Department of Ecology, Evolution and Natural Resources


Ecology and Evolution Graduate Program Newsletter










Previous newsletters may be found at:



Joan Bennett has given three invited seminars this month:

  • Southwestern Association of Clinical Microbiology, New Orleans, LA "The mold that ate my house," Sept 7, 2007.
  • Merck research laboratories, Biologics Research, Westpoint PA "Don't take this wrong, but you are really good for a girl'..and other stories about being a woman in science.  Sept 21, 2007. 
  • New Jersey Center for the Book and the Liberty Science Center:  "Doing science with two X chromosomes:  Sept.  25, 2007.


In September John Dighton attended the XV Congress of European Mycologists conference in St. Petersburg, Russia where he gave two oral presentations, two posters, co-authored a third oral presentation and co-chaired a session. Contributions were:

  • Dighton, Adams-Krumins and Gray, Fungal Succession on and Decomposition of Gypsy Moth Frass;
  • Nix and Dighton, Dynamics and structure of the phylloplane fungal community of Vaccinium macrocarpon (American cranberry) under different agricultural management regimes;
  • Zhdanova, Vasilevskaya, Tugay, Artishkova , Nakonechnaya, Dighton, Results of 20-years monitoring of soil micobiota of 10-km  zone of alienation ChNPP;
  • Dighton, Tgay, Zhdanova, Vasilevskaya, Zheltonozhsky, Biological activity of the microscopic fungi isolated from the 10-km alienation zone of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant;
  • Barron, Dighton, An applied model for macro-fungi conservation: fungal management in US National Parks.

Joan Ehrenfeld gave two presentations this month:

  • “Climate Change at Home: What About the Biota” at the 2007 Environmental Congress of the Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissioners, West Windsor, Oct 12.
  •  Montclair State University on Oct. 18 entitled ““Exotic Plants and the Soil:  Pathways of Interaction”.


Frank Gallagher, a Ph.D. candidate in Dr. Jason Grabosky’s Urban Forestry lab, gave a presentation entitled “The Myths Associated with Sustainable Forestry”, at a meeting of the American Forest Foundation. The audience consisted of natural resource education personnel from both government agencies and NGOs from throughout the country. The presentation was given in Idaho City, Idaho on September 24th.


Inga La Puma, a Ph.D. candidate in Rick Lathrop’s lab, gave two presentations this month:

  • Modeling Disturbance in the Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve Watersheds. Tuckerton Field Station, NOAA Review Sept 11th, 2007.
  • Incorporating landuse change into LANDIS-II: Lessons from fire history in the Pinelands of New Jersey. Rhinelander, WI, LANDIS-II Developer's Workshop Oct 15th, 2007.


Peter Morin was the keynote speaker for the University of Calgary Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Annual Retreat, held at the University's Kananaskis Barrier Lake Field Station Sept. 29-30 (see picture below).  Peter gave two seminars, "Small Worlds: Using Experiments to Explore Patterns in Community Ecology," and "Developing Successful Strategies to Make the Most of Your Graduate Education." 













Later that same week (Oct. 4), Peter Morin presented an invited seminar in the Biology Department at McGill University in Montreal. The title of Peter’s talk at McGill was - "Community dynamics and energy: some lessons from the small world of microbes".


Patricia Ramey, a Ph.D. candidate supervised by Fred and Judy Grassle, attended the 9th International Polychaete Conference in Portland Maine, August 12-18 2007. She presented “Undescribed diversity in the genus Polygordius: pygidial glands as a useful taxonomic character.” This is research Tricia has been pursing as a collaborative effort with Dr. Dieter Fiege from the Senckenberg Museum in Frankurt, Germany.


Peter Smouse and Eva Gonzales, a post-doc in his lab, gave two invited presentations at the 3rd International Conservation Genetics Symposium held at the American Museum of Natural History on  Sept 27th – 29th.

  • Gonzales E, Smouse PE, and Hamrick JL. 2007. Impact of landscape disturbance on pollen-mediated gene dispersal in a dry tropical tree, Enterolobium cyclocarpum.
  • Smouse P, Peakall R, Gonzales E, Sork E. 2007. Some challenges for fine-scale structure analysis.  3rd International  Conservation  Genetics Symposium at the American Museum of Natural History. Sept 27th – 29th.


Lena Struwe gave an invited symposium talk at 54th Annual Systematics Symposium "Biodiversity and Conservation in the Andes" at the Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, Oct 12-13, 2007. She was one of seven speakers. Lena’s talk was titled "Speciation and Vicariance in Neotropical Macrocarpaea (Gentianaceae-Helieae)"

Tom Virzi, a Ph.D. candidate in Julie Lockwood’s lab, gave an invited presentation this past month:

·        "Modeling American Oystercatcher Nest Success Using Program MARK"   at a special workshop on oystercatchers at the Annual Conference of the International Wader Study Group held at the University of La Rochelle in France from September 28 - October 1, 2007. 

Tom was also invited to participate in a follow-up oystercatcher conference sponsored by the University of Groningen at a research station on Schiermonnikoog in the Netherlands from October 3-5.  This conference brought together oystercatcher researchers from every continent to discuss shared conservation issues relating to the world's oystercatcher species.  Tom was invited as a North American representative to discuss the conservation status of the American oystercatcher.



John Dighton reports the following book chapter:

·        Dighton, J. (2007) Nutrient cycling by saprotrophic fungi in terrestrial habitats. In: Kubicek, C. P. & Druzhinina, I. S. (Ed.) The Mycota IV Environmental and Microbial Relationships (2nd Edn.) Springer-Verlag, Berlin Heidelberg, pp. 287-300.


David Ehrenfeld and Jason Tesauro (M.S. 2001 advisor D. Ehrenfeld) have the following publication:

·        The Effects of Livestock Grazing on the Bog Turtle [Glyptemys (=Clemmys) mulenberghii]. Herpetologica 63(3) 2007 293-300.


Grabosky, J., Gilman, E., Harchick, C.  2007.  Use of branch cross-sectional area for predicting pruning dose in young field-grown Quercus virginiana 'Cathedral' in Florida, US. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening 6(3):159-167.


James Mac Donald, a Ph.D. candidate in the Judy Weis lab, has the following publication.

  • Mac Donald, J., R. Roudez, T. Glover and J.S. Weis. 2007 The invasive green crab and Japanese shore crab: behavioral interactions with a native crab species, the blue crab. Biological  Invasions 9: 837-848.


Patricia Ramey, a Ph.D. candidate working with Fred and Judy Grassle, reports the following publication:

  • P. Ramey and Fiege, D. 2007. A ‘famous—or infamous’ marine worm? Journal of the Marine Biological  Association. Global Environment, 5: 16.


Peter Smouse recently published the following papers: 

  • Smouse PE, Robledo-Arnuncio JJ and González-Martínez SC.2007. Implications of Natural propagule flow for containment of genetically modified forest trees. Tree  Genet. Genom. 3: 141-152. 
  • Robledo-Arnuncio JJ, Austerlitz F and Smouse PE. 2007. POLDISP: A software package for indirect estimation of contemporary pollen dispersal. Molec Ecol Notes 7:763-766. 

·        Austerlitz F, Dutech C, Smouse PE, Davis F and Sork VL. 2007. Estimating anisotropic pollen dispersal: A case study in Quercus lobata. Heredity 99:193-204.



Jason Grabosky reports two new grants:


  • $25,000.00  Effects of structural pruning on red maple trunk movement in wind Ed Gilman and Forrest Masters, University of Florida and Jason Grabosky, Rutgers University. This study will determine if structural pruning enhances the ability of trees to withstand category one hurricane force winds.  The funding is to be used for field data collection costs.
  • $25,000.00  The early years: An analysis of street tree mortality and survival in New York City Brian McGrath, Columbia University, Erika Svendsen and Lindsay Cambell, USDA Forest Service, and Jason Grabosky, Rutgers University. A sample of 14,000 trees from the 40,000 trees planted between 1999 and 2003 will be analyzed to determine factors that influence survival.  The funding is to be used for data collection costs.


     Faculty Achievements and Activities:

At the end of August, John Dighton visited the Swedish Radiation Protection Authority (SSI) in Stockholm as part of an international three member team to select a candidate for a research position in radioecology to be funded by SSI and establish a new research and teaching program at an existing Swedish university. 

Peter Smouse and Eva Gonzalez, a post-doc in Peter’s lab, presented a workshop titled “Spatial Genetics,” at the Universidad de Comahue, Bariloche, Argentina (2007). This was a  two week hand-on workshop on genetic analysis, in spatial context, mounted by the University with a grant from the American Genetic Association to the organizers. The attendees were twenty-one very carefully vetted graduate students from all over Latin America (Mexico to Argentina).



Student Awards, Achievements, and Activities:

Allison Candelmo, Jeremy Feinberg and William Landesman are teaching fellows this year on the NSF K-12 Teaching Fellowship with Kathy Scott. The program pairs graduate students and some undergraduates in the sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) with middle school teachers to develop hands-on materials and activities to augment the current curriculum as requested by the schools involved.


Alexander J. Felson, a Ph.D. student in Steward Pickett’s lab and Director of Design at EDAW, reports that EDAW has been selected for the reforestation plan of New York City.  The PlaNYC 2017 goal of replanting forests on 2000 acres of New York City’s public land provides a unique opportunity to significantly improve the quality of the urban environment, address concerns about environmental health and climate change vital to all New Yorkers. The scale of the project, at almost a million dollars, provides opportunities to test and establish new and innovative ecosystem-based planting and maintenance strategies with robust opportunities for research and adaptive management approaches.  EDAW is working in collaboration with Donna Walcavage LA+UD, along with top-ranking academic and government experts in forestry and horticulture, who have done research in New York City and similar environments, such as Richard Pouyat (E&E Ph.D. 1992) of the Baltimore Ecosystem Service and Mary Cadenasso of UC Davis (E&E Ph.D. 1998). This consultation will enable EDAW to garner the best current knowledge and techniques to achieve their goal, and will also provide an opportunity to demonstrate, test, and improve these techniques and further the goals of reforestation and environmental improvement beyond the borders of NYC.


The team will work collaboratively in an integrative design process with the NYC Parks Department and the Natural Resources Group to generate innovative, visionary and compelling reforestation design, construction, and maintenance proposals that capitalize on the unique historic conditions and land types within New York City.


James MacDonald, a Ph.D. candidate in Judy Weis’ lab, received an internship at the Center for Biological Diversity at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.


Jonathan Schramm and Linda Rohleder, PhD candiates in Joan Ehrenfeld's lab, participated in National Public Lands Day at Washington Crossing State Park, Hopewell, NJ on September 29. They helped install a 1-acre deer exclosure and conduct a vegetation survey within it. This project will be a public demonstration of the effects of overbrowsing by deer on the forests at the park. Linda also gave a presentation entitled "Creating a Backyard Habitat" which emphasized the use of native plants.


Maria Stanko, Ph.D. candidate in Peter Morin’s lab, was asked to give a workshop for the TA Project on Interacting with Students: Emails, Letters of Recommendation, and Office Hours.  The workshop was held Sept. 19, from 12-1.


Quals and Prelims:

Congratulations to Maria Stanko, advisor Peter Morin, on the successful completion of her Qualifying Exam on September 26th. Congratulations Maria!


Congratulations to the following on the successful defense of their Preliminary Proposals:

  • Blake Mathys, advisor Julie Lockwood, on September 25th.
  • Allison Candelmo, advisor Judy Weis, on October 9th.



Qaiser Tarique, advisor Joanna Burger, successfully defended her Ph.D. dissertation on Sept 27th. Congratulations Qaiser!



David Bart (Ph.D., 2003 advisor JeanMarie Hartman) and his wife Janean announce the birth of their son Aaron Grey Bart (aka Gaseous Clay) on 12:36 am, September 13th.  8lb.  19 inches.  Everyone is doing very well.


Celine Santiago Bass (Ph.D 2007, advisor Judy Weis) reports the following publication:

  • Bass, C.S. , S. Khan and J.S. Weis. Associations of gill branching with gill parasite infections in Fundulus heteroclitus. Journal of Fish Biology. 71: 920-925.


Jeremy Fox (Ph.D. 2000, advisor Peter Morin) reports a new publication and provided the picture of the Calgary Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Retreat above.

  • Vasseur, D.A., and J.W. Fox. 2007. Environmental fluctuations can stabilize food web dynamics by increasing synchrony. Ecology Letters 10:1066-1074.


Elizabeth Johnson (M.S. 1992, advisor Peter Morin) and P. Timon McPhearson (Ph.D. 2003, advisor Peter Morin) report the following publication:

  • Johnson, Elizabeth A. and P. Timon McPhearson. 2007.  Protecting Nature in Your Community.  Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, American Museum of Natural History, (AMNH) New York.


Liz and Timon had worked on this in the past. It is now available as a short summary of the topic for policy makers and educators in New Jersey.  AMNH published a number of copies and sent them to various public offices around NJ.   A digital copy is available from AMNH at this website:


Timon McPhearson also reports two new grants:

  • The Nature of Ethics and the Ethics of Nature: The ultimate reality of the good, the transcendent, and the flourishing of life, ($20,000), Science and Transcendence  Advanced Research Series Research Planning Grant, P. Timon McPhearson, PI;   Richard Randolph, Co-PI.
  • Expanding Community Outreach Through Education, ($10,000), Metanexus Local  Societies Initiative Supplemental Grant Prize, P. Timon McPhearson, PI; Robert  Pollack, Co-PI.