University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota
College of Biological Sciences

Faculty Directory

Current Faculty
Associate Professor F. Keith Barker
Ph.D., University of Chicago, 1999

Go to faculty profile | lab website

The more I learn, the more I'm blown away by the diversity and adaptability of songbirds. I study these backyard marvels and their evolutionary history—where they came from and why they still come to my bird feeder.

Associate Professor Mark Bee
Ph.D., University of Missouri, 2001

Go to faculty profile | lab website

Who wouldn’t want to study something called the “cocktail party problem” in animals? It’s all about animal communication and how they adapt to situations where there’s VERY LOUD NOISE (think croaking frogs).

Research highlight:
How can frogs help us build a better hearing aid?


Assistant Professor Ran Blekhman
Ph.D., University of Chicago, 2010

Go to lab website

What’s living in your gut and on your skin? My lab studies the trillions of bacteria that colonize each of us. We use genomics and bioinformatics to understand how we interact with our microbiome, what effect host-bacteria interactions have on human disease, and how this complex symbiosis evolved and drove recent human adaptations.
Associate Professor Elizabeth Borer
Ph.D., University of California, Santa Barbara, 2002

Go to faculty profile | lab website

Oh sure, fertilizers make your grass nice and green, and farmers love what it does to their corn crop, but these extra nutrients can also change the chemistry of plants which changes the diseases and animals that feed on them. I study these effects around the country and the world. 

Borer and Eric Seabloom coordinate global grassland experiments through their Nutrient Network.

Research highlight:
Global ecology network created by U of M researchers overturns assumption about invasive plant species

Associate Professor Mark Borrello
Ph.D., Indiana University, 2002

Edgy? Yeah, you could say that about me.  I walk the line between historian and scientist by studying issues like the history of science, evolution, the concept of intelligent design and other topics.

Research hightlight:
Life and times of an evolutionary debate

Yaniv Brandvain
Ph.D., Indiana University, 2010
, Assistant Professor

Areas of Research: We are dedicated to understanding the origin, diversity, distribution of, and evolutionary forces active within, the flowering plants.

Associate Professor Jeannine Cavender-Bares
Ph.D., Harvard University, 2000

We know that climate change affects plants, but we don’t know exactly how, especially with trees that live a long time. So we’re manipulating the weather to study how they respond. And did I mention we’re in a Central American tropical forest?  

Professor James B. Cotner
Ph.D., University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, 1990

Yeah, I'm an oceanographer who lives in Minnesota. But I study oceans and freshwater ecosystems all over the world and human impacts on the microbial functions and life systems they support.

Professor James W. Curtsinger
Ph.D., Stanford University, 1978

Everybody ages (some better than others), but why? I’m studying fruit flies to find specific genes that influence the aging process.

Professor Antony M. Dean
Ph.D., Washington University, St. Louis, 1987

I study molecular evolution, which is fascinating, especially when you look at the relations between protein structure and their function.  

Associate Professor Jacques C. Finlay
Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley, 2000

Droughts and floods, pipes and pavement; all affect how and when water moves through landscapes, what the water carries with it, and ultimately how aquatic ecosystems work and what they look like. My lab studies the ecology of aquatic ecosystems and their interaction with surrounding natural and human-altered landscapes.

Research highlight:
Big fish get bumped off the top of river food chains


Professor (CBS Dean) Valery Forbes
Ph.D., State University of New York - Stony Brook, 1988

My main goals are to understand the linkages between individual- and population-level responses to environmental stress and to use such understanding to improve ecological risk assessment and environmental management. Most of my work has involved aquatic invertebrates, and in particular animals that live in and feed on sediment since this is where many of the most harmful chemicals entering the environment accumulate.

Assistant Professor Emma Goldberg
Ph.D., University of California - San Diego, 2007

Over long timescales, biological diversity is shaped by trait evolution within populations and by the speciation and extinction of lineages.  My research focuses on geographic ranges and plant mating systems as two examples of characters influenced by both these microevolutionary and macroevolutionary forces.

Assistant Professor William Harcombe
Ph.D., University of Texas - Austin, 2009

Go to lab website

Microbes rule the world, driving processes from global nutrient cycling to human health and disease.  My lab combines systems biology with experimental evolutionary ecology to study how social interactions of microbes shape the composition and function of communities.

Professor Sarah E. Hobbie
Ph.D., University of California - Berkeley, 1995

Ever wonder how washing the dishes, mowing the lawn or watching TV affects the environment? I study carbon and nutrient cycling—like how ordinary household activities contribute to pollution and how we can adapt our practices to live sustainably. 

Research highlight:
How much do you affect the ecosystem?

Associate Professor Sharon Jansa
Ph.D., University of Michigan, 1998

I am interested in mammalian evolution.  My research focuses on the systematics and biogeography of South American marsupials and on the rodents of Madagascar and the Philippines.  I use molecular data to reconstruct evolutionary relationships among species, and I use the resulting phylogenies to better understand the forces influencing diversification.


Professor Susan D. Jones
Ph D, University of Pennsylvania, 1997

Since an early age, I've been fascinated by disease, particularly crazy-scary diseases like anthrax.  I'm now a historian—and a licensed veterinarian—who focuses on the history of crazy-scary diseases in science, medicine and human-animal interactions.

Susan's research in the news:
Death in a small package: A detective story about anthrax with an unsettled ending

Peter Kennedy
Ph.D., University of California-Berkeley, 2005.
, Associate Professor

Areas of Research: Symbioses between microbes and other organisms play a central role in the ecology and evolution of life on Earth.  Our lab studies the diversity and function of fungal and bacterial symbioses of plants, with a primary focus on ectomycorrhizal fungi.  We use a range of field- and lab-based experimental methods to investigate how symbiont communities are structured and their ecological roles in forest ecosystems worldwide.

Professor and Dept. Head Scott M. Lanyon
Ph.D., Louisiana State University, 1985

I’ve always been interested in the birds - their amazing vocalizations, bizarre behaviors, and complex plumage patterns.  My research examines the evolutionary relationships of bird species, genera and families in order to shed light on the origin of this morphological and behavioral diversity.

Professor Georgiana May
Ph.D., University of California-Berkeley 1987

The tiniest of creatures have the largest impact on our lives. Through field experiments, I study microbes—including fungus and pathogens—and their profound effects on plant communities.

Assistant Professor Suzanne McGaugh
Ph.D., Iowa State University, 2009

Go to lab website

What can we learn from a cavefish that’s lost its eyes or reptiles that live a very long time? I study cases of extreme natural variation to investigate how, why, and how fast organisms can adapt to new environments, and whether evolution would proceed down the same path if repeated in an independent event. Part of this work involves understanding the consequences of how your grandparent’s genes get shuffled to produce a unique you!

Claudia Neuhauser
Ph.D., Cornell University, 1990

Research Interests: Theoretical ecology; role of space in community dynamics; theoretical population genetics; coalescent theory.

Professor Craig Packer
Ph.D., University of Sussex, 1977

Ecosystem processes in African savannas; evolution of complex forms of cooperative behavior

Research highlight:
The truth about lions

Professor Steve Polasky
Ph.D., University of Michigan, 1986

When humans make land use, energy and food production decisions, it usually impacts ecosystems and biodiversity. And that’s where my research is focused.    

Associate Professor Jennifer S. Powers
Ph.D., Duke University, 2001

Go to lab website

I work on the happy side of tropical land-use change. I study the changes in ecosystem processes when forests regenerate following abandonment from agriculture in tropical dry forests.

Research highlight:
Make mine dry: Watching endangered forests regrow, Jennifer Powers discovers clues to how plants, ecological processes and land use intertwine


Associate Professor Eric Seabloom
Ph.D., Iowa State University, 1997

Grasslands today are threatened by human land-use decisions and invasive  species. My research takes me around the country to study the effects of  invasion and disease on grasslands, and I help coordinate a global  network of grassland experiments.

Research highlight:
Seabloom and Elizabeth Borer coordinate global grassland experiments through their Nutrient Network.

Assistant Professor Allison Shaw
Ph.D., Princeton University, 2012

Go to lab website

Mathematical models are a fantastic tool for studying the interface between ecological and evolutionary processes. In my research I construct models to ask broad questions such as: "Ultimately, why do organisms disperse or migrate?" and "What consequences does movement have for individuals, populations, and species?"

Professor Ruth G. Shaw
Ph.D., Duke University, 1983

Go to research website

Prairielands are an excellent environment to study evolutionary genetics. Specifically, I look at evolutionary processes that influence plants growing in fragmented habitat. Central to our research are long-term genetic experiments, which we maintain in a giant garden in the midst of remnant prairie.

Assistant Professor Emilie C. Snell-Rood
Ph.D., University of Arizona, Tucson, 2007

Bugs are awesome – we have so much to learn from them! I study how animals deal with new and changing environments whether through learning or flexible development. Using butterflies and beetles for inspiration, I ask questions such as 'why are some animals so smart?’

Professor David W. Stephens
Ph.D., The Queen's College, Oxford University, 1982

Math can be fun. Seriously. I create evolutionary models to look at things like foraging behavior, memory and decision making in animals. 

Regents Professor G. David Tilman
Ph.D., University of Michigan, 1976

I study the impact of human consumption and population pressure on the planet's ecosystems and the effects of climate change and habitat destruction. Big, heavy stuff, and my students are making a big, heavy difference.

Research highlight:
Biodiversity research at Cedar Creek


Professor Michael Travisano
Ph.D., Michigan State University, 1993

My research addresses the enormous issue of understanding how life forms have come to exist. To do that, you need to understand what causes biological diversity and complexity, starting with very simple biological systems.

Associate Professor Michael Wilson
Ph.D., Harvard University, 2001

I study chimpanzees in Africa. I'm especially interested in what we can learn about human evolution from studying the behavior and ecology of our closest living relatives. My research focuses on aggression, territorial behavior, and the origins of war. I also work on related topics, including communication and disease ecology.

Professor Robert M. Zink
Ph.D., University of California - Berkeley, 1983

I study the evolution of bird populations through DNA sequencing.  Although lab work isn't always pure fun, the result—the blueprint of heredity, a DNA sequence and the possibility of helping to save a species—is absolutely awe inspiring. 

Professor Marlene Zuk
Ph.D., University of Michigan, 1986

What makes males and females different?  I study the evolution of mate choice and sexual signals, and am also interested in how behavior can shape the rate of evolution.  Most of my work is on insects, but I’ve also studied crustaceans and birds.

Adjunct Faculty
R. Ford Denison
Ph.D., Cornell University, 1983

How did and does cooperation evolve?  What about aging?  What are the implications for sustainable agriculture and human health?  Because my few students mostly work with short-generation species (plants and microbes) under controlled conditions, they have made substantial progress towards answering such questions.

Research highlight:
Making a bigger splash in the gene pool
and Darwin on the farm

Forest Isbell
Ph.D., Iowa State University, 2010
, Associate Director for Cedar Creek and Adjunct Faculty Member

How are people altering plant diversity? How might such changes in plant diversity impact people? I am investigating the causes and consequences of changes in plant diversity at the intersection of community and ecosystem ecology.

Diane L. Larson
Ph.D., University of Illinois-Chicago, 1991

Research Interests: Ecological effects of alien plants in grassland ecosystems.

Clarence L. Lehman
Ph.D., University of Minnesota, 2000

Reserarch Interests: Theoretical ecology and computation in biology; biodiversity and ecosystem functioning; habitat restoration.

Professors Emeriti
Franklin H. Barnwell
Ph.D., Northwestern University, 1965

Research interests: Invertebrate behavior; circadian rhythms; adaptations of intertidal shore crabs.

Kendall W. Corbin
Ph.D., Cornell University, 1965

Research interests: Population genetics within zones of integradation between subspecies, and genetic diversity of endangered species.

Edward J. Cushing
Ph.D., University of Minnesota, 1963

Research interests: Ecology and paleoecology of vegetation and landscapes; phytogeography; Quaternary vegetation history of Minnesota and Indonesia; pollen and spore morphology and analysis.

Margaret B. Davis
Ph.D., Harvard University, 1957

Research interests: Quaternary paleoecology; history of forest communities; past changes in geographical distributions of forest species; effects of soil development on terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems; earth system science and past and future global change.

Eville Gorham

Research interests: Ecology and biogeochemistry of wetlands; chemistry of atmospheric precipitation,lake waters and sediments; history of ecology and biogeochemistry.

Links to Dr. Gorham's publications.

  • A small database in RefWorks that contains the references for all 218 of Dr. Gorham's publications, with links to the full text if it is available anywhere. It is at
  • A section of the U Digital Conservancy (UDC) which contains the full text of 119 of Dr. Gorham's 218 publications. It also links to the full list in RefWorks, noted above, so linking to this page would in essence cover both resources. It is at
Donald McNaught
Professor Emeritus, Dept. of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior
Robert O. Megard
Ph.D., Indiana University, 1962

Research interests: Limnology; photosynthetic activity of algae; abundance and spatial distribution of zooplankton.

Patrice A. Morrow
Ph.D., Stanford University, 1971

Research interests: Ecology, specifically the interactions of plants with insects and mycorrhizae and plant resource allocation.

Richard Phillips
Professor Emeritus, Dept. of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior

Research interests: Animal behavior and communication; neural and neuroendocrine mechanisms of behavior; parental behavior in waterfowl.

Philip J. Regal
Ph.D., University of California-Los Angeles, 1968
, Professor Emeritus, Dept. of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior

Research interests: Evolutionary mechanisms and patterns; physiological ecology; tropical ecology; implications of genetic engineering; human ecology and evolution.

William D. Schmid
Ph.D., University of Minnesota, 1962
, Professor Emeritus, Dept. of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior

Research interests: Natural history of vertebrates; ecological physiology.

Donald B. Siniff
Ph.D., University of Minnesota, 1967
, Professor Emeritus, Dept. of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior

Research interests: Population dynamics; life history, with emphasis on large mammals, particularly Arctic and Antarctic marine mammals.

Anthony M. Starfield
Ph.D., University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, 1965

Research interests: Modeling of populations and ecosystems.

John R. Tester
Professor Emeritus, Dept. of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior

Research interests: Ecology and behavior of terrestrial vertebrates; succession and ecosystem dynamics.

Research Associates
Susan Balenger
Postdoc Associate

My research addresses fundamental questions regarding the evolution and ecology of natural host-parasite relationships, with the ultimate goal of identifying how such relationships influence the evolution of sexually dimorphic traits and behaviors.  With Dr. Marlene Zuk, I am studying the rapid evolution of a call-less male morph in a cricket (Teleogryllus oceanicus) in response to an acoustically orienting parasitoid (Ormia ochracea).  

Evan Carter
Post-Doc Associate

My research focuses on self-control behaviors, impulsive choice, and cognitive fatigue.

William Driscoll
Post-Doc Associate

My research focuses broadly on ecological and evolutionary aspects of microbial collective behaviors, and uses a combination of experimental and theoretical approaches. I am working with Mike Travisano in order to understand ecological and evolutionary aspects of the 'major evolutionary transition' from unicellular to multicellular forms by experimentally evolving a number of microbial taxa towards multicellularity. In particular, we are interested in understanding the degree to which different unicellular species converge upon similar forms when evolving towards multicellularity, or arrive at entirely different solutions due to their different evolutionary histories. We are also interested in understanding the ecological challenges and opportunities that arise from the transition from unicellular to colonial or multicellular life in these fast-evolving populations.

Visit Will's Website

Aimee Dunlap
Research Associate
Alex Eilts
Greenhouse Collection Curator | Research Associate

Plants are awesome! Don't believe me? Come down to the greenhouse, and I'll show you what makes them so great. With my background in plant ecophysiology, I don't just see plants as pretty flowers, nice foliage, or food. Nope, plants are organisms that have adapted to a wide set of conditions despite common limitations. I particularly like examples of convergent evolution, when species have evolved similar adaptations despite not being closely related. Most people may see the diversity of plants as a green backdrop to our world, but I love the diversity of forms, shapes, and adaptations they display. Plants are every bit as diverse as animals, you just have to stop and look a little closer.

Visit Alex's Website

Maga Gei
Post-Doc Associate

I am a postdoc in Jennifer Powers’ lab. My research addresses the ecology and evolution of nitrogen-fixing legume trees in tropical forests. I am currently working on understanding the biogeographical patterns of legume abundance in the tropics.

Visit Maga's website

Casey Godwin
Post-Doc Associate

I am a postdoc in Jim Cotner's lab, where we use the framework of ecological stoichiometry to investigate how bacterial physiology affects phosphorus cycling in aquatic ecosystems. The gradients of water chemistry and lake productivity within Minnesota serve as a large study system and allow us to ask how bacterial communities respond to phosphorus availability and imbalance. Does ambient phosphorus availability explain the stoichiometry, phosphorus allocation, and elemental plasticity in natural assemblages? Is stoichiometric homeostasis or flexible composition more common among strains inhabiting lakes? I use plankton chemistry, community composition, and a large library of isolates to address these questions.

Ben Janke
Postdoc Associate
Norman Lee
Postdoc Associate
Eric Lind
Postdoctoral Researcher and Nutrient Network (NutNet) Research Coordinator
In my research I combine phylogenetic analytical techniques and field experiments to explore the influence of evolution and anthropogenic change on contemporary ecological communities. I have specific interests in moth caterpillars, insect stoichiometry, and management and analysis of large ecological datasets.
Matthew Kaproth
Postdoc Associate

I am a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Minnesota working with Dr. JeannineCavender-Bares. We are using oak common gardens, herbarium collections and fieldmeasurements to investigate the evolution of drought tolerance (and suites of additional traits)across the diverse New World oak phylogeny. I’ve trained as a plant ecologist (University of Vermont). I am interested in investigating fundamental ecological processes driving species success and providing practical applications for species management. My research uses field surveys, manipulative experiments,empirically-derived parameters for models and field testing to validate species spread models. I have a particularly strong interest in populations out of control (too few or too many) and have conducted demographic studies in rare plant systems (Panax quinquefolius) and invasive plant systems, such as Lythrum salicaria (purple loosestrife) and Ailanthus altissima (tree-of-heaven). The majority of my research has been characterizing species habitat patterns and the underlying mechanisms that determine species abundance and spread. My PhD research delved into trait variation found between introduced and native populations.

Areas of interest: ecology, trait variation, invasive species, population biology, dispersal, cellular automata, environmental science, remote sensing, GIS, environmental policy, botany.

Visit Matthew's Website

Jason Shapiro
Post-Doc Associate

I study the ecology and evolution of microbial interactions using mathematical modeling and experimental evolution. In my research with Will Harcombe, I am investigating how bacteriophages (viruses that infect bacteria) affect host metabolism and also how bacterial communities coevolve in response to the abiotic environment.

Daniel Stanton
Research Specialist

Why do some mosses form cushions? Why do some vascular plants, supposedly more complex and better at transporting water, form moss-like cushions? My research is aimed at why plants (and other organisms, such as lichens) grow and behave the way they do, and what consequences this has for their surroundings.

Lauren Sullivan
Post-Doc Associate

I am a postdoctoral associate at the University of Minnesota working with Dr. Allison Shaw.  Together, we are answering questions related to the causes and consequences of species movement.  Specifically, we are developing mathematical models to help understand how plant-animal interactions, like herbivory, influence the invasion rates of species on the landscape.  As I am a plant ecologist by training, I am also working with common plant traits like seed mass and height, to see how they influence the dispersal abilities of common grassland species.  I received my PhD from Iowa State University in 2014.  As a graduate student I focused on how different environmental factors, like soil nutrients and herbivores, influenced the reproductive output and movement of grassland species, experimentally.  While in Iowa I set up several experiments, including a large-scale prairie restoration in the middle of town.  I am particularly interested in working with local communities to promote conservation and native ecosystem awareness through both science and art.  In my free time, I enjoy botonizing, funky soul music, and events that involve both running and eating.
Areas of interest: movement, community ecology, population ecology, theory, experimental design, Bayesian statistics, restoration ecology, ecological education
Bonnie Waring
Post-Doc Associate

I am a postdoctoral researcher working with Associate Professor Jennifer Powers at her sites in Area Conservación Guanacaste, Costa Rica. I examine how interactions between plant and soil microbial communities influence biogeochemical cycles in tropical dry forest. Currently, my research is focused on the role of plant functional traits in mediating ecosystem responses to changing precipitation. To identify links between community composition and ecosystem function, I combine field surveys over broad climatic and edaphic gradients with manipulative experiments in the shadehouse. More broadly, I am  interested in incorporating community data into predictive models of carbon and nitrogen cycling.

Visit Bonnie's Website