University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota
College of Biological Sciences

EEB graduate program faculty

Distinguished McKnight University Professor David Andow
Ph.D. Cornell University, 1982


Research Interests: Insect population and community ecology, agricultural ecology.

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

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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

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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.

Kathryn Bushley
Ph.D., Cornell University, 2009
, Assistant Professor

Areas of Research: Research in my lab focuses on how fungal metabolism shapes the interaction of fungi with plants and other organisms. 

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.

Meggan Craft
Ph.D. - University of Minnesota, 2008


My research program takes a multidisciplinary approach that uses methods from epidemiology, ecology, animal behavior and mathematics to investigate infectious disease dynamics in animal populations. I combine empirical data with models to explore pathogen dynamics and persistence.

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.  

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

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


Assistant Professor James D. Forester
Ph.D. University of Wisconsin - Madison


Research Interests: How population and community dynamics are affected by broad-scale perturbations.

Associate Professor David L. Fox
PhD, 1999, University of Michigan


Research Interests: stable isotope measurements of biogenic and sedimentary materials to answer questions in paleobiology and paleoclimatology.

Lee E. Frelich
Ph.D. 1986, University of Wisconsin - Madison


Research Interests: Ecology of forests of the Great Lakes region, especially disturbance and forest dynamics in response to disturbance.

Professor Susan M. Galatowitsch
Ph.D, 1993, Iowa State University


Research Interests: Wetland ecology; restoration ecology; landscape ecology.

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.

Associate Professor Jeff Gralnick
Ph.D. University of Wisconsin - Madison, 2003


Research Interests: Physiology of Shewanella, a species of gram-negative bacteria found throughout the world in aquatic environments.

Jessica Gutknecht
Assistant Professor


I am intrigued by figuring out how tiny, diverse microorganisms in the soil mediate ecosystem functions at a larger ecosystem scale, especially when those ecosystems have been altered by climate change or other human influences.

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

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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 George Heimpel
Ph.D. University of California, Davis, 1995


Research Interests: Principles and application of biological control of arthropod pests. Behavioral, population and evolutionary ecology of natural enemies. Specific research initiatives include the implications of cover-cropping for biological control, the integration of biological control with resistance management in transgenic corn, population ecological implications of biased sex ratios in coccinellid beetles, and biological control of alfalfa blotch leafminer.

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?

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.

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.

Linda L. Kinkel
Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1988
, Professor, Plant Pathology


Research Interests: Microbial ecology; microbial population and community dynamics on plant surfaces.

Kenneth H. Kozak
Ph.D., Washington University
, Assistant Professor, Department of Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology


My reserarch includes phylogenetics; museum/biodiversity informatics; phylogeography & historical biogeography; speciation & species limits; tempo & mode of lineage diversification; evolution of species richness & community structure; evolutionary, ecological, and conservation applications of geographic information systems (GIS)

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.

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.

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

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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!

L. David Mech
Ph. D. Purdue University
, Adjunct Professor, Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology


Research Interests: Wolf and deer social ecology, movements and behavior.

David Moeller
Ph.D., Cornell University, 2003
, Assistant Professor, Department of Plant Biology


Research Interests: Evolution of species' geographic ranges, ecology and genetics of speciation, mating system and floral evolution, evolution of plant-herbivore and plant -pollinator interactions, molecular population genetics and phylogeography

Rebecca A. Montgomery
Ph.D., University of Connecticut, 1999
, Assistant Professor, Forest Resouces


Research Interests: The role of functional traits (e.g. photosynthesis, water loss, leaf anatomy, biomass allocation, allometry, growth) in plant ecology and evolution.

Claudia Neuhauser
Ph.D., Cornell University, 1990

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

Raymond M. Newman
Ph.D. 1985, University of Minnesota
, Professor, Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology


Research Interests: Aquatic ecology and fisheries management.

Karen S. Oberhauser
Ph. D. University of Minnesota, Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior
, Associate Professor, Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology


Research Interests: Conservation Biology, with an emphasis on monarch butterflies, and human impacts on insects.  Engaging the public, especially K-12 students and teachers, in citizen science.  Promoting a citizenry with a high degree of scientific and environmental literacy.

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

John Pastor
Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1980
, Adjunct Professor, Natural Resource Research Institute, University of Minnesota-Duluth


Research Interests: Nitrogen cycling; decomposition; ecosystem dynamics with emphasis on northern forests.

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

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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


Peter B. Reich
Education: Ph.D., Cornell University, 1983
, Professor, Forest Resources


Research Interests: Forest ecology, temperate and tropical; linking physiological, compunity ecosystems and landscape processes; impacts of global change; savanna dynamics

Michael J. Sadowsky
Ph.D., University of Hawaii, 1983
, Professor, Soil, Water, and Climate

Dr. Sadowsky, a fellow in the prestigious American Academy of Microbiology and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, is internationally known and respected for his research work in the area of environmental microbiology. He is currently director of the BioTechnology Intsitute and the Minnesota Mississippi Metagenome Project. His research interests include molecular plant-microbe interactions in nitrogen-fixing symbiotic systems, investigations of the use of microorganisms for biodegradation and bioremediation; molecular methods to determine sources and kinds of bacteria in the environment; and metagenomics of soil, water, and intestinal environments. (Biol 4850, Intro to Mississippi Metagenomics)

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

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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.

Andrew M. Simons
Ph.D., University of Alabama, 1997
, Associate Professor, Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology; Curator of Ichthyology, Bell Museum of Natural History


go to lab website 


Research Interests:   Systematics, morphology, evolution, taxonomy and biogeography of North American fishes; phylogenetic treatment of morphological, molecular and biochemical data.

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?’

Peter W. Sorensen
Ph.D., Rhode Island, 1984
, Professor, Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology

Research Interests: Fish behavior; behavioral physiology.

Marla Spivak
Ph.D., University of Kansas, 1989
, Professor, Entomology


Research Interests: Apiculture; population biology, ecology, genetics and breeding of honey bees; social insects.

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. 

Professor Robert W. Sterner
Ph.D., University of Minnesota, 1986

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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

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


Peter Tiffin
Ph.D., Duke University, 1999
, Associate Professor, Department of Plant Biology

Research Interests: Evolutionary and ecological genetics; molecular and phenotypic evolution of plant defenses

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.

Paul Venturelli
Ph.D. 2009, University of Toronto
, Assistant Professor, Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology


Aquatic ecology; fish and fisheries; invasive and endangered species; life history (e.g., growth, maturity, reproduction, longevity); population dynamics and modeling; resource management and policy; temperature and climate change.

George Weiblen
Ph.D. 1999, Harvard University
, Professor, Department of Plant Biology

Research Interests: Plant systematics, molecular phylogenetics, coevolution, and plant/pollinator interaction

Susan Weller
Ph.D., University of Texas, 1989
, Professor, Entomology; Curator of Invertebrates, Director of Bell Museum of Natural History

Research Interests: Morphological and molecular systematics; evolution of behaviors; classification.

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.