Department of Ecology, Evolution and Natural Resources


Ecology and Evolution Graduate Program Newsletter


August 2006


Previous newsletters may be found at:



Welcome to the new graduate students:


The fall 2006 semester brings us fourteen new graduate students. They come from diverse backgrounds and will be doing their graduate work in many different areas.


Patricia Alvarez is transferring into the E&E grad program from the Geography graduate program. Patricia is working towards her Ph.D. with Jim White on an “ecological/fungal research problem in the Peruvian Amazonas.” Patricia has a B.S. in Agronomy from Universidad Nacional Agraria, La Molina and her M.S. in Parks and Recreation from West Virginia University in Morgantown.


Julian Avery, a Ph.D. student working with Joanna Burger, has an undergraduate degree from Penn State in Biology/Ecology and his Master’s degree in Biology/Zoology from Eastern New Mexico University at Portales.


Steven Brown will be working toward his Master’s degree with Ken Able. Steven has his B.S. in Marine Science from Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.


Alicia Buchanan completed a dual B.S./M.S. degree in Environmental Science at Drexel University.  Alicia is working with Rebecca Jordan and Ravit Golan Duncan.


Steven Gray, who is working with Rebecca Jordan, has a B.A. in Anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin and a Master’s degree in Natural Resource Management from Texas State University - San Marcos.


Denise Hewitt has her B.S. in International Business and her Master’s degree in Human Nutrition. Denise is working towards her Ph.D. with Bonnie McCay.


Charles Hofer, working towards his Master’s with Claus Holzapfel, has a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Kansas and a Certificate in Conservation Biology from Columbia University.


Lea Johnson is working towards her Ph.D. as a member of the Steven Handel lab. Lea has a B.A. in Literature from the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, an M.S. in Biology/Environmental Science from New Mexico Highlands University and a M.A. in Science Education from City College of New York.


Christina Kisiel is working with Joanna Burger towards her Master’s. Christina has a B.S. in Environmental Science from Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.


Andrea Kornbluh is a Ph.D. student working with John Dighton. Andrea has her B.A. in Humanities from California State University at Chico and B.S. in Biological Science from Rowan University.


Kathleen McCarthy is working towards her Master’s with Rick Lathrop. Kathleen has her B.F.A. in Painting from Cornell University and her M.F.A. in Painting from Indiana University at Bloomington.


Jack Siegrist is a Ph.D. student in Peter Morin’s lab. Jack has a B.S. in Biology from the University of Texas at Austin and his M.S. in Ecology from Southeastern Louisiana University.


Elena Tartaglia has her B.A. in Biology from Drew University. Elena is working with Steven Handel towards her Ph.D.


Holly Vuong is co-advised by Peter Morin and Rick Ostfeld at IES. Holly has her B.S. in Biology from California State Polytechnic University at Pomona and her M.S. in Wildlife Science from New Mexico State University at University Park.




Ecological Society of America Annual Meeting; Memphis Tennessee; August 5th to 11th.


·        Joan G. Ehrenfeld, Kristen Ross and Manisha Patel, “Soils and the management of invasive plant species:  a case study of the challenges of soil restoration. “ Joan was invited to give this presentation in a symposium on soil restoration.

·        Joan Ehrenfeld also gave an invited commentary at the final plenary luncheon titled  “Icons, Upstarts and the Oxford English Dictionary” 

·        Kenneth Elgersma and Joan Ehrenfeld  Japanese barberry, an exotic invasive shrub, facilitates native tree seedling growth” poster presented by Kenneth Elgersma.

·        Ann Gould, George Hamilton, Mark Vodak, Jason Grabosky and James Lashomb, “Economic impact of bacterial leaf scorch in the New Jersey urban forest..”

·        Rebecca Jordan, Fred Singer, and Alan Berkowitz led a workshop titled “What every citizen should know about ecology.” on August 5th.


·        Jordan, R. and R. Duncan. “A characterization of pre-service teacher understanding of ecology.”

·        J.A .Krumins, John Dighton, Dennis Gray and Peter Morin.  'The Effects of Nitrogen Deposition on Fungal and Bacterial Communities in Two Isolated Oak Forests'

·        Shen Yu, Torsten Vor, Kenneth J. Elgersma, and Joan G. Ehrenfeld “Differentiating effects of leaf litter and roots on shifts in soil microbial communities and enzyme activities beneath native and invasive plants.” This talk was presented by Shen Yu.


Presentations at other meetings:


  • Sharron Hicks Crane, a Ph.D. candidate with co-advisors Tamar Barkay and John Dighton, attended the Eighth International Conference on Mercury as a Global Pollutant from August 6-11 and presented a poster titled “Interactions between mercury and mycorrhizal fungi.”
  • Frank Gallagher, a PhD candidate in Dr. Jason Grabosky’s Urban Forestry program,  gave a lecture "Demographic Shifts and Corresponding Trends in Environmental Issues and participate in mentor development, in Golden Colorado. The workshop was held from Aug 21 -23 and  was sponsored by the American Forest Foundation.
  • Rebecca Jordan, Peter Bastardo, and Terry Reagan led a curricular design workshop for area teachers entitled “The Food System” supported by the Food Systems Consortium on June 27 to June 29.
  • Jordan, R. “Choices, Color, and Conservation” Jersey Shore Aquarium Society, Freehold, NJ, July 10.
  • Jordan, R.Interspecific female choice in a Lake Malawi cichlid.” American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists Annual Meeting, New Orleans, LA, July 13-17.
  • Jordan, R. “Female Lake Malawi cichlid mate choice: A maladaptive response?” Animal Behavior Society Annual Meeting, Snowbird, UT, August 12-16.
  • Jason Grabosky presented two papers during the 82nd annual International Society of Arboriculture's (ISA) conference in Minneapolis Minn. 
    • Aug 1 2006:  Impact of reduction pruning cuts on discoloration and decay in live oak and schumard oak: 3rd year data.
    • Aug 2 2006:  Measuring canopy architecture of Norway maple to develop iterative standing load in branches. 
  • David Mellor presented a poster at the Animal Behavior Society Annual Meeting in Snowbird , UT titled: "Male territory characteristics affect female preference in the mbuna cichlid, Maylandia melabranchion."





Dahle G A, Holt H H, Chaney W R, Whalen T M, Cassens R G, McKensie R L.  2006.  Branch strength loss implications for silver maple (Acer saccharinum) converted from round-over to V-trim.  Arboriculture and Urban Forestry 32(4):148-154. 


Jordan, R., D. Howe, T. Knight, and J. Gould. 2006.  Female choice linked to male dorsal fin height in a shortfin molly.  Journal of Ethology 24: 301-304.


Seigel, A. and J.L. Lockwood. 2006.  Conservation of threatened birds on agricultural grasslands at Duke Farms.  Phase one resultsDuke Farms Foundation, Hillsborough, NJ.


Ramey, P.A., Fiege, D. and Leander B.S. 2006. A new species of Polygordius (Polychaeta: Polygordiidae) from the inner continental shelf and in bays and harbours of the north-eastern United States. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. 86:1025-1034.


     Faculty Achievements and Activities:


The Estuarine Research Federation had a bibliometric study done of the journal  Estuaries for the years 1992-2005.  Kenneth Able was an author of more papers in the journal during that period than anyone else (25 articles!).


Jason Grabosky accepted another 3 year appointment to the International Society of Arbor- culture’s  Board of Directors for their Arboricultural Research and Education Academy


Rick Lathrop traveled to Yangling China, at the invitation of Prof. Ming Xu, to present to a week of workshops on environmental applications of remote sensing/GIS at the Department of Forestry of Northwest University of Agriculture and Forestry. Rick also visited the NW

University Forestry Research Field Station to investigate cooperative research opportunities as well as traveled to Beijing to present a seminar at the Institute of Remote Sensing Application of the Chinese Academy of Science and meet with officials of the Institute.


Julie Lockwood was a participant and Sub-Group Co-Chair of an US EPA workshop titled “The link between propagule pressure and aquatic nonnative invasion success and impacts”, United States Environmental Protection Agency Workshop, Washington, DC.


Student Awards, Achievements, and Activities:


Jeremy Feinberg, a Ph.D student in the Joanna Burger’s lab, has been studying the decline of southern leopard frogs on Long Island this summer. Here are two of the articles that have appeared recently on his work.

·  Leaping to a Frog's Rescue.  This is an article on southern leopard frogs written by Bryn Nelson of Newsday (June 1, 2005).

·  Brookhaven Scientists Seek Cause of Frogs' Demise.  This is an article on the southern leopard frog project written by Kristen Kalenowicz of The Press of Manorville and the Moriches (July 28, 2006).


Jay Kelly, a Ph.D. candidate working with Peter Vayda, will be teaching a field course (with former RU Ecology Program grad Mike Van Clef) on the Flora of New Jersey this fall at Montclair State University.



David Moskowitz, a Mike May Ph.D. student, is radio tracking dragonflies with Mike and 

Dr. Martin Wikelski from Princeton. The work was covered by NPR’s All Things Considered : Click on the “listen” button for the audio version from Saturday, August 5th.


Brooke Maslo has passed the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) Fundamentals of Engineering exam.  It's the first of two 8-hr exams that one must pass in order to obtain a professional engineering license.  Brooke is working towards her Ph.D. in the Steven Handel lab.


Joe Paulin, a Ph.D. candidate in David Ehrenfeld’s lab,  led a black bear awareness training seminar and spoke to children about bear ecology and wildlife and conservation in Madagascar at two local summer camps.

Joe Paulin was interviewed for an article to be published in the Burilington County Times on vole and mole ecology and wildlife damage control.

Patricia Ramey, a PhD student in the Grassle labs, was a mentor during this summers RIOS program (Research Internships in Ocean Sciences) at IMCS.  RIOS is a ten week NSF/IMCS-supported internship for undergraduate students from many universities. Patricia was a mentor for E. Bodnar, a student at Wittenberg University, Ohio. At the completion of the RIOS program, interns present posters of their research to a panel of judges. One student is chosen to receive an all expense paid trip to present their poster at the next ASLO (American Society for Limnology and Oceanography), meeting held in Santa Fe, New Mexico (Feb 2007). E. Bodnar was chosen to receive this opportunity for the poster by Bodnar and Ramey entitled “Polygordius sp., an Ambitious Marine Worm”


On August 2nd, Emilie Stander, a Ph.D. candidate in Joan Ehrenfeld’s lab, led a workshop on soil ecology for a group of high school students participating in the Wave Hill Summer Forest Project in the Bronx.  As part of the workshop, students explored the relationship between invasive plants and invasive earthworms and practiced soil characterization techniques in a forest fragment on the Wave Hill property.



Congratulations to William Landesman, advisor John Dighton, on the successful defense of his preliminary proposal on August 17th.




Heather Bowman Cutway (Ph.D 2004. Joan Ehrenfeld advisor) gave an oral presentation at ESA.

·        Heather B. Cutway and Joan G. Ehrenfeld, “The influence of urban land use and edge permeability on seed dispersal and wetland invasibility”


Elizabeth Elle (PhD 1997, Tom Meagher advisor) will be promoted to Associate Professor with tenure in the Biology Department at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, BC as of September 1st.  In addition to continuing her research on plant mating system evolution, Elizabeth is also studying how habitat fragmentation affects diversity of and interactions between plant and pollinator communities in Canada's endangered Garry Oak Ecosystem.  In September, she also will take on additional administrative duties as the Associate Chair of her 40-member department.  Partner Paul McMillan (PhD 1996, Peter Morin advisor) has just finished a 3-year term as Coordinator (equivalent to Chair) of the Biology Department at Capilano College in North Vancouver, and is looking forward to getting back to teaching and working on an environmental biology textbook.


Dennis M. Gray (Ph.D. 2006, advisor John Dighton) received the 2006 Ralph E. Good Award from the Rutgers Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences at the Pinelands Field Station on July 27th.

This award was established in 1992 in memory of the first director of the Division of Pinelands Research and the Field Station, Dr. Ralph E. Good.  The award recognizes a graduate student for exceptional research in the Pinelands or coastal wetlands.


Clare Ng ( M.S. 2006, Ken Able advisor) recently accepted a position at the Marine Academy of Science and Technology at Sandy Hook. Clare will be a science teacher starting in the fall.


Welcome to another member of the extended E&E family:


Jay Kelly and Tanya Rohrbach welcomed their son Aven Timothy Kelly into the world on August 2. Aven weighed 6 lbs 10 oz.  Jay reports that Tanya and Aven are happy and healthy and Marshall is thrilled with his baby brother.