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Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

N EW S L ET T E R V O L . 7 , F AL L 2009

Dear EEBer: Last year was a very busy year, and many of us are glad it has come and gone. We successfully completed searches for three new faculty members while also conducting all the usual teaching and research activities. We also prepared for the accreditation review by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools which occurs every 10 years and will be conducted next year. Two of our new faculty will join us this fall. Cori Richards-Zawacki is a herpetologist who will arrive from the University of California at Berkeley. Caz Taylor will fill our new position in computational biology and will come from Simon Fraser University in Canada. The third new member of the faculty – Jordan Karubian – will arrive in January 2010 from UCLA and begin teaching and research emphasizing behavioral ecology. Each of them has completed postdoctoral research at their respective institutions. All three of these new members of our program are featured in this newsletter. I am pleased to announce that Dr. Jeffrey Chambers has been promoted to Associate Professor with tenure. This is a significant accomplishment for Jeff who has been very productive in research and teaching focused on ecosystem ecology and global change since coming to Tulane. We were sad to see Christy Day – our Operations Manager – leave us last December to pursue other goals in life. Christy had her first child soon after she moved to Houston, TX, with her husband. Mother, child and dad are doing very well. Change brings new opportunities, and we are very pleased to welcome Amy Jenkins to the staff as Christy’s replacement. Amy has made the transition go very smoothly. David C. Heins, Professor & Chair

UNDERGRADUATE STUDENTS The Fred R. Cagle Memorial Prize & The Senior Scholar Award Jordan Elizabeth Arkin will be a first year medical student at the Indiana University School of Medicine. Jordan graduated with the highest GPA in EE Biology and completed an honors thesis with Dr. Heins entitled, “Rapid Evolution of Threespine Stickleback Female Life-History Traits in Loberg Lake.”

EEB is part of the School of Science and Engineering! The EEB department is located in the Boggs Center for Energy and Biotechnology, Suite 400

UNDERGRADUATE STUDENTS (cont.’d) The Gerald E. Gunning Memorial Award (cont’d) Matthew D. Quattrocelli NO IMAGE AVAILABLE

will be taking a job as an "Agriculture Specialist" with the Department of Homeland Security. The post is in Honolulu, HI.

The Newcomb Zoology Prize Caroline K. McAvoy plans to stay in the New Orleans area. She is currently on a job search. She completed an honors thesis with Dr. Sherry entitled, "Diet Similarities and Differences of Five Neotropical-Nearctic Migratory Warblers Wintering in Shade-Grown Coffee Habitat.”

GRADUATE STUDENTS Teaching Assistant Award Stefan Woltmann is currently working on his doctor-

The Gerald E. Gunning Memorial Award Kelly A. Ross will be continuing studies at Tulane in pursuit of a Master’s degree in Environmental Biology. As a component of her curriculum, she will be interning at the Tulane Environmental Law Clinic during Fall of 2009.

ate research at Tulane University, where he studies dispersal and population genetic characteristics of Myrmeciza exsul (Chestnut-backed Antbird) in a fragmented Costa Rican landscape.

Roderick Gagne Ryan Felice is pursuing a PhD in Biology at Ohio University in Athens, OH. He plans to study vertebrate paleontology and is interested in archosaur evolution. Ryan AVAILABLE completed and honors thesis with Dr. Heins and Dr. Parsley (EENS) as co-advisors. The thesis was entitled “Determining Locomotor Style of the Eupelycosaurian Synapsid Ophiacodon Using Analysis of Skeletal Morphology.” NO IMAGE

Erick is currently pursuing ecological and genetic research to support conservation of stream fishes. For his dissertation he will examine relationships between land use, parasitic abundance, and the genetic diversity of amphidromorphous gobies native to Hawaii.

MEET OUR NEW FACULTY! Jordan Karubian Dr. Jordan Karubian, another recent hire in EEB, will join us at Tulane in January, 2010. Dr. Karubian’s research focuses on behavior, conservation, and ecology of birds in tropical forests of Australia and Ecuador. He was drawn to this field by his deep fascination with animal social behavior and his love of the outdoors. He studies the Red-backed Fairy-wren in Australia. The Red-backed Fairy-wren is a small bird species that exhibits two distinct types of males living together in the same population. One type of male has dull plumage that resembles that of females while the other type has a very distinctive bright red and black plumage. Dr. Karubian combines data from a natural population with field and aviary experiments and molecular work to address the evolutionary causes and consequences of this intra-sexual variation. Dr. Karubian also heads a multi-faceted project based in the highly endangered Chocó rain forests in Ecuador. The main thrust of the research in Ecuador concerns how social biology and habitat fragmentation affects seed dispersal by the Long-wattled Umbrellabird, a large fruit eating bird. This work is complemented by studying baseline ecological processes in these poorly known forests and documenting the conservation requirements of several poorly known and endangered species of bird. Dr. Karubian’s work in Ecuador also has a strong applied component including training, education, and involvement of local residents and university students. At Tulane, he expects to teach courses in Behavioral Ecology, Plant-Animal Interactions, and perhaps some day a field course that will take Tulane undergrads to get a first hand experience with tropical rainforests!

Cori Richards-Zawacki Dr. Cori Richards-Zawacki received a dual BS in Chemical Engineering and Biology at the University of Michigan in 2002. She also received her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 2007. Her Ph.D., "Ecological and Evolutionary Implications for the Conservation of Panamanian golden frogs," used a variety of techniques, inlcuding mark-recapture to phylogeography and landscape genetics, along with host-pathogen studies to understand the variation that occurs among endangered golden frog populations and how the processes that generated this variation can best be preserved. Her interest in ecology and evolutionary biology was spurred by reading and learning about mysterious amphibian population declines in a 9th grade biology class. Ever since then she have been fascinated by amphibians and the many ways they manage to make a living in our ever changing world. She maintained this interest as an undergraduate by working in the Herpetology Lab at the University of Michigan Museum of Biology. Cori’s research interests are largely focused on understanding the ecological and evolutionary processes that lead to population divergence and speciation. She is, however, also interested in amphibian conservation, and especially understanding the interaction between amphibian hosts and a chytrid fungal pathogen which has led to declines and extinctions in recent decades. Her four main areas of research interest lie in understanding: (1) how landscape heterogeneity, geographic history and climate change affect genetic variation, (2) the tempo and mode by which pre- and postmating isolation evolve during speciation, (3) the contributions of selection and genetic drift to the evolution of phenotypic variation, and (4) the role of environmental and phenotypic variation in shaping the outcomes of hostpathogen interactions. She is excited to be teaching the Biology of Amphibians and Reptiles at Tulane in the fall of 2009 and a Statistics for biologists’ course in the spring of 2010. Cori is also interested in teaching courses in evolution, molecular ecology, animal behavior, speciation, and population biology. Outside of work, she enjoys outdoor activities, such as mountain biking, skiing, playing soccer, and Ultimate Frisbee, among other things. She also loves to travel. She has visited many interesting places, both in the U. S. and abroad, but has always enjoyed going back to Panama, where the majority of her field work takes place. Through her research she has come to know several areas of Panama very well, including the Cocle and Panama Provinces, and more recently, the Bocas del Toro Archipelago, of the Caribbean coast.

MEET OUR NEW FACULTY! Caz Taylor Dr. Caz Taylor received a B.S. in Mathematics from Southampton University, UK, in 1988. She later received a M.S. in Biology from New York University in 1999 and a Ph.D from the University of California, Davis 2004. Caz will be moving to New Orleans from Vancouver, British Columbia where she has held a postdoctoral appointment for the last four years. She will join the Tulane faculty of the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department, and will be an affiliate of the Center for Computational Science in the Fall of 2009. Caz finds that being at the interface between modeling and field work, connecting mathematical models to real ecosystems, is an exciting place to be as an ecologist. Caz will continue her research on population dynamics of migratory birds and invasive plants and is looking forward to learning about the coastal wetlands of Louisiana. She will be teaching Population Ecology in the Fall, 2009, and is interested in population modeling and other quantitative methods in ecology. Aside from work, Caz likes to hike, birdwatch and play with her daughter.

FACILITIES UPDATES The Koch Greenhouse Renovations began in April of this year on the Koch greenhouse. Formerly utilized (primarily) by grounds-keeping and facilities management, the structure has been divided to afford EEB 2500 square feet of much-needed research space. The renovation began with power-washing and resealing of all glass panes, the removal of non-operational exhaust fans and other electrical equipment, and the construction of a paneled dividing wall. Upgrades to the facility include the installation of a second ridge vent, new exhaust fans, an independent electrical supply panel, a motorized and automated ventilation system for temperature control, 500 square feet of new bench space, a prep sink, and a custom designed plumbing system. Though several research projects are slated to begin using the facility upon completion, the renovations were designed to accommodate any future research layout by incorporating multiple, movable tables and numerous quick-disconnect water fittings into the plan.

The Fish Facility A new aquatic ecology research laboratory has been developed by members of the Blum lab in collaboration with the Center for Bioenvironmental Research. The laboratory is designed for wild-caught and experimental laboratory populations of freshwater fishes, with facilities to culture and maintain individuals across all life stages. Currently, members of the Blum lab are carrying out research on hybridization between native and introduced Cyprinella minnows in the southeast US, to determine the influence of physical contaminants on spawning behavior and to assess the strength of postzygotic reproductive isolating barriers. Complementary ethotoxicology experiments also are underway, intended to determine whether low level chronic exposure to chemical contaminants influences spawning behavior and development of freshwater fishes.

Tulane Herbarium On April 2, 2009 the Herbarium hosted an open house for the Society of Ethnobiology which was meeting at Tulane. Our hall bulletin board showcased a few of the Tulane ethnobotanical projects done in recent years including work done in Panama, Guatemala, Yucatan and Brazil. Visitors came from as far away as Qatar. We were happy to show off our new spacious quarters and we invite all alumni to visit the herbarium at 418 Stanley Thomas Hall. Those of you who remember that wet, falling plaster in Dinwiddie will not believe your eyes! We now have excellent facilities for visiting workers. Most recently Walter Thomas from the Missouri Botanical Garden was here working on the genus Rosa for his treatment to appear in the Flora of North America. The Herbarium has just received an NSF grant to participate in a CyberFlora of Louisiana. In conjunction with seven other state herbaria, all specimens of plants collected in Louisiana will put on line and available to the public. This three year project will begin in the fall and provides for necessary equipment and student assistance. Anne S. Bradburn, Curator

Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology Tulane University 400 Lindy Boggs New Orleans, LA 70118-5698

visit us online: If you are an EEB alum, we would love to hear from you! Please send your career news to We welcome pictures and brief descriptions of what you’re up to lately!

EEB Faculty: Henry L. Bart 4054 Percival Stern Hall (504) 862-8283

Mike Blum

CONTACT INFORMATION John McLachlan TMC SL-3 Ctr Bio/Evr Rh (504) 988-6910

304 Environmental Science/Israel Bldg. (504) 862-8295

John Caruso

Cori Richards-Zawacki 308 Environmental Science/Israel Bldg. (504) 862-8288

Thomas W. Sherry

430 Lindy Boggs (504) 247-1553

EEB Office Main Number: (504) 865-5191 Fax Number: (504) 862-8706 Davi Battistella, Office Manager Amy Jenkins, Operations Manager

4024 Percival Stern Hall (504) 862-8296

Jeffrey Chambers 364 Environmental Science/Israel Bldg. (504) 862-8291

Caz Taylor 426 Lindy Boggs (504) 862-5172

Steven Darwin

Donata Henry 431 Lindy Boggs (504) 862-8299

306 Environmental Science/Israel Bldg. (504) 862-5549

Bruce Fleury 4030 Stern Building (504) 862-8290

432 Lindy Boggs (504) 865-5563

Lab Supervisors:

428 Lindy Boggs (504) 862-8286

David C. Heins

Jordan Karubian

2009 EEBIO Newsletter  

Fall 2009 Alumni Newsletter