Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources


Ecology and Evolution Graduate Program Newsletter



June - July 2008




Previous newsletters may be found at:





Patricia Alvarez, a Ph.D. candidate in James White’s lab, gave two presentations at the Annual Meeting of the Association of Tropical Biology 2008 in Paramaribo, Surinam, held June 7th to June 13th

  • Symposim :"Fungi in tropical forests and their role in maintaining species diversity"  Presentation Topic: Light converts endosymbiotic fungus to pathogen, influencing seedling survival and recruitment of tropical palm.
  • Symposium: "Measuring biodiversity responses to changing human influences: A conceptual framework and case studies from the humid tropics.” Presentation Topic: Monitoring human influences within Manu National Park Zone ff Interaction, case study and management implications.


Ryan Burrows, a Ph.D. candidate in Rebecca Jordan’s lab, was invited to give a lecture at the North American Amphibian Conference held on June 7, 2008 in Erving, Massachusetts. The title was “Impacts of Development on Vernal Pool Ecology and Salamander Behavior.”  Alex Felson, instrumental in the data collection, was co-author. Alex is a Ph.D. student working with Steward Pickett.


Greg Dahle, a Ph.D. candidate in Jason Grabosky’s lab, gave the following presentation:

“Managing trees after heading and reduction cuts, how CODIT and water sprouts influence tree safety”  at the Connecticut Tree Protective Association summer meeting in Farmington CT on July 17 2008.


Jeremy Feinberg, a Ph.D candidate in Joanna Burger’s lab, gave a presentation at the 2008 Joint Meeting of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists in Montreal, Canada titled “Silence of the frogs: Investigating the disappearance of the leopard frog (Rana sphenocephala) from Long Island, New York.”


Charles Hofer, Ph.D. student working with Claus Holzapfel, presented a poster at the ESA Mid-Atlantic Chapter's meeting in Wilkes-Barre, PA in April.


Lea Johnson, a Steven Handel Ph.D. student, gave a talk  titled "Restoring complex habitats and biotic connections in an arid urban area: from military base to public park" at UrBio 2008 - Urban Biodiversity and Design, the Third Conference of the Competence Network Urban Ecology (CONTUREC) in Erfurt, Germany on May 23rd.


Alison Seigel, a Ph.D. candidate in Julie Lockwood's lab, gave an invited presentation at the Raritan Piedmont Wildlife Habitat Partnership (RPWHP) meeting on May 13th in Princeton, NJ titled “Hayfield management for the grasshopper sparrow in the RPWHP study area.”


Ai Wen, a Ph.D. candidate in David Ehrenfeld's lab gave an invited talk at the annual meeting of the Firman E. Bear Chapter of Soil and Water Conservation Society on May 30th. The talk's title was “Seedbank: the Time Machine to peer into the past and the future of abandoned farmlands.”



Patricia Alvarez reports the following publication:

  • Tree Recruitment in an Empty Forest. John Terborgh, Gabriela Nun˜ Ez-Iturri,Nigel C. A. Pitman, Fernando H. Cornejo Valverde, Patricia Alvarez, Varun Swamy, Elizabeth G. Pringle and C. E. Timothy Paine. Ecology, 89(6), 2008, pp. 1757–1768


Ben Baiser, a Ph.D. candidate in Julie Lockwood’s lab,  reports the following publication:


Greg Dahle, a Ph.D. candidate in Jason Grabosky’s lab has the following publication:

  • Dahle, G.A., H. Holt, W. Chaney, T. Whalen, D. Cassens, R. Gazo, and R. McKenzie. 2008. Implications of branch strength loss in silver maple trees converted from round-over to V-trims during electrical line clearance operations. In: Proceedings of the 8th International Symposium for Environmental Concerns in Rights-Of-Way Management. Goodrich-Mahoney et al., eds. Elsevier, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. pp. 97-100.


Jason Grabosky and Lena Struwe and their labs report the following abstracts in Horticultural Science::

·        Eisenman, S.W., Novy, A., Raviram, R., Struwe, L., Bonos, S., Grabosky, J., 2008. "Assessing the genetic diversity of an ex situ germplasm collection of dawn redwoods (Metasequoia glyptostroboides Hu et Cheng)" Horticultural Science 43(3):591 

·        Sanders, J., Grabosky, J., Falxa-Raymond, N., Greenfield, J.  2008.  "Urban tree planting and mortality statistics in the boroughs of NYC" Horticultural Science 43(3):594   

·        Dahle, G., Grabosky, J., Struwe, L.  2008.  "Anatomical study to determine vessel to fiber ratio along Norway maple (Acer platanoides) branches" Horticultural Science 43(3):594 

·        Gallagher, M., Grabosky, J.  2008.  "Digital visualization of decay in oak species five years after pruning"  Horticultural Science 43(3):596 

·        Grabosky, J., Bassuk, N., Haffner, T.  2008. "Plant available moisture in designed soils for pavement systems" Horticultural Science 43(3):597


Jason Grabosky has the following publications:

  • Grabosky, J. Bassuk, N. "Growth of three tree species in designed stone-soil blend under pavement and non-paved lawn in a Brooklyn, New York Streetscape: tenth year data." Arboriculture & Urban Forestry  34(4):265-266. 
  • Gilman, E. F., Masters, F., Grabosky, J. 2008. "Pruning affects tree movement in hurricane force winds." Arboriculture & Urban Forestry (34(1):20-28.
  • Gilman E F, Grabosky J C, Jones S, Harchick C. 2008. "Effects of pruning dose and type on trunk movement in tropical storm winds". Arboriculture & Urban Forestry 34(1):13-19. 



Joanna Burger’s National Resource Council grant for ecological work was renewed for another year at $150,000.


Karl Kjer received a $488,000 NSF award, starting in the fall, on the Phylogeny of Trichoptera.


Lena Struwe received a $30,000 grant from the Beneficia Foundation for the Chrysler herbarium.


     Faculty Achievements and Activities:

Steven Handel and his collaborators have been awarded the 2008 Urban Design Honor Award by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) California Council, for the Orange County Great Park Comprehensive Master Plan. Previously, this project had been awarded a national citation, the 2008 Honor Award for Planning and Analysis by the American Society of Landscape Architects.


George McGhee has been elected as a Member of the Konrad Lorenz Institute for Evolution and Cognition Research, Altenberg, Austria, by vote of the General Assembly of the KLI.


Dr. Maria Molina from Rey Juan Carlos University in Madrid, Spain, is currently a Visiting Scientist in Lena Struwe's lab working on evaluating new chloroplast gene regions for their suitability in evolutionary reconstruction of old clade divergences in the gentian plant family (Gentianaceae). Dr. Molina is a professor in plant physiology and molecular evolution, and her expertise is in lichens, especially with regards to physiology, taxonomy, and ecology


Michael Sukhdeo provided commentary on a news piece about parasites in food webs on "All Things Considered" on July 23rd . You can hear the 3 minute news piece on the NPR web site, at -


Student Awards, Achievements, and Activities:

Two students received Eagleton Fellowships this fall:

  • Charles Hofer, a Ph.D. student in Claus Holzapfel’s lab.
  • Lea Johnson, a Ph.D. student in Steven Handel’s lab.


Wes Brooks, Ph.D. candidate in Rebecca Jordan’s lab, has received the Florida Native Plant Society's Conservation Grant Award ($2500) for his proposal titled:  "Establishing an Experimental Hammock Community in South Florida.” This project is sponsored by the Dade Chapter and will be conducted by Wes as part of the research he is conducting to receive a Ph.D. Exotic species will be removed, and permanent study plots will be established and monitored monthly to assess whether species richness and plant density (manipulated in each plot by planting additional native trees and shrubs) affect the recruitment and growth of other natives, as well as invasive exotics.


Amy Karpati, a Ph.D. candidate in Steven Handel’s lab, was awarded $1500.00 by the NJ Mycological Association from the Ray Fatto Scholarship fund.


Special Study and Pre-Dissertation Awards from the GSNB:

  • Ryan Burrows, a Ph.D. candidate in Rebecca Jordan’s lab, received $1000.00 for his proposal to study “Conservation of the critically endangered Mountain Chicken frog, Leptodactylus fallax, of Dominca: Assessing ecological parameters of habitat use for re-introduction and translocation experiments.”
  • Maria Stanko, a Ph.D. candidate in Peter Morin’s lab, received $900.00 as a Special Study Award to attend the Bee Conference, an intensive 9-day course on bee taxonomy and biology offered in Portal, AZ by the American Museum of Natural History.
  • Holly Vuong, a Ph.D. student in Peter Morin Lab, received $1000.00 extend her pilot project on examining the genetic diversity of Borrelia burgdorfei (Bb) in the populations of New York State.


E&E Academic Excellence Fund Awards -2008

The E&E Graduate Program made five $1000.00 awards in response to proposals submitted by graduate students for the 2008 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.

  • Wes Brooks - Investigating the potential of community controls on the invasibility of rockland hammock seedling layers.
  • Jean Deo - Assessing the impacts of acid precipitation on migratory songbird reproduction and immune response.
  • Kenneth Elgersma - Garlic mustard alters forest community composition through indirect effects in its native and invasive range.
  • Inga La Puma - Model validation for the landscape disturbance and succession model: LANDIS-II.
  • Holly Vuong - An examination of the genetic diversity of Borrelia burgdorferi (Bb) in tick populations of upstate New York.


Hutcheson Memorial Forest Fellowships:                   

Four students were awarded $1500.00 each from HMF for studies located there. Students who receive summer research support from HMF must help with the annual Buell-Small Succession study. This long-term old-field sampling has been conducted every summer since in 1958. For more information on this study visit the website:

The students and their projects are:

  • David LaPuma - Continued study of avian diversity and distribution across a

successional gradient at the Hutcheson Memorial Forest.

  • Ben Baiser -  Mapping territories of breeding birds at Hutcheson Memorial Forest.
  • Kenneth Elgersma - Indirect effects of garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) on forest community composition.
  • Maria Stanko - Networks of pollination interactions between plants and animals in an invaded community.


Patricia Alvarez, a Ph.D. candidate in James White’s lab participated in the PanAmerican Advanced Studies Institute (PASI). This event brought together ecologists, biochemists, geneticists, and plant and microbial biologists for a ten-day workshop on tropical chemical biology in Tambopata National Reserve, Peru. All keynote speakers are leaders in their fields, and  postdoctoral or advanced doctoral student . Patricia presented a seminar about Pathogens and Endophytes in Tropical Undisturbed Ecosystems.


Lea Johnson, a Ph.D. student in the lab of Steven Handel, was asked to teach an intensive course called "The Nature of New York" at the City University of New York Graduate Center's School for Professional Studies July 14-24.



Zewei Miao, a post-doc in the labs of Rick Lathrop and Ming Xu, has moved to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  He will be working at Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI) of UIUC, which is being funded by the BP project. The EBI is a joint institute created by UC Berkeley, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and UIUC.



Marty Cipollini, Ph.D. 1991, advisor Ted Stiles,  was promoted to full professor this year and was presented the Martindale Award of Distinction (an annual award for distinctive accomplishment in teaching, professional development, and service to Berry College).  Marty’s  main area of research is a large scale Montane Longleaf Pine forest restoration project on the 26,000 acre Berry College campus.  Details can be found at and may be of interest to those interested in fire ecology.


Frank Gallagher, Ph.D. 2008, advisor Jason Grabosky, was invited by the American Forest Foundation to give a talk on the disparate directions of the forestry and agriculture industries and the implications for resource management and professional development.  The talk was given at the Project Learning Tree International Coordinators Conference in Jackson Mississippi on May 11th.


Jackie Taylor, M.S. 2008, advisor David Bushek resorts the following publication:

Taylor, J, Bushek D (2008) Intertidal oyster reefs can persist and function in a temperate North American Atlantic estuary.  Marine Ecology Progress Series. 361:301-306.