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The E3B department is delighted to announce that Dr. Thomas Bytnerowicz has won the 2020 Don Jay Melnick Award!
Named in honor of one of the founders of our department, the Melnick Award recognizes outstanding dissertation work and other departmental activities. Tom’s entire dissertation is incredibly elegant and rigorous. His first chapter developed a new method for measuring nitrogen fixation, which has opened new doors for an entire field, and set the stage for his second and third chapters. His second chapter overturns a decade-long assumption about the temperature response of nitrogen fixation, changing both our fundamental understanding and how people model nitrogen fixation. His third chapter provides the first answer to the question “how long does it take for nitrogen fixation to turn on or off?” and simultaneously provides an explanation for why some soils become very nitrogen rich. His fourth chapter made the novel observation that the successional distribution of nitrogen-fixing trees is bimodal, and provided an elegant theoretical explanation for the observation. He accomplished this groundbreaking work while raising two great kids, and was awarded with a prestigious postdoc fellowship from UT Austin.
Congratulations Tom!

Fall fieldwork in Black Rock Forest! 

Aria Pereira (left), Sian Kou-Giesbrecht (middle), and Palani Akana (right) celebrated a successful harvest of the rooting system of a Robinia pseudoacacia tree sapling.

The harvest was the end of the Menge lab‘s NSF-funded experiment, for which the Black Rock staff were instrumental.


Congratulations to the Cords lab!

Members of the Cords lab swept the poster awards at Northeastern Evolutionary Primatology meetings on November 8th and 9th.

Rachel Donabedian (center) won first prize, and Holly Fuong (left) and Amanda Johnston (right) tied for second.

The Tick App - YT Vid

E3B Professor Maria Diuk-Wasser and Postdoctoral Research Scientist Pilar Fernandez discuss fighting ticks with a tap of your phone.

The Tick App, created by Diuk-Wasser, is a free app aimed at combatting Lyme disease. You can track when and how you are exposed to ticks, while Diuk-Wasser and her team learn more about tick activity to identify areas of high tick risk and help prevent exposure. Click HERE to watch them discuss their study!


Check out our E3Botanists! 

PhD student Patrick McKenzie and MA student Jared Meek spent their summer doing fieldwork in the Hengduan Mountains of China and Tibet for Professor Deren Eaton‘s lab.

10 day old House Sparrow-cropped

Our PhD student Stefanie Siller is out in Fargo, ND working on the impacts of intergenerational stress on house sparrows.

First, they color the house sparrow chicks to keep track of them in their nest. They then take measurements of the birds until they are 10 days old (as pictured above), the age at which they begin to fledge. Finally, they band them and hope the birds come back as adults!


Congratulations to E3B PhD students Pooja Choksi, Sarika Khanwilkar, and Vijay Ramesh who received an Early Career Grant from National Geographic Society’s Committee for Research and Exploration for ‘Project Dhvani: Eavesdropping on Biodiversity for Ecological and Social Benefits’!

This grant will aid the Project Dhvani team to carry out fieldwork in central India during 2019 and 2020.

To find out more about Project Dhvani (Dhvani is the Sanskrit word for sound) and to stay updated on their work, click here!


Our PhD students Vijay Ramesh, Pooja Choksi, and Sarika Khanwilkar have received a grant from Advanced Consortium on Cooperation, Conflict, and Complexity (AC4) for Project Dhvani

The emerging technology of acoustics is opening a new window into capturing the diversity of sounds from insects, amphibians, birds, and mammals. Low-cost and time-efficient acoustic technology offers novel possibilities for a wide audience to appreciate biodiversity and for local resource managers to identify where and when diversity is under threat across areas of human-wildlife conflict. ‘Project Dhvani’ will use non-invasive audio recorders across a landscape of remarkable stronghold of biodiversity in India: the dry tropical forests of central India. This project will aim to understand how biodiversity varies across human-dominated land cover types in central India using sounds.

Project Dhvani is a collaborative undertaking of three young scientists, local non-governmental and academic institutions and the state Forest Departments in India. This team consists of Vijay Ramesh, who examines the effects of land-use and climate change on biodiversity; Pooja Choksi, who studies patterns of forest degradation and co-existence and Sarika Khanwilkar, who quantifies the relationships and feedback between people and the environment. You can learn more about the project at


Dr. Sara Kross, Director of the Master’s program in E3B, recently co-authored a publication for farmers about ‘Supporting Beneficial Birds and Managing Pest Birds.’

This freely-available resource was launched with two farmer field days in Northern California in March, where Dr. Kross spoke to row-crop farmers in Yolo County and to grape-growers in Napa County. Dr. Kross also recently wrote an article about beneficial birds for Organic Farmer Magazine.


Congratulations to E3B MA student Emily Weisenberger!


Emily has been selected as a resident scholar for summer 2019 at the New York City Urban Field Station, which is jointly run by the USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station and the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. Emily will work on her project studying white-tailed deer vigilance behavior in response to coyote presence in New York City parks. For her project, she is working with faculty at E3B, at the American Museum of Natural History, and with scientists from the Gotham Coyote Project.

Pallavi Kache Photo

Congratulations to our PhD student, Pallavi Kache!

Pallavi received a 2019–2020 U.S. Fulbright Student Award to Colombia to pursue her dissertation research on the ecology and epidemiology of mosquito-borne diseases in urban environments. Urbanization has contributed to the dramatic rise of diseases such as dengue, Zika, and Chikungunya in recent years. However, the quantification of urban transformation on the risk of such diseases remains understudied, particularly the effects of neighborhood composition/configuration, population density, and human social behavior on mosquito populations. To address these gaps in knowledge, Pallavi will integrate household surveys, entomological fieldwork, and satellite/drone imagery with mathematical models to understand urban mosquito ecology and its link with disease transmission. This work will be conducted in Ibagué, Colombia in collaboration with the Universidad de los Andes.

As rapid urbanization continues in Latin America and across the globe, it is imperative that policymakers understand the human health impacts. With continued research at the intersection of landscape ecology, urban planning, and infectious disease epidemiology, Pallavi’s PhD work aims to contribute to increasing urban resilience to mosquito-borne epidemics.

Sarika India headshot

Congratulations to our PhD student, Sarika Khanwilkar!

Sarika was named a 2019-2020 U.S. Fulbright Student to India. Her research aims to quantify the potential recovery of forests from recently-introduced programs that reduce fuelwood demand and collection.

Sarika’s Fulbright project involves two main components, vegetation and household surveys for research and community engagement, and will take place in human settlements and forest surrounding Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) in Maharasha, India. After data collection at each study site, Sarika will host a village-wide event. In partnership with Jackson Wild, she will showcase films from the United Nations’ International Big Cat Film Festival. In addition, she will show Tigers and Chandrapur, a film made by TRACT based on communities in fringe forests of TATR, and lead youth in educational activities based on the film. The activities have been developed by Felicita Wight, Allie Erickson, Johanna Jensen, Maria Mills, and Elizabeth Bonert, who are volunteers with Wild Tiger.

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