Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources


Ecology and Evolution Graduate Program Newsletter



August 2008




Previous newsletters may be found at:






Please welcome Dr. Ingo Fetzer, who is visiting the Morin lab to do some collaborative research through the end of October. Ingo is a postdoctoral fellow from the Department of Environmental Microbiology at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research in Leipzig, Germany. He is broadly interested in using microbial systems as models for testing ecological theory.


Stacey and Brian Lettini welcomed daughter Katelyn Elizabeth Lettini, 6 lbs 15.6 oz, 18 inches born at 7:01 am on Aug. 22nd. Everyone is doing well.




As always, students and faculty were active participants in the Ecological Society of America’s Annual Meeting (8/4/08-8/8/08), in Milwaukee WI.


Kenneth Elgersma, a Ph.D. candidate working with Joan Ehrenfeld, presented a poster:  "Plant-induced feedback loops between litter decomposition and soil microbial communities" Co-authored by Kenneth Elgersma, Joan Ehrenfeld, Shen Yu, and Torsten Vor.




Rebecca Jordan

  • Was interviewed by Mitch Teich for Milwaukee ’s “Lake Effect” radio program in which the citizen science sessions for the annual meeting and associated symposia where discussed.
  • Organized an Oral Session: Promoting Ecological Literacy in Public Audiences: Research and Case studies in which she gave a talk titled “Research on adult learning gains in an ecologically oriented project.”  (co-authors Joan Ehrenfeld, Steven Gray, Edwin McGowan, and Edward Goodell). 
  • Co-organized a special discussion session: Ecological Literacy in Public Audiences: Building upon Successful Strategies and Defining the Research Agenda. 
  • Was invited to speak at an organized oral session: Linking Ecological Literacy and Environmental Justice.  Rebecca gave a talk titled  “Integrating underserved groups into scientific endeavors.”  (co-authors Wesley Brooks, David Mellor, and Alicia Shenko).
  • Was invited to speak at the Citizen Science Symposium.  Rebecca’s talk was titled

“ Promoting ecological understanding through citizen science: working within a framework where citizens and scientists benefit.”

  • Co-led a workshop titled: Promoting Ecological Literacy in Public Audiences: Building upon Successful Strategies Using a Citizen Science Approach. 


William Landesman, Ph.D. candidate advised by John Dighton, presented “The effect of climate change and precipitation on soil microbial community structure, nitrogen mineralization, and amino acid production in the New Jersey Pinelands.” Co-authored with John Dighton.


Kirsten Schwarz, a Ph.D. candidate co-advised by Steward T.A. Pickett and Richard G. Lathrop, gave a presentation titled "The spatial variation of lead in urban residential soil and correlations with specific features of urban land cover."


Alicia Shenko, a Ph.D. candidate co-advised by Ravit Golan Duncan and Rebecca Jordan, presented a poster titled "The Backyard Mammal Project: Promoting Ecological Literacy in Public Audiences." Coauthors: Steven A. Gray, Rebecca Jordan


Ai Wen, Ph.D. candidate, co-advisors Joan and David Ehrenfeld, "Species Composition and Germination in the Seedbank of Abandoned Cranberry Farms"


Rachel Winfree (Entomology and E&E Graduate Faculty) presented a talk titled “A meta-analysis of bees’ response to anthropogenic disturbance.”


Other Venues:


Members of Jason Grabosky’s lab gave three presentations in late July at the International Society of Arboriculture annual conference in St. Louis.  

  • Jason Grabosky’s presentation was titled “Ten-year study data: tree growth in paved skeletal soils and plant available moisture testing in skeletal soils.”
  • Jess Sanders, a Ph.D. candidate, presented “Tree planting in New York City: a five-year mortality study.”
  • Greg Dahle, a Ph.D. candidate, gave a presentation titled “Relationship of vessel to fiber ratio and the trade-off between hydraulics and mechanics in Norway maple (Acer platanoides).”


Rebecca Jordan attended two other meetings while in Milwaukee:

  • USDA Grant Project Director’s meeting (8/7/08-8/8/08). Rebecca presented a poster titled “Weedy plant invasions on public conservation lands: using citizen scientists to answer ecological questions.”


  • Urban Ecology Center of Milwaukee’s Citizen Science Symposium (8/9/08).

Rebecca’s invited presentation was titled “Promoting ecological understanding through citizen science.”


David Mellor, a Ph.D. candidate advised by Rebecca Jordan, gave a contributed talk at the annual conference for the Animal Behavior Society at Snowbird, Utah.  The title was "Female mate choice for male behavioral traits and its role in the diversification of the Mbuna cichlids of Malawi."  Authors: David Mellor, Catherine Tarsiewicz , Rebecca Jordan.


 Lena Struwe reports the following presentations at Botany 2008 the Joint Annual Meeting of: Canadian Botanical Association/L’Association Botanique du Canada, American Fern Society, American Society of Plant Taxonomists and the Botanical Society of America in Vancouver July 26 to the 28th.

  • Kelsey, S., S. Eisenman, & L. Struwe. 2008. The establishment and persistence of plants introduced to New Jersey by solid ballast on ships.
  • Raviram, R., S. Eisenman, A. Novy, S. Bonos, & L. Struwe. 2008. Assessing the genetic diversity in an ex situ germplasm collection of dawn redwoods (Metasequoia glyptostroboides).
  • Struwe, L., E. Heiberg, S. Haag, & J. Grant. 2008. Comparative ecological analysis of sympatric and allopatric species and clades in the Andes


Rachel Winfree presented a poster and co-authored a presentation at the Conference on the Ecology & Evolution of Plant-Pollinator Interactions in August 2008.

  • "A meta-analysis of bees’ response to anthropogenic disturbance" (poster)
  • "The honey bee pollination “crisis”: where can native bees take up the slack?" (3rd author on talk, C. Kremen presenting author)


Rachel Winfree was an author on a talk presented at the International Congress of Entomology, July 2008 titled “Responses of bees to changing landscapes.” (3rd author on talk, N. Williams presenting author)



Baiser, B., J. L. Lockwood, D. La Puma, and M. F. J. Aronson*. (2008) A perfect storm: two ecosystem engineers interact to degrade deciduous forests of New Jersey. Biological Invasions 10: 785-795.

*Myla Aronson received her Ph.D. in 2007, advisor Steven Handel.


Baiser, B., R.L. Boulton and J.L. Lockwood. The influence of water flows on nest success of the endangered Cape Sable seaside sparrow in the Florida Everglades. Animal Conservation 11: 190-197.


Gallagher F.J., Pechmann I., Bogden J., Grabosky J., and Weis  P. Soil Metal Concentrations and Productivity of Betula populifolia (gray birch) as Measured by Field Spectrometry and Incremental Annual Growth in an Abandoned Urban Brownfield in New Jersey, Environmental Pollution. In press.


Rebecca Jordan and Steven Gray, Ph.D. candidate in her lab, report the following publications:

  • Hmelo-Silver, C. Jordan, R, Lui, L. Gray, S., Demeter, M., Rugaber, S., Varrtam, S., and A. Goel. (2008) Focusing on function: Thinking below the surface of complex natural systems. Science Scope, 31: 27-35. 
  • Jordan, R.C., S. Gray, M. Demeter, L. Lui, and C. Hmelo-Silver. (2008) Quick fix: Don’t forget behavior in systems thinking! American Biology Teacher, 70: 329-330.


The research team of Richard Lathrop of the Center for Remote Sensing & Spatial Analysis and John Hasse of Rowan University have released a report entitled “Tracking New Jersey’s Dynamic Landscape: Urban Growth and Open Space Loss 1986–1995–2002.” The executive summary and full report are available at


Oscar Schofield (Marine and Coastal Sciences, and E&E Graduate Faculty) reports the following publications:

  • Castelao, R., Glenn, S., Schofield, O., Chant, R., Wilkin, J., Kohut, J. 2008. Seasonal evolution of hydrographic fields in the central Middle Atlantic Bight from glider observations.  Geophysical Research Letters, 35, L03617, doi:10.1029/2007GL032335
  • Kahl, A., Vardi, A., Schofield, O. 2008. Feature Article: Effect of phytoplankton physiology on export flux. Marine Ecology Progress Series 354: 3-19. 
  • Schofield, O., Kohut, J., Glenn, S. M. 2008. Coastal observing networks and dawn in a new millennium of well sampled oceans. Sea Technology. 49: 31-36
  • Castelao, R., Schofield, O., Glenn, S. M., Kohut, J., Chant, R. 2008. Cross-shelf transport of fresh water in the New Jersey Shelf during spring and summer 2006.  Journal of Geophysical Research. doi:10.1029/2007JC004241
  • Cahill, B., O. Schofield, R. Chant, J. Wilkin, E. Hunter, S. Glenn, and P. Bissett 2008. Dynamics of turbid buoyant plumes and the feedbacks on near-shore biogeochemistry and physics, Geophysical Research Letters doi:10.1029/2008GL033595




Julie Lockwood reports the following grants:

  • 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.” – $185,000
  • US Fish and Wildlife Service, Developing an emergency management action plan for the endangered Cape Sable seaside sparrow (Ammodramus maritimus mirabilis) – $37,184 (with G. Slater, R. Boulton, and S.L. Pimm)
  • Rutgers University Research Council, Conservation genetics of eastern bluebirds in Bermuda – $1,940 (with J. Avery)


The EPA funded two grants submitted by DEENR and/or E&E Graduate Faculty. Please read the special announcement section for more information:

  • Cary Institute for Ecosystem Studies, Millbrook, NY, $750,000 – will investigate how differences in animal community composition affect the risk of Lyme disease transmission in Duchess County, NY.  Richard Ostfeld and colleagues
  • Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, $749,995 – will investigate the relationships between diversity in plant, bird, and mosquito populations and West Nile virus prevalence in urban wetland communities in northern NJ.  The research team will also consider how people’s attitudes about and behaviors in these wetlands affect their risk of disease transmission. Joan Ehrenfeld and colleagues.


Oscar Schofield (Marine and Coastal Sciences, and E&E Graduate Faculty) reports the following grants:

  • Department of Defense-Office of Naval Research, DURIP 2008 “Characterizing continental shelves with satellites and gliders” Oscar Schofield, Scott Glenn, Josh Kohut, Mathew Oliver ($351,000)
  • National Science Foundation Office of Polar Program 2008-2013. “West Antarctic Palmer LTER” PIs Ducklow, H., Martinson, D. G., Schofield, O., Steinberg, D., Stammerjohnn, S., Fraser, W., Baker, K. S. ($5,100,100)
  • National Science Foundation, Computer Sciences Directorate, Major Research Infrastructure Development Grant 2008-2011 “Development of Next Generation Collaborative Underwater Robotic Instrumentation”  Metaxas, D., U. Kremer, Manish P., Schofield, O., Glenn, S. ($2,000,000)
  • Norwegian Partnerships in Higher Education program Norway -North America 2008-2011 “Technology for marine monitoring and ocean observation” Johnsen, G., Moline, M. A., Berge J. Glenn, S. M., Schofield, O. ($1,700,000 Norwegian Krona)
  • Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation 2008-2011 “From Microbes to Mammals: A Robotic Network to Study Climate Induced Changes in an Antarctic Marine Ecosystem” Schofield, O., Glenn, S. M., Martininson, D. G., Steinberg, D. ($1,347,416).


Joan Bennett (Plant Sciences, and E&E Graduate Faculty) has been awarded The ADVANCE grant from NSF for institutional transformation (women in science).  It starts on Sept. 1, 2008 and runs for five years (Aug 31, 2013) for a total of $3.67 million.



Faculty Achievements and Activities:


 Joan Bennett was elected Vice President of the International Union of Microbiological Congresses.


John Dighton and Walt Bien (Drexel University ) were interviewed last week for the NJ Network radio program Sounds of Science (airing Tues Aug 26 @ 7pm, Thurs Aug 28 @ 10pm, Sat Aug 30 @ 3:30pm and Sun Aug 31 @ 9.30 pm) They are discussing the nature of the NJ pine barrens, some of it's problems and some of the research we are doing.


Henry John-Alder traveled to Charles University in Prague to work with Dr. Lukas Kratochvil and Henry’s student, Alison Golinski, on their ongoing collaborative study of the development and evolution of sexual dimorphisms in eyelid geckos.  They began their collaboration after Lukas and Henry met at an international workshop on sexual size dimorphism at Monte Verita several years ago.  Last year, Lukas was supported by the Fulbright Foundation to spend 5 months in Henry’s laboratory here at Rutgers.  He brought with him a species of eyelid gecko (Coleonyx elegans) from his captive breeding population for their first collaborative experiment.  Subsequently, Alison was selected to participate in NSF’s Central Europe Summer Research Institute program that places graduate students in central European laboratories. Her funding through this program provided the opportunity for their second experiment, this time on the gecko Goniousaurus lichtenfelderi.


During the Botany 2008 conference in Vancouver, Canada, Aug 26-31, recent Plant Science undergraduate Sarah Kelsey, Plant Biology graduate student Sasha Eisenman, and faculty Lena Struwe received the national annual award for best presentation in Historical Botany by the Botanical Society of America. The title of the poster is "The Establishment and Persistence of Plants Introduced to New Jersey by Solid Ballast on Ships" and an abstract is here:


Robert Trivers will be at the Institute of Advanced Studies in Berlin for 2008-2009 on a fellowship to finish a book on deceit and self-deception.


Rachel Winfree had two news releases about her work:

  • Macon, GA Telegraph, “Interest in native bees on the rise,” 19 July 2008
  • The Philadelphia Inquirer, “Seeking pollinators in wings,” 7 July 2008


Student Awards, Achievements, and Activities:


This past spring the EcoGSA established the Edmund Stiles Memorial Fellowship to be awarded to a student in support of research that would be broadly in the areas that interested the late Dr. Stiles. Jeremy Feinberg, a Ph.D. candidate advised by Joanna Burger,  was awarded the Edmund Stiles Memorial Fellowship of $900 for his proposal  titled  The Decline of Southern Leopard Frogs from Long Island, New York: Investigating Causes for Conservation.”


John Ruppert, a Ph.D. student working with Ravit Golan Duncan, has accepted a full-time position at St. Peter's College as the Lab Coordinator and instructor for biology lab.

John received his Masters in Education in May from the Rutgers Graduate School of Education.


Alison Seigel, a PhD candidate in Julie Lockwood's lab, will be teaching the Fall 2008 course Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at University of Hawai`i at Manoa in Honolulu


Jay Turnure, a Master’s student in Ken Able’s lab, mentored Moravian College student  Brian Reckenbeil in the IMCS Research Internship in Ocean Sciences (RIOS) program (an NSF REU program). Brian  presented a poster of their summer work at a poster session on August 8 at the IMCS building titled “Quantifying movement and dispersal in adult weakfish (Cynoscion regalis): Day vs. night comparison.” Authored by Brian Reckenbeil, Jason Turnure, Thomas Grothues, Kenneth Able




Congratulations to Kyle Bennett, Ph.D. candidate advised by Rich Lutz, on the successful defense of his Preliminary Proposal on August 19th, 2008.




William Boarman, Ph.D. 1992, advisor Joanna Burger, after 15 years of working as a PI for the USGS  has opened a research and consulting firm in Spring Lake, CA.  In Bill’s own words. “I'm now my own boss and love it! “ For more information on the company visit:


Johanna Choo, Ph.D. 2005, advisor Ted Stiles, has accepted a one year visiting Assistant Professor position at Kings College, PA


Frank Gallagher, Ph.D. 2008, advisor Jason Grabosky, and Part Time Lecturer in DEENR, gave two presentations at the Ecological Society of America meeting in Milwaukee. On Monday August 4th, as part of a team representing the American Forest Foundation, a 1.5 hour workshop was delivered on secondary science education using the Places We Live secondary module. This Module integrates science, social studies, and environmental studies to investigate local community issues. On Tuesday August 5th, a concurrent session entitled “Vegetative assemblage distribution and long-term guild trajectories in a metal contaminated brownfield” was also delivered.


Teresa Johnson, Ph.D. 2008, advisor Bonnie McCay, has accepted a tenure-track assistant professor position (of marine policy) at the University of Maine in the School of Marine Sciences in Orono beginning September 1.


Matt Kimball, Ph.D. 2008, advisor Ken Able, accepted a postdoctoral fellowship at the Louisiana State University AgCenter School of Renewable Natural Resources (which is in Baton Rouge). Matt is stationed at the NOAA Estuarine Habitats & Coastal Fisheries Center in Lafayette working with Dr. Lawrence Rozas.  The project will focus on fish use of salt marshes and specifically examine the effect of water control structures on fish migration through salt marsh habitats.

Jennifer Krumins, PhD. 2007 advisor Peter Morin, was awarded an NSF IRFP (International Research Fellowship Program) Postdoc.  The title of Jennifer’s research proposal was 'Herbivorous Nematodes and the Microbial Loop: Unraveling Below-Ground Mechanisms Affecting Plant Production'. Jennifer will be working with Wim van der Putten at the Netherlands Institute of Ecology beginning in February ‘09.


Timon McPhearson, Ph.D. 2005, advisor Peter Morin, has much news to report:

  • A 6 month old daughter, Oona Plum McPhearson.  Welcome Oona!
  • Timon has accepted a position as an Assistant Professor of Ecology at Eugene Lang College at The New School in the village.  The New School is starting a new Environmental Studies program and Timon is the first hire for the program which launches this fall.   Timon will also retain his Columbia University affiliation as a visiting assistant professor associated with the Earth Institute.
  • His latest publication is an education piece in a book from a conference he attended in Switzerland: McPhearson, P. Timon, Stuart P.D. Gill, Robert Pollack, and Julia E. Sable.  2008.  Increasing Scientific Literacy in Undergraduate Education: A Case Study from “Frontiers of Science” at Columbia University.  In A Vision of Transdisciplinarity: Laying Foundations for a World Knowledge Dialogue (Eds. Frédéric Darbellay, Moira Cockell, Jérôme Billotte, and Francis Waldvogel), EPFL Press, Switzerland.



Jonathon Schramm, Ph.D. 2008, advisor Joan Ehrenfeld, has accepted a post-doc at Michigan State University. The funding is provided by two sources: a center for undergraduate learning at Michigan State University and the other through the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center at Kellogg Biological Station. The common thread is that both projects will be looking at students' (college and K-12) understanding of carbon and energy in ecosystems, as well as the effectiveness of typical methods used in teaching those topics.