Department of Ecology, Evolution and Natural Resources


Ecology and Evolution Graduate Program Newsletter


September 2006


Previous newsletters may be found at:





Kyle F. Bennett, Ph.D. Candidate (Advisor, Dr. Richard A. Lutz) gave the first talk of the year to the Ecology and Evolution Graduate Student Seminar titled "Phenotypic plasticity, variable habitats and the marine bivalve, Brachidontes, species complex"


Aspa Chatziefthimiou, a Ph.D. student in the Tamar Barkay lab, reports three presentations from the Barkay lab:

  • Aspa Chatziefthimiou, Jonna Coombs, Tamar Barkay  The design, optimization, and testing of a hybridization array for the characterization of broad host range metal resistance plasmids.” presented at the UC Davis Plasmid Biology Conference in Lake Tahoe California held Sept. 23-27.
  • Tamar Barkay, Jonna Coombs, and Aspa Chatziefthimiou   “Horizontal gene transfer in microbial communities: Genetic plasticity for coping with environmental change.” The Fourth Okazaki Biology Conference: "Terra Microbiology 2" in Okazaki, Japan, Sept 10-15.
  • Aspa Chatziefthimiou, Jonna Coombs, Tamar Barkay  The Design, Optimization and Testing of a Horizontal Gene Transfer Microarray: Detection of a Genomic Linkage between Metal Resistance and inc/rep Genes on Broad Host Range Plasmids.”  North Eastern Microbiologists: Physiology, Ecology and Taxonomy (NEMPET) in Blue Mountain Lake, NY, June 23-25


Sharron Hicks Crane, a Ph.D. candidate co-advised by Tamar Barkay and John Dighton, attended the annual meeting of the British Mycological Society from September 4-7 where she presented a poster titled “Growth responses to and accumulation of mercury by ectomycorrhizal fungi.”


Shannon Galbraith-Kent, a Ph.D. candidate in Steven Handel’s lab, gave a presentation on "Native and invasive plant community research in New Jersey" to the Somerset Hills, NJ chapter of the Garden Club of America on Sept. 20th. 


Eva Gonzales, Post-doc in the Peter Smouse lab, attended the Evolution meeting at SUNY, Stony Brook, and presented a paper:

·        Gonzales E, Hamrick JL and Smouse PE 2006. The impact of disturbance on pollen-mediated gene flow in a tropical tree, Enterolobium cyclocarpum. Society for Study of Evolution, SUNY, Stony Brook, NY.


Eva Gonzales’ paper (resulting from her dissertation) published in the July issue of Molecular Ecology was featured on the cover page:      

·        Gonzales E, Hamrick JL, Smouse PE and Dyer, RJ. 2006. Pollen mediated gene dispersal within continuous and fragmented populations of a forest understory species, Trillium cuneatum. Molecular Ecology 8: 2047-2058.


Matthew Kimball, Ph.D. candidate in the Ken Able lab,  presented the following at the American Fisheries Society 136th annual meeting in Lake Placid, NY (Sept 10-14) "Juvenile nekton utilization of intertidal salt marsh creeks: tidal influences in natural and restored marshes"  authors Matthew Kimball and Kenneth Able. Matt received a Conference Travel Award from the GSNB to help defray the travel expenses to this meeting.


Inga P. LaPuma, a Ph.D. student advised by Rick Lathrop, attended the Nearest Neighbors Workshop: Meeting in the Middle, at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis from Aug 28-Aug 30. Inga presented a talk titled "Forest biomass estimation using kNN in the Highlands of New Jersey".


Jeanmaire Molina  gave a presentation at the Botany 2006 conference (Botanical Society of America)  held in Chico, CA from 28 July-3 Aug, 2006

  • Molina, J., E. Green, & L. Struwe. 2006. Phenology and pollination of the ancestral grape relative Leea (Leeaceae/Vitaceae)..


Kristen Schwarz presented a poster at the 2006 Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) All Scientists Meeting in Estes Park, CO whose authors included members of the graduate program and alumni.

  • Cadenasso, M.L., S.T.A. Pickett, K. Schwarz, W. Zhou, A. Troy, M. Grove, and C. Boone “Towards a Theory of Urban Land Cover Classification and a Multidimensional Approach to Spatial Heterogeneity of Cities Integrating Natural Features and Social Artifacts.”


Peter  Smouse attended the Institute of Forest Biotechnology Conference in Vancouver,BC, in March 2006, where he presented an invited talk

  • Smouse PE, Robledo-Arnuncio JJ and González-Martínez SC. 2006. Genetic analysis of propagule flow from genetically modified forest trees. In Ecological Risks Associated with the Products of Forest Biotechnology. Prog. Inst. For. Biotech. Conf., Vancouver, BC, 21 March 2006. A manuscript is in the works from this conference.


Peter Smouse attended the XXII Reunión Argentina Ecología: Fronteras en Ecología: Hechos y Perspectivas, 22 - 25 de Agosto de 2006, Córdoba, where he presented two talks:

  • Smouse PE. 2006. Análisis parental en árboles de bosque: estructura de propágulos y flujo a través del paisaje. XXII Reunión Argentina de Ecología: Fronteras en Ecología: Hechos y Perspectivas, 22 - 25 de Agosto de 2006, Córdoba, AR. p.  356.
  • Smouse PE, Gonzales E and Hamrick JL. 2006. El impacto de diferentes tipos de disturbios en el paisaje sobre la estructura genética a escala reducida en Enterolobium cyclocarpum. XXII Reunión Argentina de Ecología: Fronteras en Ecología: Hechos y Perspectivas, 22 - 25 de Agosto de 2006, Córdoba, AR. p. 376.


Lena Struwe reports the following presentations:

  • Frasier, C. & L. Struwe. A glimpse into the family tree of Loganiaceae, with a close look at Strychnos, using ITS sequences and secondary structure. 3rd International Rubiaceae conference, Leuven, 18-21 Sept 2006.
  • Struwe, L., R. G. Lathrop, & P. E. Smouse. 2006. Spatial Evolutionary and Ecological Vicariance Analysis of Biodiversity – a new interdisciplinary approach with an example from neotropical Gentianaceae. 3rd International Rubiaceae conference, Leuven, 18-21 Sept 2006.
  • Eisenman, S. H. E. Clennon, K. Dulatas, & L. Struwe. 2006. Ballast dumps from the late 1800’s and the introduction of non-native species to the eastern United States. Botany 2006 conference, Chico, CA, 28 July-3 Aug, 2006.
  • Frasier, C. & L. Struwe. 2006. A glimpse into the family tree of Strychnos (Loganiacecae) using ITS sequences. Botany 2006 conference, Chico, CA, 28 July-3 Aug, 2006.
  • Lepis, K. B., D. Kulakowski, & L. Struwe. 2006. A new taxonomic classification for Chelonanthus (Gentianaceae) as supported by ribosomal nuclear, chloroplast and morphological data. Botany 2006 conference, Chico, CA, 28 July-3 Aug, 2006.
  • Struwe, L., R. G. Lathrop, & P. E. Smouse. 2006. Spatial Evolutionary and Ecological Vicariance Analysis of Biodiversity – a new interdisciplinary approach. Botany 2006 conference, Chico, CA, 28 July-3 Aug, 2006.


James Vasslides, a Masters student in the Ken Able lab,  presented a talk titled "Are Inner Continental Sand Ridges Essential Fish Habitat?" at the 33rd Larval Fish Conference in junction with the American Fisheries Society Annual Meeting in Lake Placid on September 17th.


Ming Xu has traveled to China recently where he gave two presentations.

  • He was the  Keynote speaker at the  International Conference on Sustainable Development & Biodiversity Conservation:  Consequences of Land-use Policy  held at the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, China, July 25-28, 2006. His presentation was titled “Sustainable Management of Ecosystem Functions.”
  • He also attended the International Conference on Regional Carbon Budgets, Global Carbon Project in Beijing, China, Aug. 15-18, 2006 . His presentation at this conference was “Carbon Budget in China’s Terrestrial Ecosystems: A Remote Sensing Approach.”




A Visual Guide to Birds by Joanna Burger. Published in the US by Firefly; Published in the UK by Readers Digest; Published in Australia by Macmillan


The cover image on the latest issue of the electronic journal Palaeontologia Electronica is from an article co-authored by George  McGhee. 

To view the cover:


Price, D.L. 2006. Notes on the Scarabaeoid dung beetles (Coleoptera: Scarabaeinae, Geotrupidae, and Trogidae) of Hutcheson Memorial Forest, New Jersey, U.S.A.  Entomological News 117:347-350.


González Martínez SC, Robledo-Arnuncio JJ and Smouse PE. 2006. The consequences and implications of introgression in the conservation of forest trees. In: Gene Flow and Germplasm Management Issues in Genetic Resources, de Vicente, MC (Ed.). IPGRI, Rome. pp. 17-23.


Peakall R and Smouse PE. 2006. GenAlEx 6: Genetic Analysis in Excel. Population genetic software for teaching and research.  Molecular Ecological Notes 6:288-295.



   Rebecca Jordan has received the following two grants:

  • National Science Foundation Alternative Learning Technologies (Collaborative Proposal) with Georgia Institute of Technologies.  ($304,242)  “Learning About Complex Systems in Middle School by Constructing Structure-Behavior-Function Models.” with Cindy Hmelo-Silver, Graduate School of Education  
  • Cook College Advisory Committee for Instructional Computing (ACIC) ($7900) “Distance Learning.” with Peter Bastardo, Cook College Teacher Education Program.


Ming Xu, Field Validation of Ground Penetrating Radar in Measuring Root Biomass in New Jersey Pinelands, funded by USDA, $20,800, 2006-2008.



  Faculty Achievements and Activities:

Steven Handel, The Center for Urban Restoration Ecology and the Great Park Project of Orange County, California were the focus of two articles in the California press. The project will restore the land to what it was before the El Toro Marine Base occupied the site.

  • The Sept 5th Orange County Register column “People Making a Difference  article was titled “Ecologist battles seedy aliens at the Great Park: Steven Handel aims to rid Great Park of invasive plants.”
  • The Sept 14th Irvine World News People section article was titled” Great park ecologist battling aliens : Steven Handel aims to vanquish the non-native plants.”


Jim Quinn, Professor Emeritus, recently attended the Centennial Botanical Society of America meetings at Chico State University, and at the 30th Anniversary business meeting of the Ecological Section was recognized for his roles in the establishment and development of the Section.


Peter Smouse offered two week-long immersion workshops on population genetics this summer, one in Australia with Rod Peakall of Australian National University, the other in Argentina:

  • Population Genetic Analysis in Excel, School of Botany & Zoology, Australian National University, Canberra ACT, Australia, for which Rod and Peter were awarded the 2006 Innovative Team Teaching Award by the Grad School, ANU.
  • Methods and Statistics for Genetical Analysis (GenAlEx), INTA-Castelar, Buenos Aires, AR  This is the second Argentine workshop delivered to units of the Instituto Nacional de Tecnología y Agropecuaria. There will be more workshops to follow.


Lena Struwe has been named an Associate Editor, Systematic Botany, American Society of Plant Taxonomists. The appointment is for 4 years.


Lena Struwe attended an NSF workshop on Herbarium Infrastructure, Chico, California, 29-30 July 2006. The workshop included hand-on training in data sharing, imaging, and providing data to the global GBIF databank.


Robert Trivers received the  "Animal Behaviorist of the Year Award" for 2005  by the Animal Behavior Society at their annual meeting in August held this year in Snowbird, UT.


Post-Doc Activities:   

Eva Gonzales of the  Peter Smouse lab,  is team-teaching Environmental Biology I with Dr. Shahid Naeem in the Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology Department, Columbia University in New York City this fall.


Student Awards, Achievements, and Activities:

Apsa Chatziefthimiou, a Ph.D. student in the Tamar Barkay lab, received the Karl. C Ivarson Student Assistance Fund -$350.00 to attend the North Eastern Microbiologists: Physiology, Ecology and Taxonomy (NEMPET).


Matt Kimball , Ph.D. candidate in the Ken Able lab, served as a moderator for sessions in the Marine Fish Ecology symposium and the 30th Annual Larval Fish Conference.


David LaPuma, a Ph.D. candidate in Julie Lockwood’s lab, gave an Invited Lecture on September 13, 2006 to the Burlington County Natural Science Club, Lumberton, NJ

“Bird watching on a mega scale: The use of Doppler radar in detecting bird migration”


Karen Mabb, Ph.D. candidate in the Julie Lockwood lab, is listed in the latest addition of Who’s Who of American Women.

David Mellor, a Ph.D. student in Rebecca Jordan’s lab, gave a presentation to Tewksbury Township's primary education teachers during their Summer Science Institute on "Teaching Animal Adaptations"


Joseph Paulin, a Ph.D. candidate advised by David Ehrenfeld, was awarded the 2006 Program Associate Award for Excellence from the Rutgers Cooperative Extension. The award includes a $1000 to be used to further  professional development.


On Friday, Sept. 15th  Emilie Stander, a Ph.D. candidate in Joan Ehrenfeld’s lab, participated in the second Environmental and Law Seminar.  This seminar series brings together graduate students from natural science programs, like Ecology & Evolution and Environmental Science, with students from the Rutgers Law School, Newark to approach environmental issues from both regulatory and science frameworks.  This second seminar in the series focused on land-water linkages.


Qualifying Exams and Prelims:

Congratulations to two students who have successfully completed their Qualifying Exams and advanced to candidacy in the program:

  • Kenneth Elgersma, advisor Joan Ehrenfeld, on September 15, 2006
  • Blake Mathys, advisor Julie Lockwood, on September 25, 2006


Congratulations to Qaiser Tarique on the successful defense of her Preliminary Proposal on August 28, 2006.



Robert Cox, Ph.D. 2005 advisor Henry John-Alder, has accepted a postdoctoral position in Ryan Calsbeek's lab at Dartmouth College. He will move to New Hampshire and begin in January after he completes his teaching of the Evolution course at Ohio State this the fall quarter. Bob will be studying natural and sexual selection in Anolis lizards in the Bahamas.

He also reports a publication:

  • Cox, Robert M., Viktoriya Zilberman, and Henry B. John-Alder. (2006) Environmental sensitivity of sexual size dimorphism: laboratory common garden removes effects of sex and castration on lizard growth. Functional Ecology 20:880-888.


Mark Laska, Ph.D. 1995 advisor Peter Morin, announced the newly updated website for his company Great Eastern Ecology:

With a full time staff of over 15 biologists, ecologists, hydrologists, engineers and landscape architects, Great Eastern Ecology, Inc. is a full service ecological consulting firm.


Scott Meiners,  Ph.D.1996, advisor Steven Handel, has been promoted to Associate Professor with Tenure in the Department of Biological Sciences at Eastern Illinois University.