Current Graduate Students

Joni Baumgarten, Ph. D. Candidate, Rutgers New Brunswick Ecology and Evolution Program (SEBS)

email: joni.baumgarten@gmail.com     website: jonibaumgarten.com

Joni is interested in how soil communities (especially arbuscular mycorrhizae and soil arthropods) interact with and facilitate plant populations. She is studying how switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), a potential biofuel crop, interacts with the soil community and how the addition of nitrogen fertilizer perturbs that interaction. Major advisor: John Dighton

 

Zachary Cook, M.S. student, Rutgers Camden Biology Department

email: zrc6@scarletmail.rutgers.edu

Zach is interested in the interactions of both inorganic (heavy metals) and organic pollutants (PAHs) within soil ecosystems.  He is also studying how pollutants interact with the soil and soil organisms (fungi/bacteria), and if these organisms have adapted to utilizing said pollutants. His other interests include bioremediation using plants and fungi to degrade or remove pollutants. Major advisor: John Dighton

 

Tracy Youngster, Ph.D. student, Rutgers New Brunswick Ecology and Evolution Program (SEBS)

e-mail: tracy.youngster@rutgers.edu 

Tracy is interested in studying the soil microbial communities of different coastal plant species. As a Coastal Climate Risk and Resilience trainee, she is designing a project to evaluate how these plant-microbe interactions affect soil characteristics in coastal areas. Major advisors: John Dighton and Jennifer Krumins (Montclair)

 

Steve Schulze, M.S. student, Rutgers Camden Biology Department

email: steveschulze@gmail.com

Steve is interested in the ecological role of tardigrades.  In particular, he would like to determine if carnivorous species can be used as biological control agents of plant-parasitic nematodes.  Presently, he is studying the morphology of a marine species from Long Beach Island and conducting an inventory of tardigrades on Plummers Island, Maryland.  He loves the Pine Barrens.  Major advisor: John Dighton

Graduates

Denise Hassinger M.S. 2018 Rutgers Camden Biology Department
email: dh445@scarletmail.rutgers.edu 
Denise investigated whether commercially targeted white-rot fungi are capable of biodegrading single-use plastics such as polypropylene, polyethylene, and polystyrene in order to combat ever increasing plastic waste. Major advisor: John Dighton

Michael Gallagher Ph.D. 2017 Rutgers New Brunswick Ecology and Evolution Graduate Program (SEBS) 
email: michaelgallagher@fs.fed.us
Mike’s dissertation focused on the selection of appropriate field and remote sensing methods for evaluating fire effects and evaluating their use for estimating tree mortality, fuel reduction, and seasonal differences in fire effects.  As a test environment, Mike’s work focused on prescribed fires and wildfire occurring in the New Jersey Pine Barrens.  Mike is now a post-doc with the USFS. Major Advisor: Jason Grabosky

Natalie Howe Ph. D. 2016 Rutgers New Brunswick Ecology and Evolution Graduate Program (SEBS)
Natalie’s research focused on the Cladonia-dominated lichen communities of the Pinelands. She investigated how lichens influence soil biology and chemistry, and is studying the microarthropods, bacteria, and nutrient status of the soils underneath lichen mats.  Major advisor: John Dighton

Katalin Malcolm Ph. D. 2016 Rutgers New Brunswick Ecology and Evolution Graduate Program (SEBS)
email: kmalcolm@njaes.rutgers.edu
Katie examined the interaction between mercury, a heavy metal pollutant, and fungi.  She was particularly interested in the effects of mercury on epiphytic fungal phylloplane communities and the influence of mercury on litter decomposition.  Major advisor: John Dighton

Jocelyn Wardlaw M.S. 2016 Rutgers Camden Biology Department.
Jocelyn is conducted an investigation that compares and contrasts arbuscular mycorrhizal communities of pine barrens soils and serpentine soils. Major Advisor: John Dighton

Rebecca Bacheler: M. S. 2014 Rutgers Camden Biology Department
Rebecca investigated endomycorrhizal relationships with native Pine Barrens plant species. Major Advisor: John Dighton.

Nicholas Carlo: M.S. 2014 Rutgers Newark Earth and Environmental Sciences Department 
Nick conducted  research on the effects of prescribed fire on photosynthetic capacity and water use of forest overstory vegetation. Major advisor: Karina Schäfer

Sarah Johnson (Smith): M.S. 2013 Rutgers Camden Biology Department.
Sarah  investigated soil arthropod communities in Pine Barrens plant communities. Major Advisor: John Dighton

Jennifer Oberle: Ph. D. 2013 Rutgers New Brunswick Ecology and Evolution Graduate Program (SEBS)
Jennifer  studied plant litter decomposition using FT-IR spectroscopy and fungal growth using atomic force microscopy (AFM). Major Advisor: John Dighton

Melanie Maghirang: M.S. 2012. Rutgers Camden Biology Department
Melanie investigated interactions between fungi and soil arthropods. Major advisor: John Dighton

Sharron Hicks-Crane: Ph. D. 2011.Rutgers New Brunswick Ecology and Evolution Graduate Program (SEBS)
Sharron’s work concentrated on the accumulation of mercury into fungi, and linking the effects of bacteria in this process, especially in ectomycorrhizae. Major advisors: John Dighton and Tamar Barkay (Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology, Cook College).

Nick Skowronski: Ph.D. 2011 Rutgers New Brunswick Ecology and Evolution Graduate Program (SEBS)
Nick’s research focused on the quantification and analysis of the forest canopy structural characteristics and how this relates to carbon and water cycles. In his research he used a newly emerging remote sensing technology called LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) which actively characterizes the canopy with a laser beam. My work is split between developing methods for using LiDAR and other remotes sensing techniques for wildfire mitigation and studying how forest functionality changes after disturbance.  Major advisor Ming Xu

Ai Wen: Ph.D. 2010.Rutgers New Brunswick Ecology and Evolution Graduate Program (SEBS)
Ai iinvestigated avian and amphibian species utilization of cranberry bogs. Major advisor David Ehrenfeld.

Karena DiLeo: M. S. 2010. Rutgers New Brunswick Ecology and Evolution Graduate Program (SEBS)
Karena investigated the influence of pine barrens water quality on chytrid presence on amphibians. Major Advisor: John Dighton.

David Keller: M.S. 2010. Rutgers Camden Biology Department
David studied the distribution of white catfish in the Delaware river area. Major Advisor: John Dighton.

Bill Landesman: Ph.D. 2009 Rutgers New Brunswick Ecology and Evolution Graduate Program 
Bill investigated the influence of temporal rainfall events and micro-spatial distributions and activity of soil microbiota in pine barrens ecosystems. Major Advisor: John Dighton

Jason Stanwood: M.S. 2009. Rutgers Camden Biology Department
Jason examined the influence of distance from a major highway on the community composition of phylloplane fungi of commercial and natural blueberry.

Kristen Lammers: M.S. 2008. Rutgers Camden Biology Department
Kristen investigated changes in leaf litter carbohydrate chemistry during combustion, using FT-IR spectroscopy. Joint advisors John Dighton and Georgia Arbuckle-Keil.

Andrea Kornbluh: M.S. 2008 Rutgers New Brunswick Ecology and Evolution Graduate Program 

Jenn Adams Krumins: Ph.D. 2007 Rutgers New Brunswick Ecology and Evolution Graduate Program
As a graduate student Jenn investigated the impact of N deposition on ectomycorrhizae and soil microbial communities under scrub oak forest stands in New Jersey and Florida. Jenn is now an assistant professor at Montclair State University. Major advisors: Peter Morin and John Dighton.

Alice Chin: M.S. 2007. Rutgers Camden, Graduate Program in Chemistry.
Alice characterized certain volatile metabolites of fungal competition. Joint advisors John Dighton and Georgia Arbuckle-Keil.

Leigh Ann Wilson: M.S. 2006 Rutgers New Brunswick Ecology and Evolution Graduate Program
Leigh Ann examined the influence of soil bacterial communities on ectomycorrhizal colonization and growth of pitch pine (Pinus rigida). Major advisor: John Dighton.

Don Brickner: M.S. 2006. Rutgers Camden Biology Department
Don manipulated the forest floor as if it were being subjected to a control burn, and monitored subsequent changes in the soil biota and processes. Major advisor: John Dighton. 

Dennis Gray: Ph.D. 2006 Rutgers New Brunswick Ecology and Evolution Graduate Program
As a graduate student Dennis conducted field and greenhouse studies to determine the fate of nutrients mobilized by prescription fire.  Major advisor: John Dighton

Shannon Nix: Ph.D. 2005 Rutgers New Brunswick Ecology and Evolution Graduate Program
Shannon investigated the role of phylloplane fungal diversity in the susceptibility of cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon) to fungal pathogens. Shannon is now an assistant professor at Clarion University. Major advisor: John Dighton.

Rachel Ward: M.S. 2005 Rutgers New Brunswick Ecology and Evolution Graduate Program
Rachel followed up on some of the work that Leigh-Ann started by looking at bacterial communities on ectomycorrhizae using molecular methods of identification and looking for genetic adaptations of ectomycorrhizal fungi to mercury. Major advisors: John Dighton and Tamar Barkay (Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology, Cook College).

Melissa Zimermann: MS 2005 Rutgers University Biology Department
Melissa conducted research on fungal pathogens of peppers. Major advisor: John Dighton

Murray McHugh: M.S. 2001 Rutgers New Brunswick Ecology and Evolution Graduate Program
Murray studied the effects of arbuscular mycorrhizal colonization, marsh position, phosphorus level and salinity on two salt marsh grasses, Spartina alterniflora and S. patens. Major supervisor: John Dighton.

Amy Tuininga: Ph.D. 2000 Rutgers New Brunswick Ecology and Evolution Graduate Program  
Amy studied the effects of controlled burning on the community structure of ectomycorrhizal fungi in relation to changes in nutrient availability. Her study was conducted in upland pine oak communities in the New Jersey Pinelands. Major advisor: John Dighton. 

Roxanne Robles-Torre: M.S. 1999 University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez
Roxanne examined variation in arbuscular mycorrhizal colonization of Capparis cynophallpohora and Tabebuia heterophyllastatus in Guanica, a tropical dry forest in Puerto Rico. Major advisor: Carlos Betancourt (UPR).

Jim Baxter: Ph.D. 1998 Rutgers New Brunswick Ecology and Evolution Graduate Program
Jim studied the effects of anthropogenic impacts on nutrient availability, ectomycorrhizal community structure, and host tree performance in contrasting urban and rural forests. Jim was co-principal investigator with John Dighton on a 3 year National Science Foundation grant to investigate the ecophysiological functioning of ectomycorrhizal communities. Jim is now a faculty member of the Department of Biological Science, California State, Sacramento. 

Post-Docs

Lena Jonsson
Ph.D. 1998. Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Upsaala Sweden. Lena worked on a USDA-NRI grant (2000-2003) where she examined the role of leaf litter and fungal grazers on the structure and functioning of ectomycorrhizal communities. This research was in conjunction with the late Dr. John Lussenhop (UIC) and Dr. Roger Koide (Penn State).

James Baxter
1997-9. Jim studied the effects of ectomycorrhizal community composition on nutrient acquisition by plants. The project was funded by NSF.

Marcella Mascarenhas
1998. Marcella studied fine scale effects of fungal decomposition of plant material using FT-IR. This research was conducted in collaboration with Georgia Arbuckle-Keil (Chemistry Rutgers Camden) with NSF funding

Christine Conn
Ph.D. 1993. Old Dominion VA. Christine studied forest floor patch dynamics and resource relations in litter. Her project was funded by the Victoria Foundation (1993-1994).