Washington University in St. Louis
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Teaching, Outreach, and Internship Opportunities

Research Mentors

Stephen Blake PhD - Box turtle movement and health: My research interests focus on the movement ecology of megavertebrates with strong applications for the conservation of species and ecosystems. My previous work has demonstrated a unique ecosystem engineering role of forest elephants as "gardeners of the forest" in the Congo Basin due to their prodigious abilities as seed dispersers, and also highlighted the current conservation crisis forest elephants face due to the ivory trade. More recently, research on Galapagos tortoises shows that they have similar ecosystem impacts on Galapagos ecosystems, as do forest elephants in Africa, in part due to their recently documented long distance migrations. An opportunity has recently arisen to conduct work of a similar nature with reintroduced American bison in western Missouri. However conservation biology offers myriad opportunities with smaller species much closer to home, which is why, along with the St. Louis zoo, we developed a Box turtle program at Tyson Research Centre and Forest Park in St. Louis. We combine research on movement ecology and health with locally relevant outreach to contribute to the conservation of these well-known but threatened animals. webpage

Tiffany Knight PhD, Holly Bernardo - Experimental glades and insect communities: The experimental glade project at Tyson is interested in two main questions: 1) how do plant communities change during the process of glade restoration, and 2) why do rare glade plant species do poorly in small habitats? The main goal of our work is to develop recommendations that will help land managers better create and maintain plant biodiversity in restored glades. Our primary research goal for summer 2014 is monitoring insect communities in a similar fashion to our monitoring of plant communities. We extensively sampled three insect groups in 2011, beetles, true bugs and ants, on both our experimental glades and natural glades in the region. We will do so again in 2014. We are currently looking for a student intern with a strong interest in insect biology to join our summer research team, lead the field sampling, and analyze the changes in insect communities during the process of Ozark glade restoration. Other projects and experiments will also be conducted, and we encourage anyone interested in restoration, conservation, population dynamics of rare species, maximizing biodiversity, plants, insects or deer to apply. No matter what the specific question, undergraduates on the glade project perform research that provides immediate and meaningful information to the field of restoration ecology and local glade conservation. webpage

Scott Mangan PhD - Plant-soil dynamics: My current research is focused on understanding the ecological and evolutionary importance of plant-soil dynamics. Soil communities are exceptionally diverse and include both mutualistic and pathogenic plant symbionts (soil-borne fungi, bacteria, viruses, etc). Interactions formed between plants and their soil-borne symbionts can serve as a strong force in determining plant community assembly through both positive and negative feedback processes. Using both field and greenhouse experiments at Tyson, we seek to understand the importance of these feedbacks in determining plant species relative abundance. These experiments will complement our existing research in tropical forests of Panama, allowing for tropical-temperate comparisons. webpage

Tiffany Knight PhD, Erynn Maynard - Invasive plant population dynamics: We are studying the population dynamics of several invasive plant species. Specifically, we're looking at the relationship between population dynamics and phylogenetic distance (relatedness to nearest relatives in the novel range). We are also exploring the mechanisms that are potentially underlying this relationship including competition, herbivory and pollination. webpage

Kim A. Medley, PhD - Amphibian disease and dispersal: My research aims to understand factors that drive free-living species diversity, and extends the theoretical foundations of ecology to understand pathogen diversity and disease. At biogeographic scales, I study species distributions to understand how range overlap generates broad-scale patterns in biodiversity and disease risk; at regional to local scales I study meta-communities to discover how interacting factors lead to local co-existence of free-living and pathogenic species. At Tyson, my current research evaluates the extent of amphibian abnormalities in the region and the role of meta-population dynamics on local population persistence. Secondly, I'm evaluating the role of immigration from the 'egg bank', dormant eggs layered in pond sediment, into local pond zooplankton communities in regional biodiversity patterns and dynamics using experimental pond ecosystems. These research questions are addressed using a combination of field and lab work (e.g. molecular methods). contact

Jonathan Myers PhD, Maranda Walton - Temperate forest dynamcs and biodiversity: Community ecology, biogeography and biodiversity of temperate and tropical plant communities, including: 1) biodiversity patterns, community assembly, and species interactions across scales; 2) climate change and forest dynamics; 3) plant functional ecology. webpage
biology profile

Kevin Smith PhD - Species declines and extinction: My current research focuses on understanding how local species declines escalate to become regional or global extinctions. I analyze large-scale data sets to understand patterns of extinction, but at Tyson my research focuses on experimental studies of extinction. Using experimental pond communities, we add invasive species, contaminants, or other threats to cause experimental extinctions, which allows us to study if and how commonness, rarity, and species traits correlate with extinction risk across taxa.

Marko Spasojevic PhD - Forest diversity and dynamics: My research combines large-scale observational studies across biogeographic regions, field experiments, functional and phylogenetic approaches, and advanced statistics and modeling to address environmental issues and to explore fundamental questions in ecology and biogeography. At Tyson I am currently examining patterns of tree diversity in the Tyson Forest Dynamics Plot where I am asking how patterns of taxonomic, functional and phylogenetic diversity change along environmental gradients. Understanding these patterns can provide insights into the mechanisms by which communities assemble, how we can effectively restore degraded communities, and how plant communities will respond to global change factors - such as the 2012 drought. website

Claudia Stein PhD - Species interactions and invasion: My main research interests are directed towards understanding the influence of species interactions, especially plant-herbivore and plant-soil feedbacks, as well as biological invasions on the relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. Recent work has recognized both the role of species interactions and climate change in predicting the spread and success of invasive species. For my research at Tyson, I will pull these elements together to understand and predict how interactions of species will determine invasive success in changing environments. We will be establishing a series of field and common garden experiments that address the importance of soil biota and herbivores (e.g. snails, small mammals) in maintaining plant diversity, driving species invasions and influencing ecosystem functioning and how those interactions might change under changing precipitation patterns. webpage

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Eureka MO 63025