Faculty by Research Area

Population Ecology

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Carolaug Augspurger,  Carol

155 Morrill Hall

Plant Biology, PEEC

My current research focus is on plant phenology of trees and herbs in temperate deciduous forests. I have been documenting the timing of bud break, leaf expansion, leaf senescence, and flowering and fruiting for the last 12 years in a local forest fragment, Trelease Woods. This background data set serves as the springboard to address questions that can be answered experimentally. It also provides a long-term data set to evaluate questions about how global climate change is altering phenology. Currently, I am using the long-term data set to collaborate with investigators at the Harvard Forest and in France to determine the extent to which phenology imposes limitation on a species range distribution. Particular focus has been on plants growing in the shade of the canopy trees and how they may alter their phenology to avoid canopy shade and exploit high light periods. I have documented that, in addition to ephemeral herbs, the leaf phenology of understory saplings predates canopy closure in the spring by as much as three weeks. Subsequent studies have explored the environmental cue underlying this early phenology. I have found that adults and saplings use the same amount of thermal degree hours as their cue, but saplings accumulate degree hours faster and hence begin to leaf out earlier. I have also determined that these understory plants have the physiological capacity to take advantage of the added light in spring to enhance their carbon gain. A current experiment uses shade cloth to eliminate the high light spring phase of the understory individuals and is documenting their growth and mortality responses. Experiments with herbs determine the extent to which the herbs depend on the high light period and whether early cold temperatures or summer canopy shade impose greater limits on the phenology and growing period of many herbaceous species. My graduate students work in both temperate (Illinois, Utah, Louisiana) and tropical (Panama, Costa Rica, Peru, Ecuador, Honduras) habitats and generally focus on aspects of community ecology, especially seed and seedling ecology. Recent Ph.D. projects include dispersal, seed and seedling biology of the nutmeg tree by monkeys, restoration of abandoned pastures using living fence stakes to accelerate forest succession, community attributes that limit invasion by cheatgrass and garlic mustard, seedling ecology explaining patterns of primary tree succession on newly created river sandbars, historical factors explaining the rise in dominance of sugar maple in Illinois forests, and the inhibition of seedling recruitment by dwarf and arborescent tropical palms.
Benson Benson,  Thomas

2108 Illinois Natural History Survey

Adjunct Assistant Professor

Maybe Berenbaum,  May

216A Morrill Hall / 318B Morrill Hall
217-333-2910 / 217-333-7784

Professor & Head, Swanlund Chair
Entomology, PEEC

Jbrawn Brawn,  Jeffrey

W-503 Turner Hall

Professor and Head, NRES
Animal Biology, PEEC

Photo Dalling,  James

286 Morrill Hall

Professor and Head
Plant Biology, PEEC

My research concerns the population and community ecology of tropical trees, with a particular interest in understanding how soil nutrient availability and soil microbial communities shape the composition and diversity of tree communities. Much of my work is carried out with collaborators at the <a href="http://www.stri.si.edu">Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute</a>, in Panama, either on <a href="http://www.stri.si.edu/english/visit_us/barro_colorado/index.php">Barro Colorado Island</a> or at the <a href="http://www.stri.si.edu/english/research/facilities/terrestrial/fortuna/index.php">Fortuna Forest Reserve</a>, where I maintain a network of forest dynamics plots described <a href="http://www.life.illinois.edu/dalling/publications/105.pdf">here</a>
Kheath Heath,  Katy

249 Morrill Hall

Associate Professor
School of Integrative Biology, Plant Biology, PEEC

My research focuses on the evolution of mutualisms, which are most generally defined as species interactions that increase the fitness of both (or all) partners. Mutualisms are ubiquitous! And they include some of the most important species interactions in nature (for example: mitochondria, mycorrhizae, gut endosymbionts). Though, at first impression, these friendly interactions might appear tightly coevolved, instead they may be characterized by temporal and spatial heterogeneity, cheating, even evolutionary instability. I try to take a multidisciplinary approach and use diverse methods that traditionally are associated with the fields of quantitative genetics (multivariate statistics, greenhouse experiments), population and molecular genetics (genotyping, sequence analysis, expression assays), and ecology (field manipulations, collections) to understand multiple aspects of the evolution of mutualisms. Some questions currently motivating my work include: 1. Under what conditions (including the abiotic and biotic environment) do mutualisms evolve, remain stable, or break down?&nbsp; 2. How phenotypically and genetically variable are mutualistic interactions, and why is such variation maintained, despite selective pressure to cheat or, alternatively, to remain honest? 3. Which genes are variable in nature, and which are, or have been, important players in coevolution? Most generally, I am interested in plants, microbes, and their sundry interactions. Most of my research focuses on the interactions between legumes and their symbiotic nitrogen-fixing bacteria, called rhizobia. This includes the <em>Medicago-Sinorhizobium</em> mutualism because it is a great genetic model with an interesting ecology. I also have interests/projects in: the agronomically-important soybean-<em>Bradyrhizobium</em> interaction, invasive/naturalized clover-rhizobium interactions, invasive/naturalized <em>Medicago lupulina</em>-<em>Sinorhizobium </em>interactions, and the native prairie legume <em>Chamaecrista fasciculata</em> and associated rhizobia.
Photo Paige,  Ken

483 Morrill Hall

Animal Biology, PEEC

Caphilli Phillips,  Christopher

185 NRB

Adjunct Assistant Professor/Affiliate
Animal Biology, PEEC

Schooley Schooley,  Robert

W-401B Turner Hall

Associate Professor

Sjtaylor Taylor,  Steven

229 Natural Resources Studies Annex

Affiliate, Senior Conservation Biologist
INHS, PEEC, Entomology

Rwhitakr Whitaker,  Rachel

C222 Chemical and Life Sciences Laboratory

Associate Professor
Molecular and Cellular Biology, PEEC