Kenyon Macroecology Laboratory

Biodiversity and functional ecology, mostly plants

Leave a comment

Spring Beauties: A KerkhoffLab News Rundown

The spring beauties (Claytonia virginiana) popping up all over Kenyon’s campus made me realize that a lot of good news has been blossoming in the KerkhoffLab as well! As on most college campuses, springtime in the KerkhoffLab is a time of great activity, a time for moving on and moving in, a time for polishing new results and gearing up for new projects, a time for awards to recognize potential and plans for taking the next step.

img_0819.jpgHere are some of the beautiful spring things happening around here:

  • We are super excited to welcome Dr. Susy Echeverria-Londoño to the lab group! She will be joining us as a postdoc on the Macroecology of Land Plant Biodiversity project, in collaboration with folks at the University of Arizona, Wesleyan University, and the Botanical Information and Ecology Network (BIEN). We can’t wait to get started!
  • After graduation in May, Toby SantaMaria is heading to Norway this summer to work as part of the research team of Dr. Vigdis Vandvik from Universetet I Bergen. She will be studying C and N cycling as part of the HiddenCosts project examining plantations-for-climate schemes in Norway. Gratulerer, Toby!
  • Our other senior lab member, Caitlin Redak, is heading to Alabama to begin her PhD program at Auburn University, working with Dr. Scott Santos. She plans to study physiological and phylogenetic approaches to marine biology. I wish there was enough room on the boat for us all to go along!
  • Cecina Babich Morrow and Erin Keleske are staying in the KerkhoffLab as part of the Kenyon Summer Science Scholars program. Their work is also part of the Macroecology of Land Plant Biodiversity project, and we’re going to make a research trip to Colorado to meet with our collaborators at the Rocky Mountain Biological Lab.
  • Cecina was also recently awarded a Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship! Way to go, Cecina!
  • Hannah Wedig is going to be studying abroad in New Zealand next semester!
  • A terrific group of students from Kenyon Biology’s IntroLab have also been doing work in the KerkhoffLab. Greg Holste (who joined the lab this spring) and his partner Rhys Pinder are examining geographic patterns of diversity of crop wild relatives. Carter Powell and Billy Hartman who have been looking at bryophyte diversity patterns. In the field, two groups, Cameron Peters and Jennie Van Meter,  and Julia Unangst and Sophia Kuvan, have been measuring the phenology of soil respiration in the KerkhoffLab forest plots. More to come on all of these projects soon! Hopefully, at least some of them will continue their work in the fall!

Leave a comment

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.