Department of Ecology, Evolution and Natural Resources


Ecology and Evolution Graduate Program Newsletter


October 2006


Previous newsletters may be found at:





Monica Palta and Emilie Stander, Ph.D. students in the Joan Ehrenfeld lab, attended the EPA Graduate Fellows Conference in Washington, DC on September 25 and 26th.  Both presented posters;

  • Emilie’s was titled "The Effects of Urbanization on Nitrogen Cycling Dynamics in Urban Wetlands."
  • Monica’s was titled “"Nitrate removal in urban wetlands: examining the roles of vegetation, soils, and hydrology in the creation of "hot spots" and "hot moments" of denitrification"
  • Emilie also was invited to be a panelist in a session called, "Global Trends in Human and Ecosystem Health: Links Between Land Use, Trade, and Climate Change."



Five students gave presentations at The 4th North American Ornithological Conference held Oct 3rd to the 8th in Veracruz, Mexico. 


  • Julian Avery, a Ph.D. student in Joanna Burger’s lab, presented  a poster titled  “Stopover ecology of nearctic-neotropical and temperate migrants in New Mexico: effects of  disturbance in montane habitat islands.”


  • Ben Baiser, a Ph.D. student in Julie Lockwood’s lab, presented a poster titled “The influence of water level on the breeding success of Cape Sable seaside sparrows.”









  • David LaPuma, a Ph.D. candidate in Julie Lockwood’s lab presented a poster titled "Little Sparrow on the Prairie: A landscape approach to estimating return time of the Cape Sable seaside sparrow (Ammodramus maritimus mirabilis) following fire."


  • Blake Mathys, a Ph.D. candidate in Julie Lockwood’s lab, presented a poster titled: "Contemporary Evolutionary Change of the Introduced Great Kiskadee (Pitangus sulphuratus) Population in Bermuda".


  • Holly Vuong, a Ph.D. student advised by Peter Morin and Rick Ostfeld, presented a talk titled "An exotic pathogen in an arid landscape: ecological associations of West Nile virus and avian hosts in southern New Mexico."



Kenneth Elgersma, a Ph.D. candidate in Joan Ehrenfeld’s lab, attended the 4th annual conference of the Neobiota working group, a European-based international working group on invasive species.  The conference took place in Vienna from Sept. 27-29. Kenneth  presented a poster titled, “Plant invasion alters seasonal dynamics of the soil microbial community.”

Jeremy Feinberg, a Ph.D. student in the Joanna Burger lab, presented a paper titled: "The Southern Leopard Frog: Causes and Conservation Strategies for a Regional Amphibian Decline on Long Island." on Thursday, October 5, 2006 at the Eleventh Annual Pine Barrens Research Forum held at Brookhaven National Laboratory


Steven Handel has been invited to lecture on his research in restoration ecology at the University of California - Irvine, Dept. of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and the University of Nevada - Reno, Dept. of Natural Resources and Environmental Science.


Julie Lockwood gave an invited seminar at the  Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, Seminar Series titled “The shape of things to come: taxonomic homogenization of island bird faunas.” 


Peter Morin presented a research seminar at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Studies Appalachian Laboratory in Frostburg MD on Oct. 5. The title of Peter's seminar was "Using Experimental Model Systems To Explore Environmental
Issues: Lessons from Small Worlds".











The Peter Smouse lab group presented several papers at the International Union of Forestry Organizations (IUFRO) in Alcalá, Spain in early October, where Peter chaired the session on Population Genetics,


Robledo-Arnuncio JJ, Austerlitz F and Smouse PE. 2006. A novel indirect method of estimating the pollen dispersal curve that is independent of effective density. In Population Genetics and Genomics of Forest Trees. from Gene Function to Evolutionary Dynamics and Conservation. Prog. Joint IUFRO Conf., Alcalá, SP,


Smouse PE, Hamrick JL, Gonzales E and Robledo-Arnuncio JJ. 2006. A comparison of the temporal pattern of pollen structure in Enterolobium cyclocarpum from four different locations in Guanacaste Province, Costa Rica. In ---. Prog. Joint  IUFRO Conf., Alcalá,



Grivet D, Sork VL and Smouse PE. 2006. Spatial genetic pattern of dispersed seedlings in the California valley oak. In ---. Prog. Joint IUFRO Conf., Alcalá, SP.


Gonzales E, Hamrick JL, Smouse PE and Peakall R. 2006. The impact of landscape disturbance on fine-scale genetic structure in the Guanacaste tree (Enterolobium cyclocarpum) in Costa Rica. In ---. Prog. Joint IUFRO Conf., Alcalá, SP.


Pluess AR, Sork VL, Dolan B, Davis FW, Merg K, Grivet D, Papp J and  Smouse PE. 2006. Short distance dispersal patterns of pollen in California valley oak, Quercus lobata (Fagaceae). In ---. Prog. Joint IUFRO Conf., Alcalá, SP.


Kristen Ross and Jonathon Schramm, both Ph.D. candidates in the Joan Ehrenfeld lab,  were invited to speak and participate in a panel discussion at the D&R Greenway land Trust’s 2006 Landowners Forum on September 27, 2006 located at the Johnson Education Center in Princeton, NJ. The focus of the forum was to share research and control efforts on four invasive, exotic species: Garlic Mustard, Japanese Stiltgrass, Japanese barberry, and Multiflora Rose. Jonathon gave a talk titled: “A case study of Microstegium vimineum (Japanese stiltgrass)” and Kristen gave a talk titled “Space Invaders of the Prickly Kind: A case study of Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii).”

Alison Seigel, a PhD candidate in Julie Lockwood's lab, presented a poster on "Conservation of threatened birds on agricultural grasslands" at the Eastern Native Grass Symposium in Harrisburg, PA on October 11th.





Lockwood, J.L., D. La Puma, P. Cassey, M. Davis and K.H. Fenn.  Fire effects on the Cape Sable seaside sparrow: 2006 annual report.  Everglades National Park, Homestead, FL. 



Julie Lockwood received a grant from the 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  - $45,172


Faculty Achievements and Activities:

Jim Applegate, Professor Emeritus, was part of a half day symposium at The Wildlife Society annual conference in Anchorage, Sept. 23-27.  The symposium was entitled "Challenging Education: Why Experiential Learning is Necessary for Professional Development."  His talk was "The role of universities in developing experiential learners:  A view from the rocking chair."  He was proud to share the podium with many wonderful colleagues who included daughter, Jodi (Stemler) and Katie's husband, Ben Bobowski (both Cook College and Nat Resource alums).  As Jim said in his talk at the Conference “It's pretty special when you have reached a point in your career when your children are also your colleagues.” 

Of course this professional experience had its fun side. The Applegate family spent a week in Cordova with both daughters, their spouses and children trying to fish out the Copper River.  They sent home over 200 pounds of salmon and Carol reports they definitely didn't dent the population. 


Rutgers Cook and NJAES made the following announcement in an Oct 10th press release:

“A ceremony on Thursday, September 28, marked the activation of the John and Eleanor Kuser Endowed Faculty Scholar Fund in Urban and Community Forestry. Jason Grabosky, who was named Faculty Scholar in Urban Forestry in 2003, now is steward of the fund.”

 The complete release can be read at:


Ed Green has been invited and agreed to serve a second three-year term as Editor of Forest Science.  

Rebecca Jordan participated in the citizen science roundtable at the North American Association of Environmental Educators Annual Research Symposium held in St. Paul, MN on October 9 and 10. 


Steven Handel was invited to be the Opponent (the external examiner) Sept. 15 at Stockholm University's Dept. of Systems Ecology.  The Ph.D. candidate was in the field of urban ecology, and Handel had to question him, alone, for two hours in front of an audience of 120.  The candidate passed, and there was a six hour celebratory dinner.  Steven reports that neither the exam nor the dinner was for the timid.






Steven Handel has been elected an Adjunct Professor of Ecology by the University of California - Irvine, Dept. of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.  This appointment will facilitate collaboration among the faculty and students there and at Rutgers, and the professional staff at

the new Orange County Great Park, a 1,800 acre complex where Handel's group is designing the natural habitat restorations.


Qualifying Exams and Prelims

Congratulations to Greg Dahle on successfully completing his Qualifying Exam and advancing to candidacy in the program.



Congratulations to Dr. Jay Kelly on the successful defense of his Ph.D. dissertation. Dr. Kelly will be working for various state and non-governmental organizations on endangered plant species.


Congratulations to Jacalyn Toth Brown on the successful defense of her Master’s thesis on October 16, 2006.



Jeremy Fox, Ph.D. 2000, advisor Peter Morin, reports the following publication:

  • Fox, J. W. 2006. Current food web models cannot explain the overall topological structure of observed food webs.  Oikos 115:97-109.


The extended E&E family continues to grow:


Zac Long (Ph.D. 2004, advisor Peter Morin) and Amy Long (M.S. 2005, advisor Steven Handel) announce the birth of Saybren Thomas Long. Saybren , born Oct 9, 2006, is the namesake of his great, great, great grandfather born Oct 9th  in 1834. Amy, Saybren, Zac and Finn are all doing well.


Phil Stouffer (Ph.D. 1989, advisor Harry Power ) Kelli and their son  Paul are thrilled to announce the arrival on September 20 of William Keeley Stouffer.  He weighed in at 8 lbs 10 ounces. He and Kelli are both doing great.