Kenyon Macroecology Laboratory

Biodiversity and functional ecology, mostly plants

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Postdoctoral Opportunity – Biodiversity Ecoinformatics

Come work in the Kerkhoff Lab! We have an NSF-funded, two year postdoctoral position in biodiversity ecoinformatics. The goal of the project, which is being conducted in collaboration with Brian Enquist at the University of Arizona, Dana Royer at Wesleyan University, and researchers affiliated with the Botanical Information and Ecology Network (BIEN) (, is focused on the evolutionary, ecological, and biogeographic processes underlying continental scale patterns of plant biodiversity. The BIEN database is the largebien_logo_notext-1st extant botanical data resource, detailing the distributions, functional traits, and phylogenetic relationships of over 90,000 embryophyte (land plant) species. We have tons of data, and lots of important questions to answer, and we could really use your help!

In addition to research, the postdoc will have opportunities to teach and mentor smart motivated undergraduates and to help develop open-source educational materials that integrate ecoinformatic approaches into the undergraduate biology curriculum. The ppl-d386-kenyon_4-28-10_0032position is centered at Kenyon College, a highly selective liberal arts college on the glaciated Allegheny Plateau, with a population of about 1,700 undergraduates. However, the postdoc will also have opportunities to travel to the University of Arizona and other institutions for research collaborations.

We are looking for someone with experience in one or more of the following: plant ecology/botany (including either field or herbarium work), phylogenetic approaches, geographic information science, biostatistics, database management.

To Apply

See the linked page for the full ad and job description. If you are interested in applying or have any questions, please email Drew Kerkhoff ( Application review will begin March 1 and continue until the position is filled.

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KerkhoffLab rocks IBS in Tucson

The International Biogeography Society (IBS) held its semi-annual meeting in Tucson, AZ, US from January 8-13. Two students from the Kenyon Macroecology Lab, Toby SantaMaria and Cecina Babich Morrow, presented posters, attended workshops and talks, and got to hang out with hundreds of scientists from around the world.

Cecina presented research done in collaboration with Ben Blonder , Brian Maitner, Brian Enquist, Christine Lamanna, Cyrille Violle, and me. Cecina analyzed data from the BIEN database to evaluate the effectiveness of new methods that Ben developed for quantifying n-dimensional hypervolumes – multidimensional geometric objects (“blobs” really!) that describe how species or ecological communities “fill” environmental space. It sounds abstract, but these methods are incredibly useful for describing the environmental niches of species as well as the functional diversity of whole plant communities or biomes. Since the conference, we’ve submitted a paper to Methods in Ecology and Evolution, and the new methods will be part of the 2.0 version of Ben’s hypervolume R package. The proud moment for this advisor came when I heard one of the scientists talking to Cecina ask her when she was going to “finish her PhD.”

Toby and I presented a poster together, describing a project that we did with the students in Kenyon’s Ecology Lab class last fall. To gain skills in climate change research, we modeled the responses of species using species distribution models. Each student in the class selected one species of plant or animal from our region (Ohio), then used data resources from the GBIF and Worldclim (including climate change scenarios from the IPCC) to model the potential changes in the distribution of their species habitat. To practice communication about the science of climate change, we then held a poster session for students and faculty. Tag teaming the poster really worked well. I was able to give some of the pedagogical rationale for the project and fill in some of the modeling details, while Toby gave insight into the challenges the students faced and how she was able to help them work through the project – even as she was just learning the modeling techniques herself! I am super excited to repeat (and maybe expand!) the project next year.

Both Toby and Cecina are from Arizona, so the locale was not as exotic for them as it would have been for some. Still, it was great to get out of Ohio in January, to see the Sonoran Desert again, to catch up with old friends and meet new colleagues, and to share some of the science we’ve been doing with the larger community.