Headshot of Saara DeWalt
Office Address

123 Snyder Hall
1475 Gortner Avenue
Saint Paul, MN 55108
United States

Lab Address

United States



Dean, Russell M. and Elizabeth M. Bennett Chair in Excellence in Biological Sciences
Dean's Office,
Plant and Microbial Biology

I study population and community ecology of vascular plants - mostly in temperate and tropical forests. I am interested in determinants of species abundance, community composition, and diversity of trees and lianas.

Expand all

Research statement

My research lab is broadly directed at understanding the determinants of plant distributions and patterns of abundance over large geographic scales and among habitats over short geographical scales. My research addresses several questions in population, evolutionary, and community ecology: What are the roles of herbivores and pathogens in shaping patterns of plant abundance and distribution on local and geographic scales? What are the ecological and evolutionary processes that affect and maintain genetic variation and structure in plant populations? Which current and historical factors determine the structure and composition of plant communities? Primarily, I address these questions by studying trees and lianas (woody vines) and non-native, invasive plants in temperate and tropical forests. These study systems have allowed me to test fundamental ecological hypotheses concerning the determinants of species abundance, community composition, and diversity. My work on invasive species also provides opportunities for applied research on effective control methods. Much of my research involves broad biogeographical comparisons of plant populations and communities and is focused in the Neotropics.

Selected publications

Oliveira, S. A.*, S. J. DeWalt, and P. Agudelo. 2023. Feasibility of Ditylenchus gallaeformans as a biological control agent for invasive Miconia crenata. Nematology 25:227–237.

Taylor, B. N.*, E. Stedman, S. J. Van Bloem, S. L. Whitmire, and S. J. DeWalt. 2023. Widespread stem snapping but limited mortality caused by category 5 hurricane on the Caribbean Island of Dominica. Forest Ecology and Management 532: DOI: 10.1016/j.foreco.2023.120833.

Jakovac, C. C., and numerous co-authors including S. J. DeWalt. 2022. Strong floristic distinctiveness across Neotropical successional forests. Science Advances 8: DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abn1767.

Estrada-Villegas, S., P. R. Stevenson, O. López, S. J. DeWalt, L. S. Comita, and D. H. Dent. 2022. Animal seed dispersal recovery during passive restoration in a forested landscape. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 378: DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2021.0076.

DeWalt, S. J., J. S. Denslow, and M. T. Johnson. 2022. Ecology and control of naturalized Melastomataceae. Pages 761-789 in R. Goldenberg, F. A. Michelangeli, and F. Almeda, editors. Systematics, Evolution and Ecology of Melastomataceae. Springer, Switzerland.

Oliveira, S. A.*, J. A. Baeza, P. Agudelo, and S. J. DeWalt. 2022. Observations on the population genetic structure of the leaf galling nematode, Ditylenchus gallaeformans. Phytopathology 112:881–887.

Poorter, L., and numerous co-authors including S. J. DeWalt. 2021. Multi-dimensional tropical forest recovery. Science 374:1370–1376.

Poorter, L., and numerous co-authors including S. J. DeWalt. 2021. Functional recovery of secondary tropical forests. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 118: DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2003405118.

Rüger, N., R. Condit, D. H. Dent, S. J. DeWalt, S. P. Hubbell, J. W. Lichstein, O. R. Lopez, C. Wirth, and C. E. Farrior. 2020. Demographic trade-offs predict tropical forest dynamics. Science 368:165–168.

Education and background

  • AB Biology, Brown University, 1994
  • PhD Biological Sciences, Louisiana State University, 2003
  • Huxley Research Fellow, Rice University, 2003-2005