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

Research Mentors

Dr. Stephen Blake (research scientist) - 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. Conservation biology offers myriad opportunities with smaller species much closer to home, which is why, along with the Saint Louis Zoo Institute for Conservation Medicine, we developed the St. Louis Box Turtle Project at Tyson Research Center and Forest Park. We combine research on box turtle movement ecology and health with locally relevant outreach to contribute to the conservation of these well-known but threatened animals. Email: sblakewcs[at]gmail.com
St. Louis Box Turtle Project fact sheet
Galapagos Tortoise Movement Ecology Programme
Saint Louis Zoo Institute for COnservation Medicine

Chris Catano, MS (graduate student) - Biodiversity in dynamic landscapes: My research is at the interface of community ecology, biogeography, and conservation biology. Most generally, I study the mechanisms that structure biological communities and cause turnover across space and time (β-diversity) in dynamic landscapes. The motivation for this research is to exploit advancements in ecological theory to solve real-world problems by increasing predictive capacities, informing ecosystem management, and planning habitat restoration. The emphasis of my current research at Tyson and throughout Missouri is to understand why similar disturbances often lead to dissimilar changes in biodiversity – a pattern that may be influenced by evolutionary history and biogeographic context. Our team will combine large-scale observational methods, field-based experiments, and spatially explicit statistical modeling to understand how contingent patterns of β-diversity emerge through the interplay of biogeographic context (regional species abundance distributions & functional diversity) and local community assembly (driven by fire & drought). As a team we will learn to identify plants in Ozark forests, sample their functional traits, conduct landscape-scale experiments, and analyze ecological data. Our team may also have the opportunity to sample and explore forests in different areas of Missouri with unique evolutionary histories and geology. Finally, excited members of our team will have the opportunity to pursue additional research projects after the summer field season that may lead to authorship on journal publications or presentations.
Email: chcatano[at]gmail.com

Dr. Tiffany Knight(associate professor) - 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 goal for summer 2015 is restoration maintenance and will include removal of exotic plant species. 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.
Email: tknight[at]wustl.edu

Dr. Tiffany Knight (associate professor) and Sam Levin (research technician) - 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.
Email: tknight[at]wustl.edu, slevin22[at]wustl.edu

Dr. Joseph LaManna (post-doctoral research associate, starting spring 2015) - Community ecology across trophic levels: My research focuses on the processes that structure communities and drive turnover and demographic rates of plant and bird species. My work has shown that vegetation can drive turnover of bird species via impacts on reproduction. At Tyson and across the Ozarks, I will be examining how and why turnover of woody plant species is associated with turnover of bird species. At Tyson, my team and I will be testing potential mechanisms that drive this relationship. These include: (1) nest-searching and monitoring to examine reproductive success and traits of birds; (2) mist-netting and banding birds to estimate survival rates and morphological diversity; and (3) surveying lepidopteran abundance and diversity among tree species to examine food availability.
Email: joe.a.lamanna[at]gmail.com

Dr. Scott Mangan (assistant professor) - 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.
Email: smangan[at]wustl.edu

Dr. Kim A. Medley (Tyson interim director) - Ecology/macroecology of disease vectors: My research focuses on understanding species ranges—how their abundance structure and overlap generate patterns of biodiversity and what causes their limits and/or expansion. My research team is currently investigating questions driving the range structure and limits for two insect vectors of disease: the invasive Asian tiger mosquito and the Lone Star tick. The Asian tiger mosquito is a native of Southeast Asia, but spread rapidly in the US following its establishment in Houston, TX in 1985. It currently overwinters further north than expected based upon its native climate; my team is investigating mechanisms leading to expanded climatic tolerance (e.g. gene flow and adaptation, genetic diversity, enemy release). Secondly, the Lone Star tick is abundant at Tyson Research Center (TRC), and its distribution is affected by climate change. My team is embarking on a study to evaluate population dynamics of the tick at TRC, in addition to potential applications to manage local abundance.
Email: kim.medley[at]wustl.edu

Dr. Jonathan Myers (assistant professor) and Maranda Walton (research technician) - Community ecology, biogeography and biodiversity of temperate and tropical plant communities: Our research group studies mechanisms that shape the assembly, diversity, and dynamics of ecological communities across scales. At the Tyson Research Center and across the Missouri Ozarks, we are exploring three main questions: • What is the relative importance of ecological mechanisms that cause variation in biodiversity in regions with contrasting biogeographic histories? • How does environmental change alter plant community assembly and dynamics? • What are the ecological causes and consequences of plant trait diversity across spatial scales? Our focal study site is the Tyson Research Center Plot (TRCP), a large-scale (25 ha) and long-term (30-year old) oak-hickory forest-dynamics plot that is part of the Smithsonian Institution’s Forest Global Earth Observatory (ForestGEO), the largest, systematically studied network of forest-ecology plots in the world. Ongoing projects in the TRCP include studies of tree community assembly, drought-forest dynamics, seed dispersal and the maintenance of seedling diversity, plant-functional traits and diversity across environmental gradients, and comparative studies of diversity and dynamics across temperate and tropical forests. We combine these studies with field experiments, quantitative models, and surveys of plant communities across the Ozarks to study patterns and processes at scales ranging from local assemblages of interacting species to global patterns of biodiversity.
Email: jamyers[at]wustl.edu, mwalton22[at]wustl.edu
Smithsonian ForestGEO Network
The Story and Science of a ForestGEO video

Dr. Eleanor Pardini (assistant director of environmental studies) and Dr. Tiffany Knight (associate professor) - Population biology of rare coastal dune plants: We are examining long term population dynamics of the federally endangered Lupinus tidstromii (Tidestrom’s lupine) in coastal dunes at Point Reyes National Seashore. Tidestrom’s lupine is threatened by introduced European beachgrass because it stabilizes sand movement, reducing the amount of early successional habitat that is favorable to lupine regeneration and because it houses high densities of native mice that cause high levels of lupine seed predation. We are studying population dynamics in the context of large beachgrass removal efforts by the National Park Service, which provide the rare opportunity to test predictions of our population models within the context of a real and large-scale restoration project. We are using long-term monitoring data on plant survival, growth, and predation levels to parameterize population models and make predictions about the effects of removing beachgrass on persistence of Tidestrom’s lupine. Work on this project will consist of a short, intense field season (7-10 days) that can be combined with work on another project at Tyson for the remainder of the summer program. Please inquire to learn more.
Email: epardini[at]wustl.edu, tknight[at]wustl.edu

Dr. Claudia Stein (post-doctoral research associate) - 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.
Email: cstein[at]wustl.edu

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phone: (314)-935-8430
fax: (314)-935-8433
6750 Tyson Valley Road
Eureka MO 63025