University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota
College of Biological Sciences
http://www.cbs.umn.edu/

Faculty Directory

Current Faculty
Professor Donald N. Alstad
Ph.D., University of Utah, 1978
 dna@umn.edu

go to faculty profile

So many insects, so little time!  I began my career studying the community assembly of caddisflies that filter streamwater with beautiful silken catchnets.  Lately, I've been interested in messing up the sex life of European Corn Borers to slow the evolution of resistance to genetically engineered insecticidal crops.

Teaching highlight:

Rigor and respect: Don Alstad makes mathematically difficult concepts digestible

Assistant Professor F. Keith Barker
Ph.D., University of Chicago, 1999
 barke042@umn.edu

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
 mbee[at]umn[dot]edu

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
 blekhman@umn.edu

 

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
 borer@umn.edu

 

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
 borrello@umn.edu

 

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 highlight:

Life and times of an evolutionary debate

Yaniv Brandvain
Ph.D., Indiana University, 2010
, Assistant Professor ybrandva@umn.edu

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
 cavender@umn.edu

 

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
 cotne002@umn.edu

 

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
 jwcurt@umn.edu

 

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
 deanx024@umn.edu

 

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
 jfinlay@umn.edu

 

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 Jonathan Foley
Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1993
 jfoley@umn.edu

 

As director of the University's Institute on the Environment, I think big picture—human's impact on ecosystems, the effects of climate change and how agricultural practices designed to feed a hungry planet affect other species and our own well-being.

Research highlight:

Planetary boundaries: A safe operating space for humanity

Assistant Professor Emma Goldberg
Ph.D., University of California - San Diego, 2007
 eeg@umn.edu

 

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
 harcombe@umn.edu

 

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
 shobbie@umn.edu

 

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
 jansa003@umn.edu

 

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
 jone0996@umn.edu

 

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 kennedyp@umn.edu

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 Scott M. Lanyon
Ph.D., Louisiana State University, 1985
 lanyo001@umn.edu

 

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
 gmay@umn.edu

 

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 (beginning Fall 2014)
Ph.D., Iowa State University, 2009
 smcgaugh@umn.edu


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!

Professor Craig Packer
Ph.D., University of Sussex, 1977
 packer@umn.edu

 

Hands down, lions are the coolest, baddest, most charismatic animals on the planet. But for all their so-called ferociousness, their existence is in peril. I study lion's evolutionary traits and  complex social structure—and work with the people of Africa— to ensure their survival.

Research highlight:

The truth about lions

Professor Steve Polasky
Ph.D., University of Michigan, 1986
 polasky@umn.edu

 

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
 powers@umn.edu


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
 Seabloom@umn.edu

 

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.

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

Assistant Professor Allison Shaw (beginning Fall 2014)
Ph.D., Princeton University, 2012
 ashaw@umn.edu


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
 shawx016@umn.edu

 

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
 emilies@umn.edu

 

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
 steph031@umn.edu

 

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

Professor Robert W. Sterner
Ph.D., University of Minnesota, 1986
 stern007@umn.edu

go to lab website

Studying lakes opens a world of incredible, under-water research opportunities from the life cycles of plankton to the nitty-gritty of whole lake ecosystems.

Regents Professor G. David Tilman
Ph.D., University of Michigan, 1976
 tilman@umn.edu

 

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

 

Associate Professor Michael Travisano
Ph.D., Michigan State University, 1993
 travisan@umn.edu

 

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
 wilso198@umn.edu

 

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
 zinkx003@umn.edu

 

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
 mzuk@umn.edu


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
Jeffrey Corney  jcorney@umn.edu
R. Ford Denison
Ph.D., Cornell University, 1983
 denis036@umn.edu

 

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

Diane L. Larson
Ph.D., University of Illinois-Chicago, 1991
 dllarson@umn.edu

 

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

Clarence L. Lehman
Ph.D., University of Minnesota, 2000
 lehman@umn.edu

 

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

Claudia Neuhauser
Ph.D., Cornell University, 1990
 neuha001@umn.edu

 

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

Jon Ross
Ph.D., University of Minnesota, 1996
 rossx008@umn.edu

Resident Biologist and Associate Director, Itasca Biological Station and Laboratories

Research Interests: Aquatic biology, specifically applications of telemetry to free ranging fish, ecological genetics of zooplankton and environmental monitoring

Professors Emeriti
Franklin H. Barnwell
Ph.D., Northwestern University, 1965
 fhb@umn.edu

 

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

Edward J. Cushing
Ph.D., University of Minnesota, 1963
 cushing@umn.edu

 

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
 mbdavis@cox.net

 

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  gorha001@umn.edu

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 http://z.umn.edu/gorham
  • 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 http://conservancy.umn.edu/handle/101527
Donald McNaught
Professor Emeritus, Dept. of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior
 mcnau001@umn.edu
Robert O. Megard
Ph.D., Indiana University, 1962
 megar001@umn.edu

 

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

Patrice A. Morrow
Ph.D., Stanford University, 1971
 morrow@umn.edu

 

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
 rep@umn.edu

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 regal001@umn.edu

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 schmi003@umn.edu

Natural history of vertebrates; ecological physiology.

Donald B. Siniff
Ph.D., University of Minnesota, 1967
, Professor Emeritus, Dept. of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior sinif001@umn.edu

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
 starf001@umn.edu

 

Research interests: Modeling of populations and ecosystems.

John R. Tester
Professor Emeritus, Dept. of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior
 teste001@umn.edu

Ecology and behavior of terrestrial vertebrates; succession and ecosystem dynamics.

Research Associates
Mariana Alvarez Anorve
Postdoc Associate
 malvarez@umn.edu
Susan Balenger
Postdoc Associate
 sbalenge@umn.edu

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).  

Michael Caldwell
Postdoc Associate
 caldwell@umn.edu

In Mark Bee's Lab, I study acoustic communication in treefrogs.

Evan Carter
Post-Doc Associate
 eccarter@umn.edu

Research Interests
Self-control behaviors, impulsive choice, cognitive fatigue

Aimee Dunlap
Research Associate
 dunl0063@umn.edu
Alex Eilts
Research Associate
 eilts@umn.edu
Casey Godwin
Post-Doc Associate
 godwi018@umn.edu

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.

Yann Hautier
Postdoc Associate
 hauti001@umnl.edu

As a plant ecologist, my general research aim is to gain a greater understanding of the causal mechanisms responsible for the loss of plant diversity and its impact on ecosystem functioning. In this context, I joined the Seabloom group to complete the two first years of a 3-year EU grant, the Marie Curie International Outgoing Fellowship. In my project, I use a globally replicated experiment network - Nutrient Network - manipulating three key nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium) to gain a general understanding of the causal mechanisms responsible for the decrease in plant diversity with fertilization. I also investigate the generality of these mechanisms, their relative importance and potential impact on ecosystem functions and services.

Ben Janke
Postdoc Associate
 janke024@umn.edu
Christelle Lacroix
Postdoc Associate
 clacroix@umn.edu
Norman Lee
Postdoc Associate
 leen@umn.edu
Eric Lind
Postdoctoral Researcher and Nutrient Network (NutNet) Research Coordinator
 elind@umn.edu
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
 mkaproth@umn.edu

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

William Pearse
Postdoc Associate
 wdpearse@umn.edu

I'm working on the Ecological homogenization of urban America project in the Cavender-Bares Lab, and use information on species' evolutionary history and functional traits to understand what structures ecological communities. I am broadly interested in ecology and evolutionary biology, and enjoy developing new methods that help answer an interesting question. My program phyloGenerator automates phylogeny creation for ecologists, and I run an online journal club. I also have a personal website and Twitter account. Please get in touch - I enjoy talking to people!

Visit Will's Website

Jason Shapiro
Post-Doc Associate
 jshapiro@umn.edu

Research Summary: 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 (beginning August 2014)
Research Specialist
 stan0477@umn.edu

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.

Jessica Ward
Research Associate
 jlward@umn.edu
Valerie Wong
Postdoctoral Associate
 vwong@umn.edu