Institute at Brown for Environment and SocietyIBES

Graduate Students: Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

Bianca studies microbiome changes in response to ecosystem dynamics of small mammals in perturbed environments in Kenya. Her goal is to use microbial changes to understand species' diet and health in anthropogenic challenged environments.  Over the past year, she has done fieldwork in Kenya and plans to have multiple rigorous field seasons in the upcoming academic year. 

John joined the Kellner Lab in January 2018 as a graduate student in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Brown. John has undertaken a research project that aims to better understand processes that lead to spatial patterns at different levels of biological organisation, particularly in tropical forests. Tropical forests house immense biological diversity, and contribute towards the global carbon cycle. Better understanding of the drivers of biological diversity, and the ways in which tropical forests function, is likely to aid human responses to global environmental change.

Forest canopy structure reflects succession and competition among trees for resources. KC studies how canopy structure relates to patterns of forest productivity. As airborne and spaceborne observations of forest structure become more widely available, this research will increase understanding of how productivity is globally distributed among forests, and how climate and land use change will alter forests’ role in the global carbon cycle.

Patrick Freeman's research interests lie at the intersection of wildlife ecology, environmental change, and conservation and management, particularly in African contexts. How are animals responding to and navigating drastically changing environments - whether those changes are directly or indirectly related to humans and their impacts? How can we use new technologies like remote sensing or genomics to provide information to decision-makers about these responses? And finally, how do we leverage these technologies and evolving modes of conservation to craft a future where wildlife and humans have enough space, resources, and support to thrive? It's these questions that occupy Patrick's thoughts as he crafts plans for his dissertation research. 

Emily's research focuses on predicting the effects of climate change on tropical montane forests. Currently, she studies a suite of epiphytic plant species across elevational gradients in the mountains of Costa Rica. She is combining information on species distributions, climate, physiology, and transplant experiments to precisely measure how these species tolerate different climates. In addition to making specific forecasts for an important component of tropical biodiversity, Emily's work aims to contribute broader insight for the future of these ecosystems and their conservation.

After graduating from Barnard College with a major in environmental science and a minor in chemistry, Audrey taught science in New York City public schools.  She now works with the Porder Lab to study the biogeochemistry of tropical soils in the context of land-use changes.  She is interested in the role of symbiotic relationships and microbe-mineral interactions in mobilizing nutrients needed for plant growth.  Audrey’s previous research includes comparing the soil microbial communities of Malaysian rainforests and oil palm plantations, as well as exploring the potential of New York City green roofs to serve as corridors for soil microbial diversity. 

Lindsay thinks about plant-microbe symbioses and how these relationships affect biogeochemical cycling in tropical rainforests. Some of her work focuses on legume plant species that are commonly used in reforestation projects in Bahia, Brazil. These symbioses may contribute to how intact and regrowing forests respond to a changing climate with time.

Kimberly is broadly interested in conservation genomics, wildlife biology, and disease ecology. Her research focuses on New England's native and invasive cottontails, and specifically on difference in immune system genes and potential pathogens between these two species. Kimberly say's "IBES support has been crucial to my continued research progress".

Donny is a graduate student broadly interested in how species respond to environmental change at different scales. His dissertation focuses on how various species of pine tree will fare under future climatic changes. To approach this subject, he leverages ecological niche models, novel field methods, and the data contained in tree-ring records. Prior to coming to Brown, Donny got his B.S. at Stanford University, after which he spent several years doing fieldwork in the northern Rocky Mountains.

Courtney is interested in ecosystem dynamics, particularly the interplay between animal behavior and landscape structure. Her current research focuses on small mammal communities in Kenya, which interact in dynamically exciting ways with savanna vegetation. Studying these complex systems helps us to better understand how they respond to disruptions – such as anthropogenic climate change – and the implications for biodiversity moving forward.

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