Emily Dewald-Wang

Undergraduate Fellow


“My grandpa was an old farmer who had a community garden. I helped him over the summer, and we watched Nature every week, my favorite show. The same person who founded Nature also founded the Biological Dynamics in Forest Fragmentation Project in Manaus, Brazil.

This project is so cool because they're looking at fragmentation and edge effects. I think the coolest part about this was a collaboration between the scientists, the local government and the logging companies. The forest patches were created by asking the logging companies to selectively log in patterns so that they had different sized comparable patches of forest. It's been going for decades at this point. This project in particular actually focused me specifically on ecology instead of just all of environmental science; this changed my life.”

How has this research inspired you?

“I’m looking at foliar chemistry for my personal project, the chemical compounds that are expressed in tree leaves. I'm not looking for specific compounds, I’m just trying to get a broad idea of the overall spectrum of a species.”

Why is it important to address chemical composition of leaves?

“The current research has indicated that the more unique a chemical profile is, the more unique a tree’s enemies are, so you're more likely to have specialized enemies if you have a more specialized chemical profile. Identifying them is like creating a fingerprint of your enemy community composition. We can identify that the trees are being attacked by one type of enemy rather than another.”

Emily worked with Jonathan Myers' Forest Biodiversity team during summer 2018. Learn more about their long-term temperate forest research here and their prescribed fire experiment here.