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Forest Isbell

Forest Isbell is an associate professor in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior at the University of Minnesota. He is also director of the MnDRIVE Environment program and a fellow at the Institute on the Environment. Forest previously served as associate director of Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve for seven years. He has contributed to several international science-policy efforts, including serving as a lead author on two recent reports of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services and as an author on two recent expert information documents for the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity. He is a recipient of a National Science Foundation CAREER award and is recognized as one of the most highly cited researchers globally in the field of Environment and Ecology. His research considers how human activities erode or restore both biodiversity and ecosystem services at multiple spatial and temporal scales. He investigates how global environmental changes alter plant communities and ecosystem processes, and how both ecosystems and people depend on biodiversity. This research builds on previous studies of biodiversity–ecosystem functioning relationships, biodiversity–stability relationships, nutrient enrichment, land use changes, and ecosystem services. View his profile on Google Scholar.




Neha Mohanbabu

Dr. Mohanbabu is a community ecologist interested in understanding responses of plants and plant-interactions to global change drivers. For her graduate research, she combined theoretical and empirical methods to understand the influence of multiple resource limitation on plant-herbivore interactions in terrestrial systems that have coevolved with large mammalian herbivores. Her current postdoctoral work explores temporal variation and long-term impacts of manipulating biodiversity, CO2 and nitrogen inputs in grassland ecosystems, in collaboration with Dr. Sarah Hobbie and Dr. Peter Reich, using the BioCON experiment at Cedar Creek. Read more about her work on her website.


Karen Castillioni


Dr. Castillioni is a community ecologist interested in community dynamics and how they are influenced by global environmental change. She is also interested in understanding how local dynamics ultimately influence larger spatial scales, such as ecosystem functions and processes. Her graduate research focused on the impacts of invasive species in Brazilian grasslands, and the impacts of climate change in mixed-grass prairies of the U.S. Southern Great Plains. Now, she is 1) testing the impacts of habitat fragmentation and seed dispersal on grassland biodiversity and productivity, and 2) using remote sensing to scale-up the strength of biodiversity effects on ecosystem productivity, from local to landscape scales. Read more about her work on her website.


Amy Churchill

Dr. Churchill focuses on the characteristics of plants and their communities which drive ecosystem responses to global change such as rising CO2, climate extremes or nitrogen deposition. Her work spans community and ecosystem ecology, and past projects have included large-scale field experimental manipulations as well as glasshouse projects in the US and Australia. Her current post-doctoral work is funded through the USDA AFI NIFA program, and examines how shifts in net plant community interactions associated with grassland succession may influence ecosystem resistance and resilience from drought. Read more about her work on her website.


Hanan Farah

Hanan's interests lie at the intersection of disturbance and restoration ecology. She is specifically interested in better understanding the underlying mechanisms that drive the recovery of biodiversity in grasslands. She also hopes to utilize soil microbial communities as a tool to facilitate recovery.



Maggie Anderson

Maggie is interested in the effects of plant functional traits on the diversity of wild bee communities. She seeks to understand how climate change and habitat fragmentation can alter patterns of plant phenology and ultimately impact pollinator communities in the future. The findings of her work will have conservation and management applications.




Harry Shepherd

Harry Shepherd is visiting PhD student from the University of Southampton. He is interested in areas including plant-soil interactions, plant community assembly and ecosystem restoration. A link to his google scholar is found here.



Maya Vellicolungara, Gary Guo, Annie Nelson, Adrian Ruybe, Mariel Ortega, Steph Varghese, Sydney Hedberg (lab coordinator), Claire Romano, David Mei (not pictured)


Chad Zirbel

Dr. Zirbel was a postdoc in our lab. He is now a postdoc at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His research explores how plant functional traits structure the assembly of plant communities and functioning of ecosystems undergoing restoration. His postdoctoral research in our lab considered the roles of bison grazing and fire in promoting oak regeneration and the diversity of other savanna species. Read more about his work on his website.


Cristy Portales-ReyesCristy Portales-Reyes

Dr. Portales-Reyes was a PhD student in our lab. She is now a postdoc at the University of Georgia. Cristy is interested in understanding the mechanisms that lead to coexistence and maintain high levels of plant diversity. Her dissertation research considered recovery of grassland plant communities after cessation of nutrient enrichment, including the roles of plant-soil feedbacks, dispersal limitation, and fire.


Jane CowlesJane Cowles Ditmer

Dr. Cowles Ditmer was a postdoc in our lab. She is now a Data Scientist at Metro Transit. She is interested in the theoretical links between coexistence mechanisms – the reasons there are so many species to begin with – and the consequences of these coexisting species – biodiversity – for ecosystem functioning. Past projects include examining the role of plant-soil feedbacks in the diversity-productivity relationship and ecosystem responses to warming. She co-led an NSF LTER synthesis working group at NCEAS that is scaling-up biodiversity analyses. View her profile on Google Scholar.

Kaitlin KimmelKaitlin Kimmel

Dr. Kimmel was a PhD student in our lab. She is now a postdoc at Johns Hopkins University. She explores how human actions are altering biodiversity and community composition by utilizing both long-term data sets and theory. She is interested in the many ways we can describe the community structure and how these different measures may give us insights into how ecosystems may function in the future.

Zhiyuan Ma

Zhiyuan was a visiting PhD student in our lab, coming to us from Peking University in China. He is interested in exploring the consequences of global changes, such as warming and precipitation alteration, on alpine grassland ecosystems on the Tibetan Plateau. His current research investigates how plant communities, including their temporal stability and their community composition and assembly trajectories, would respond to anthropogenic climate changes.

Clare Kazanski

Dr. Kazanski was a NatureNet Postdoctoral Fellow in our lab. She is now a Sustainable Grazing Scientist for the North America region at The Nature Conservancy. She investigates how global environmental changes and land management practices affect soils and ecosystem carbon storage. Her research addresses the potential for enhancing soil carbon storage in grasslands and rangelands through specific grazing practices. Visit her website or view her Google Scholar Profile.

Jushan Liu

Dr. Liu was a visiting scholar in our lab, and he is currently an associate professor in the School of Life Sciences at Northeast Normal University in China. He has a wide range of research interests and experiences, including investigating plant response to animal saliva and geographical variation of seed mass across Canadian Boreal Forest. His current work mainly focuses on the response of grassland ecosystem processes and functioning to global change (e.g. nitrogen deposition) and human activity (e.g. grazing).

Meredith Palmer

Dr. Palmer was a postdoctoral research associate in our lab, investigating the cascading effects of wolf recolonization on soil and plant communities at Cedar Creek. She is currently a postdoc at Princeton. Her research explores the direct and indirect effect effects of predators on prey behavior, prey demography, and ecosystem functioning. She investigates anti-predator decision-making in large herbivores in response to predators such as wolves and lions and works intensively with citizen scientists to classify data from large-scale camera trapping projects. Visit her website.

Dylan Craven

Dr. Craven was a postdoctoral research fellow in our lab. He is currently an associate professor at Universidad Mayor in Chile. Some of his current work in our lab considered whether plant diversity can buffer ecosystem processes under perturbations. Visit his website or view his Google Scholar profile.