Department of Ecology, Evolution and Natural Resources


Faculty and Student Newsletter

April 2005


Previous newsletters may be found at:






2005 Garden State Tree Conference:

  • Greg Dahle and Frank Gallagher, advisor Jason Grabosky, delivered overviews of their respective doctoral research at the 2005 Garden State Tree Conference, held at Cook College on March 31.
  • Dr. Jason Grabosky was a guest speaker at the 2005 Garden State Tree Conference. Jason’s current research focuses on tree canopy and root growth as they relate to urban planting designs.


Dr. Julie Lockwood gave a seminar titled "Conservation of grassland birds at Duke Farms" on April 5th at the New Jersey Wildlife Society Meeting.


Joseph Paulin , advisor David Ehrenfeld, gave two presentations this past month:

  • Paulin, J. B., Drake, D., Ehrenfeld, D., Carr, P. C. and K. Burguess.  “Bears in the burbs: How does personal experience affect support for lethal wildlife management techniques in New Jersey?”   18th Eastern Black Bear Workshop.  Tallahassee, Florida, April 3-7, 2005.
  • Paulin, J. B., Drake, D., Ehrenfeld, D., Carr, P. C. and K. Burguess.  “The effects of personal experience on public attitudes toward lethal management techniques for three wildlife species.”    61st Annual Northeast Fish and Wildlife Conference.  Virginia Beach, Virginia, April 17-20, 2005.


Faculty Achievements and Activities:


Jason Grabosky and Greg Dahle ( a  Jason Grabosky graduate student) received a John Z. Duling Grant from the Tree Fund for $6,900.  The project is titled “Measuring Branch Architecture and Localized Wood Strength Properties to Develop Load Distribution Models.”


Profs. Rick Lathrop, Julie Lockwood and Ted Stiles and doctoral candidate Jennifer Krumins participated in New Jersey's Wildlife Summit sponsored by the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife to discuss the structure and implementation of the state's Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy.  This document will shape the direction of our efforts to conserve biodiversity in the state over the next several decades.  The meeting was held April 6, 2005 at the Duke Farms Estate.


Dr. Julie Lockwood participated in one of many meetings of the Technical Review Committee for the selection of Important Bird Areas in New Jersey for NJ Audubon Society.


Mixing Art and Science:

Dr. Steven N. Handel will have an artwork exhibited in San Francisco this May-September, at the Museum of Contemporary Jewish Art.  The special exhibition, "Scents of Purpose," displays modern interpretations of the traditional spice box used to celebrate the end of the sabbath day.  Handel's piece, created in collaboration with the NYC artist Mierle Laderman Ukeles, expresses the ecological and evolutionary function of spice odors, showing that plants use odors to communicate with the animal world, to repel (Stay away! I am distasteful, poisonous) or attract (Come here! I have a reward for you, nectar, pollen).  In this way the artwork will bring an aspect of biology to a public who has probably never thought about the chemical ecology of plants. The artwork is called "I'm Talking To You."  !  Handel also notes that he is described in

the museum catalog as an "artist/scientist."  Just like DaVinci!    


Student Awards, Achievements, and Activities:


Robert Cox’s oral presentation titled “Does Female Reproductive Investment Constrain Growth and Promote Male-Larger Sexual Size Dimorphism in Yarrow’s Spiny Lizard, Sceloporus jarrovii?” was selected for one of the two “Best Contributed Student Paper” awards at the 2005 San Diego meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biologists. Bob’s advisor is Henry John-Alder.


Kenneth Elgersma, advisor Joan Ehrenfeld, and Kirsten Schwarz, advisors Steward Pickett and Rick Lathrop, received Honorable Mentions from the National Science Foundation for their proposals submitted to the Graduate Student Research Program Fellowship.


Three students have received external funding:

  • Emilie Stander, a Ph.D. candidate in Joan Ehrenfeld’s lab, received a National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant.  Her research topic is the effects of urbanization on nitrate removal capacity of urban wetlands.
  • Tavis Anderson, advisor Michael Sukhdeo,  has been awarded the American Society of Parasitology’s Willis A. Reid, Jr. Student Research Grant . His work will focus on the community ecology and island biogeography of parasites.
  • Shannon Galbraith-Kent, advisor Steven Handel, received the Garden Club of America's Caroline Thorn Kissel Scholarship for research conducted in New Jersey.


Graduate SchoolNew Brunswick Awards:


     Three members of the Ecology and Evolution Graduate Program received awards from the Graduate School-New Brunswick for academic year 2004-2005.

·        Dr. John Dighton, Director of the Pinelands Field Station, received one of the two Faculty Graduate Teaching Awards.

·        Jennifer Momsen, a Ph.D. candidate in Jean Marie Hartman’s, lab received a Graduate Student Teaching Award.

·        Marsha Morin, Program Secretary received one of the two Staff Excellence Awards.


We are very proud to say that this is the third consecutive year that our students have won a Student Teaching Award. A reception and presentation of the awards will be held April 28th at the Zimmerli Art Museum.


Special Study Awards from the Graduate School-New Brunswick were received by:

·        Karen Mabb, advisor Julie Lockwood, received money to aid in her research on the ecology of Monk Parakeets in the North-eastern United States.

·       Ai Wen, advisor David Ehrenfeld, received funds to continue her research on the conservation ecology of Asiatic Black Bears in China.

·       Kirsten Schwarz, advisors Steward Pickett and Rick Lathrop, received funding to continue work on the role of land use in generating soil levels of heavy toxic metals in Baltimore, MD.


Penn-Princeton-Rutgers Graduate Student Retreat – April 16th


The annual P-P-R Retreat was held in Princeton this year. The retreat is organized by students as a forum for presenting short papers on their research and a chance to share knowledge and ideas in an informal gathering. Twelve papers were presented this year with three of those presented by Rutgers students.

·        Dan Hernandez, advisor David Drake, presented an overview of his dissertation research titled “The Foraging Dynamics of Migratory Shorebirds.”

·        Matt Palmer, advisor Joan Ehrenfeld,  presented a portion of his dissertation research titled “Botany writ small: Centimeter-scale pattern in the vegetation of New Jersey Pinelands fens.”

·        Rob Hamilton’s presentation was also an overview of his dissertation research titled “Environmental characteristics and their relationship to benthic macroinvertebrate abundance and diversity in streams in northeastern NJ.”  Rob’s advisor is Joan Ehrenfeld.


Ag-Field Day – April 30th

The EcoGSA (Ecology and Evolution Graduate Student Association) will have its usual table by Food Science at Ag-Field Day on April 30th. There will be an interactive display of organisms. T-Shirts, carry-alls, and empanadas will be on sale. They are also organizing a 5K race, “Run for the Woods,” through Helyar’s Woods and Rutgers Gardens beginning at 9:00. Register online at Proceeds will benefit the Woods and the EcoGSA. Several students are also leading tours of the Gardens and the Woods throughout the day.


The Center for Remote Sensing and Spatial Analysis (CRSSA), Dr. Rick Lathrop, Director, will be holding an open house from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon with tours and demonstrations of remote sensing and GIS technology.




Robert Hamilton, advisor Joan Ehrenfeld, has accepted a tenure-track position as assistant professor of biology at Kent State University –Stark Campus. Rob will defend his Ph.D. thesis this summer. Congratulations Rob!


Qualifying Exams

The Qualifying Exam is the first official “rite of passage” for Ph.D. students. This exam marks the official transition to Ph.D. candidacy. Typically, the Ecology and Evolution Graduate Program requires this to be an oral exam testing the students overall scientific knowledge with an emphasis on ecology and evolution.

This has been a busy month as several graduate students successfully completed their Qualifying Exams and are now Ph.D. candidates.

Congratulations to:

  • Shannon Galbraith-Kent, advisor Steven Handel, on March 23rd.
  • Jennifer Adams Krumins, advisor Peter Morin, on March 25th
  • Sharron Hicks, advisor John Dighton, on April 12th.
  • Ai Wen, advisor David Ehrenfeld, on April 18th.
  • Domenic D’Amore, advisor Kathy Scott, on April 20th.
  • James MacDonald, advisor Judy Weis, on April 21st.
  • Karen Mabb, advisor Julie Lockwood, on April 22nd.



Preliminary Exam

The ‘prelim” in Ecology and Evolution is the presentation and defense of a written Ph.D. research proposal to the student’s committee.

Congratulations to:

  • Myla Aronson, a Ph.D. candidate in Steven Handel’s lab, successfully completed her Preliminary Exam on April 19th.




Dr. Lin Jiang, Ph.D. 2003, and currently a post- doctoral fellow in Paul Falkowski’s lab, has accepted a tenure-track position as assistant professor in the School of Biology at Georgia Tech.


Dr. Timon McPhearson, Ph.D. 2004, has recently been awarded a Columbia University Science Fellowship as a post-doctoral research scientist in Columbia’s Department of Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology (E3B).  He will be teaching in the Frontiers of Science course this fall while continuing in his role as an ecologist at the American Museum of Natural History’s Center for Biodiversity and Conservation. 


Great Eastern Ecology Inc., Dr. Mark Laska, CEO, PhD. 1996,  is pleased to announce that a special issue of peer-reviewed scientific papers was published this winter and are available on line at Urban Habitats: The Hackensack Meadowlands: History, Ecology, and Restoration of a Degraded Urban Wetland.
This includes the following paper by Lisamarie Windham, Ph.D. 1999, Mark S. Laska, and Jennifer Wollenberg:  

Evaluating Urban Wetland Restorations: Case Studies for Assessing Connectivity and Function.

The full text of this paper in html or pdf can be found here:



Dr. Fairbrothers influenced many students in the Ecology and Evolution Graduate Program.


A Symposium and Banquet Honoring the Legacy of David E. Fairbrothers


“The Future of Plant Research”


This event is organized to honor David Fairbrothers’ work during his 40+ year career at Rutgers University as a researcher, academic advisor, teacher, administrator, and colleague. David Fairbrothers’ historic influence over plant research, conservation of plants on both a local and nationwide scale, as well as protection of habitats in the NJ Pinelands cannot be overestimated. He will be honored by former students, colleagues and his friends in a Mini-Symposium

Time: June 4th , 2-5 PM (symposium), 6-9 PM (banquet), you can attend either or both.

Place: Winants Hall, College Avenue Campus, New Brunswick, Rutgers University, NJ


Speakers for Mini-Symposium: To be announced (please contact Lena Struwe or Jim White if you are interested in speaking at this event).


Registration forms and more information will be available on-line at  and also sent out by mail if requested. 


Due date for registration: May 15, 2005 (we have a limited number of seats available so please respond early!).