Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources


Ecology and Evolution Graduate Program Newsletter


November and December 2008




Previous newsletters may be found at:




We are pleased to end the year with an expanded newsletter. We are now including information from the undergraduates working in DEENR labs. The undergrad departmental affiliation will be noted following their name or news piece.

Thanks to everyone who contributed to this inaugural edition of the expanded newsletter. We look forward to hearing from more of you for future editions.



In Memoriam:

Steven Clemants, Vice President of Science at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden and a member of the E&E graduate program passed away suddenly on November 2, 2008. We send our sympathies to his wife and family. The Dr. Steven Clemants Wildflower Fund has been established to honor our late colleague and friend.  Steve's widow, Grace Markman, is working with the Greenbelt Native Plant Center to plan a living memorial that will foster the planting of native wildflower species in New York City parks. Please contact Marsha Morin for information about this fund.


Undergrad Information and News:

Make the most of your research experience!  You could be earning credits.  Talk to your mentor about this.  You could also be eligible for funding or scholarships.  The Aresty Research Center offers research grants and also provides information about other scholarship programs.  Everyone should complete an SEBS Scholarship Application.  It's easy to apply and the Scholarship Office will do the work of finding programs for which you are eligible.  Apply every year.  Next round begins in February.
Check out these links:


DEENR has undergraduates working in several labs to gain hands-on research experience.

  • Wayne Blum, a junior in the Ecology and Natural Resources major, is earning credits towards his degree working in Michael Sukhdeo’s lab this semester.  Wayne is doing a survey of parasites in frogs in a small creek.  He collects and identifies the frogs, dissects and searches the various organs of the body for parasites. Any parasites found are then identified.
  • Helen Chandler and Joe Pignatelli are working in the Joan Ehrenfeld lab helping with field work, data entry, and plant identification.
  • Chris Dougherty is working for Rick Lathrop as a GIS programmer.  He is developing a Web-accessible wildlife sightings database for the NJDEP Endangered & Nongame Species Wildlife Program.  This system will allow citizen volunteers to geolocate and upload their wildlife sightings more easily.
  • Neha Gautam, a Bioenvironmental Engineering major, is working with Lena Struwe as a herbarium technician at the Chrysler Herbarium.
  • Mehreen Mughal, a junior in the SAS Genetics department, is doing a lab-rotation with Peter Smouse this semester, and working on the NSF Valley Oak Project, for research credits toward her major.
  • Stevie Steffey, an EENR undergrad, is volunteering her time with Rebecca Jordan and Rebecca’s graduate students in an effort to learn more about graduate study. 
  • Kerrie Tiedemann, an Animal Science undergrad, is completing her Cook Honors Project with Rebecca Jordan. Kerrie is investigating public perception of bear-proof garbage cans. 
  • Sean Hayes, an EENR undergrad, is working with graduate student Maria Stanko in Peter Morin’s group  on plant-pollinator networks involving native and non-native species.
  • Laura Chen, a SEBS undergrad, is working in Peter Morin’s lab on predator-prey dynamics in continuous culture systems.


Lena Struwe has two students working on Aresty projects:

  • Ramya Raviram, a biotechnology major, is working on genotyping the endangered Metaseqouia (dawn redwood).
  • David Zaitz, an ecology and natural resources undergrad, is working on a revision of Symbolanthus (Gentianaceae) in Colombia. David provided the following information on his project:  Symbolanthus (ring gentians) is a montane, neotropical plant genus spanning the Andes and other mountainous ranges from Central America down to southern Bolivia (Struwe et al, 2002). Part of the distinct gentian family, and characterized by having bright and showy flora, Symbolanthus is unique in its morphology by having a large trumpet- or funnel shaped flowers in a variety of colors and patterns. This distinct flower morphology is arguably what makes it beautiful but also facilitates part of the taxonomic problems that have plagued this group. Symbolanthus species are rare and the exact number of species and populations are unknown, and many of its habitats are currently highly endangered due to habitat fragmentation arising from agricultural and logging activities (Molina & Struwe, 2008). Habitat loss may have devastating effects on biodiversity. It is important to identify the species within these highly threatened Andean ecosystems to be able to preserve them and save them from extinction.



Julie Lockwood gave two invited seminars at the University of Connecticut in November:

  • “Propagule madness: definitions and null hypotheses in invasion ecology” was given in the Ecology and Evolution Seminar Series.
  • “In it for the long haul: conservation of the Cape Sable seaside sparrow in the Everglades, Florida” was given in the Natural Resource Management Seminar Series. 


Lena Struwe had the following abstract and presentation:

  • Struwe, L. & S. Eisenman. 2008. Good Botanical Practices in Pharmaceutical Studies. NRF(KISC)/GIBEX - Africa Workshop on developing novel strategies for natural product-based drug discovery for tropical diseases, 3-6 Nov 2008, Cape Town, South Africa


Judy Weis, Department of Biology, Newark, was an invited speaker at the WEBS (Women Evolving Biological Sciences) conference sponsored by University of Washington's "ADVANCE" grant for women in sciences. The conference was held in late October.




Frank Gallagher, Ph.D. 2008, advisor Jason Grabosky, has the following publication:

  • Gallagher F J, Pechmann I, Bogden J D, Grabosky J, Weis P.  2008. "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 156(3):699-706.


Jason Grabosky was a contributing author to the monograph:

  • Managing stormwater for urban sustainability using trees and structural soils.”  2008.  S. Day and S Dickinson Eds.  VPI Blacksburg, VA


Julie Lockwood has the following publication in press:

  • Blackburn, T.M., P. Cassey and J.L. Lockwood.  The role of species traits in overcoming small initial population sizes within exotic birds.  Global Change Biology.


Lauren Spearman, a Ph.D. candidate in Mike May’s lab, has the following publication in Zootaxa, published November, 2008:

  • New species of flightless katydids from South Africa (Orthoptera: Tettigoniidae: Meconematinae). Piotr Naskrecki, Corinna S. Bazelet & Lauren A. Spearman


Holly Vuong, a Ph.D. candidate co-advised by Peter Morin and Rick Ostfeld, wrote an article on tick biology in the New York/New Jersey Trail Conference Trailwalker for the November/December issue. It's titled: "Ticks: No One's Hiking Friend."



Julie Lockwood has received two grants:

  • National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Conservation of American oystercatchers in New Jersey – $140,000 (with Tom Virzi)
  • Digital capabilities in Ecology and Organismal Biology Lab Courses – $7,100 (Rutgers University, with David Howe).


Faculty Achievements and Activities:


Kay Bidle, Marine Sciences, received a pre-tenure faculty career development awards for his proposal on “Genetic mechanisms of DNA repair in ancient ice microbes.”


Jason Grabosky hosted Dr. Peter May from Melbourne Australia (Burnley College Univeristy of Melbourne retired) and Dr. Yukio Kida who works with Toho Leo Corporation in Tokyo. While on campus they discussed soil design research for urban trees and pavement in the US


Ed Green attended the Society of American Foresters National Convention in Reno, NV (Nov 4-9), where he participated in the Editor's meetings.


Rebecca Jordan and David Mellor, a Ph.D. candidate in Rebecca’s lab, received a pre-tenure faculty award of $3,050 from the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences to study the mating behavior of cichlids from Lake Malawi


George McGhee, Geological Sciences, has been elected a Centennial Fellow of the Paleontological Society, the oldest organization of professional paleontologists in North America.  Currently, in 2008, the society has 1492 members, of whom only 68 are Fellows.


Dr. John Tedrow, professor emeritus, reports continuing studies on the origin of the boulder fields (a.k.a. block fields and/or Felsenmeer) in Southwestern Pennsylvania and the Western Pennsylvania mountains.


Judy Weis, Department of Biology, Newark, received the Chancellor's Award for Faculty Community Research from Rutgers-Newark.


Advisory Panels:

Julie Lockwood and Tom Virzi, Ph.D, 2008, advisor Julie Lockwood, attended a Management Workshop as Advisory Panelists. The workshop titled,“Managing fire within Everglades National Park for Cape Sable seaside sparrows”, was co-sponsored by Everglades National Park, Big Cypress National Preserve, and US Fish and Wildlife Service. 


Judy Weis, Department of Biology, Newark, attended the National Sea Grant Advisory Board meeting in Baton Rouge.



Congratulations to Suzanne Decoursey on the successful defense of her Masters degree. Suzanne’s advisor is Rebecca Jordan.


Congratulations to the following on the successful completion of their Qualifying Exams:

  • Wayne Rossiter, advisor Michael Sukhdeo, on November 19th
  • Holly Vuong, advisor Peter Morin, on November 25th.
  • Lea Johnson, advisor Steven Handel, on December 1st
  • Elena Tartaglia, advisor Steven Handel, on December 2nd.



Michael P. Lombardo, Ph.D. 1984, advisor Harry W. Power, Professor of Biology at Grand Valley State University, Allendale, MI has the following publication:

  • Lombardo, M. P., P. A. Thorpe, B. M. Brown, and K. Sian.  2008.  Digit ratios in birds.  The Anatomical Record DOI 10.1002/ar.20769.  (Published online on 2 October 2008)

Chris Martine, M.S. 2001, advisor John Kuser, reports the following publication:

  • Martine, C.T., S. Leicht-Young, P. Herron, and A. Latimer. Fifteen woody species with potential for invasiveness in New England. Rhodora 110: 345-353.