and Biological Sciences Executive Dean Robert Goodman.  This new collaboration is a continuation of the nearly 400 year old research connections between New Jersey (part of the colony New Sweden) and Sweden and part of the 300-year jubilee of Carl Linnaeus that is being celebrated worldwide.


Advisory Panels:  

 Lena Struwe served on a National Science Foundation Grant review panel in May 2007.

Student Awards, Achievements, and Activities:

Patricia Alvarez, a Ph.D. student in James White’s lab, received $3000 from the Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS), Francis Boyssuit Fellowship to investigate the effects of pathogens on plant distribution in undisturbed lowland tropical forests in Manu National Park, Peru


During their 2007 Annual Meeting, Coastal America recognized John Balletto, a Ph.D. candidate in the Ken Able lab, for his work with Coastal America and the Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership (CWRP) in organizing state chapters in the Mid-Atlantic region.

John was further recognized by being elected to the Board of Directors to the Coastal America Foundation (CAF) as one of the only non-government directors.

Coastal America is a federal partnership of thirteen agencies, under the Chairmanship of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.  The goal of Coastal America is the better management of coastal resources, coordination of their statutory responsibilities and combining their resources and expertise. CWRP, an affiliate of Coastal America, is an innovative public-private partnership whose goal is the restoration, preservation, enhancement and protection of aquatic habitat throughout the US. 


Monica Palta, a Ph.D. candidate in the Joan Ehrenfeld lab, received a grant from The Society of Wetland Scientists Student Research Grants Program for $1000. The proposal was titled: "Management of nitrate removal in an urban setting: Examining hydrologic, geomorphic, and biogeochemical controls on denitrification over multiple spatiotemporal scales in urban wetlands"


Joe Paulin, a Ph.D. candidate advised by David Ehrenfeld, was interviewed for a New York Times article, “WILDLIFE; A Close Call, and a Sign of a Thriving Animal World,” that ran on Sunday May 6th.


Linda Rohleder, a Ph.D. candidate in Joan Ehrenfeld’s lab, led the following botany field trips:

  • May 12 to Crosswicks Creeks Park in Cream Ridge, NJ a jointly sponsored trip for the Philadelphia Botanical Club and the Torrey Botanical Society.
  • June 16 to Shark River Park in Neptune, NJ for the Torrey Botanical Society.


Jaclyn Taylor , a Masters student advised by David Bushek, was selected as a recipient for the 2008 National Sea Grant Knauss Fellowship. The Knauss fellowship, established in 1979, provides a unique educational experience to students who have an interest in ocean, coastal and Great Lakes resources and in the national policy decisions affecting those resources. The program matches highly qualified graduate students with "hosts" in the legislative and executive branch of government located in the Washington, D.C. area, for a one year paid fellowship. The program is named in honor of one of Sea Grant's founders, former NOAA Administrator, John A. Knauss. The fellowship will begin in Feb 2008.  More details are available at


Quals and Prelims

Congratulations to the following students on the successful completion of their Qualifying Exam:

  • Ryan Burrows, advisor Rebecca Jordan, on May 29th.
  • Nick Skowronski, advisor Ming Xu, on May 30th
  • David Mellor, advisor Rebecca Jordan, on June 1st


Congratulations to Ai Wen, co-advised by David and Joan Ehrenfeld, on the successful defense of her Preliminary Proposal on May 31st.



Cristina Frank, advisor Joanna Burger, successfully defended her Master’s thesis titled "A Comparison Study of Migratory Raptor Distribution and Habitat Use at the Cape May Peninsula Stopover"  on June 6th.





Jay Kelly, Ph.D. 2006, advisor Andrew “Pete” Vayda. has accepted a position is in the Department of Science and Engineering at Raritan Valley Community College

Jay will teach classes in biology and ecology, more applied and human-related subjects and field courses in some of the places he has lived and/or worked. He will be the sole representative of the environmental sciences in the department and will revise/design a curriculum for the major.


Brian Palestis, Ph.D. 2000, advisor Joanna Burger; was granted tenure and promotion to Associate Professor at Wagner College (Staten Island, NY). Brian was also elected chair of the Department of Biological Sciences.


Celine Santiago Bass, Ph.D. 2007; advisor Judy Weis, gave an oral presentation at the 2007 Meadowlands Symposium (May 15-17th) at the Hackensack Meadowlands Commission, entitled "Implications of Restoration on Fundulus heteroclitus and Gill Parasite Interactions."


Amy Tuninga, Ph. D. 2000; advisor John Dighton, has been promoted to Associate Professor with tenure in the Department of Biological Sciences at Fordham University.