Kenyon Macroecology Laboratory

Biodiversity and functional ecology, mostly plants


Lab PI: Drew Kerkhoff

Current Student Researchers

Cecina Babich Morrow (Biology/Mathematics, Class of 2018) is interested in the received_10206560674516891interface between ecology/evolution and mathematics. As a Kenyon Summer Science Scholar in 2016, Cecina collaborated with researchers at the University of Arizona and Oxford University to develop and test new “hypervolume” methods for quantifying plant functional diversity and environmental niches. Her current project (as a 2017 KSSS) uses hypervolume methods to explore life history evolution in mammals, birds, and reptiles as part of our collaborative research grant from the National Science Foundation.

Erin Keleske (Biology/Environmental Studies, Class of 2018) is working on developing a deep-time perspective on climate change, using modeled paleoclimates. As a 2017 Kenyon Summer Science Scholar, Erin has analyzed climate change velocities over the past 55 million years and is estimating the time-integrated area available for the biomes of North and South America. Her work is also supported by our collaborative NSF grant.

Current Lab Volunteers

Julia Unangst

Hannah Wedig

Greg Holste

Mia Fox

Evan Perkins

Carter Powell

Kerkhoff Lab Alumni

Toby SantaMaria ’17 worked on a field study of forest carbon cycling at the Brown DFlAlFLXoAADhtjFamily Environmental Center and served as the teaching assistant for the fall 2016 Ecology Lab class. She was also the KerkhoffLab social media guru and is responsible for inflicting @kerkhofflab on the twitterverse.


Caitlin Redak ’17 worked with data from the Botanical  Information IMG_8148and Ecology Network to understand how climatic tolerances evolve in plant clades endemic to North and South America.



Kirstin Staiger (Honors in Biology) ’16 studied patterns of functional diversity alongKirielevational gradients in temperate and tropical forest ecosystems using multidimensional hypervolume approaches. She was a Kenyon Summer Science Scholar in 2015 and was awarded Highest Honors for her thesis.


H. Bennett Stephens ’15 studied the phylogenetic changes in climatic tolerance and biome transitions over evolutionary time, in a widespread lineage of flowering plants. He was a Kenyon Summer Science Scholar in 2014.

Kelsey Dillon (Honors in Biology) ’14 investigated size-abundance relationships in herbaceous wetland
communities and tested whether theoretical models p1030968developed for forests apply to smaller-stature plant communities. She combined her own data with data from a variety of forest, desert, prairie, and meadow communities. Kelsey was a Kenyon Summer Science Scholar in 2013, and wrote a terrific Honors Thesis the next year.

Stephen Raithel ’13 worked with the NSF-funded Manduca InSTaRs project, investigating metabolic scaling in larval insects. In particular, Stephen studied the scaling properties of a mathematical model of gut function.

Nina Hamilton ’12 lead the second survey of the Bishop’s Backbone Forest Plot (BBFP). First surveyed by the KerkhoffLab in 2006 and 2007, the goal is to develop a picture of forest dynamics over the long term. Nina helped add the BBFP to the Brown Family Environmental Center GIS database. She was a Kenyon Summer Science Scholar in 2011.

Kelly Wahl ’12 worked on developing “DNA barcoding” techniques to detect plant-herbivore feeding relationships based on insect frass. She moved on to Honors research with Prof. Gillen studying gene expression patterns in Manduca sexta.

Nikolas Tun ’12 worked on metabolic and nutritional scaling in Manduca sexta. Specifically, examined the effects of food quality on growth and metabolism.

Amanda Henderson (Honors in Biology) ’11 studied the functional diversity of alpine meadow communities at the Rocky Mountain Biological Lab (RMBL). Her Honors Thesis research was part of a collaboration between the Kerkhoff Lab and the Enquist Lab at the University of Arizona.

Pam Moriarty ’11 studied the “Tropical Conservatism Hypothesis” as an explanation for the latitudinal species richness gradient in New World woody plant species. Based on latitudinal distribution data for over 12,000 woody angiosperm species, Pam used randomization approaches to test whether temperate species are drawn from a restricted, generally younger subset of the land plant tree of life.


Dhruv Vig ’11 developed a mathematical model of caterpillar growth and feeding behavior in the context of inducible plant defenses.



Katie Sears (Honors in Molecular Biology) ’10  examined the scaling of nutrientassimilation, metabolism and growth in the larval tobacco hawkmoth, Manduca sextaas part of the NSF-funded InSTaRs project in mathematical biology. Katie combined extensive laboratory data collection with mathematical modelling to evaluate theoretical models of the energetics of growth.

Ryan Bash ’10 studied the scaling of carbon and nitrogen assimilation in Manduca.

Pratima Shanbhag ’10 compared the scaling of growth and metabolism in Manduca reared on artificial laboratory diets to larvae fed their natural diet of tobacco leaves.

Kaleb Keyserling ’09 studied the effects of invasive garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) on the photosynthetic capacity, growth, and nutrient status of oak and maple seedlings.

Amy Kessler ’09 studied the effects of garlic mustard on seedling survival and growth.

Ellen Thompson (Honors in Biology) ’08 studied macroecological patterns of association between trees species and their caterpillar herbivores. Using phylogenetic analyses and randomization techniques, she was able to assess the relative strength of biogeographic and evolutionary processes in determining species interactions.

Sascha Lodge (Honors in Biology) ’07 based her Honors thesis on a survey of the Bishop’s Backbone forest, mapping and identifying nearly 2000 trees, shrubs and vines in a one hectare forest plot. She also compiled functional trait and geographic range information which allowed her to assess alternative hypotheses about forest community assembly.

Kristin ‘K.K.’ Kvernland (Honors in International Studies) ’07 examined the history of conservation in Madagascar, including both ecological and socioeconomic aspects of this difficult problem.

Amy Strieter ’07 helped study plant size distributions in oldfield and prairie environments.

Joe Donohue ’07 examined metabolic scaling in very small Arabidopsis seedlings. He also helped analyze phylogenetic patterns of range overlap in trees.

Kate Boicourt ’06 helped study plant size distributions in oldfield environments.

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