University of Maryland Maile C. Neel  
Natural Resource Sciences & Landscape Architecture



Maile C. Neel Maile Neel, Associate Professor
Director, Norton-Brown Herbarium
Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture
& Department of Entomology
2116 Plant Sciences Building
College Park, Maryland 20742-4452

Office Phone (301) 405-9780
Cellular Phone (301) 395-0403
Fax: (301) 413-9308

Ph.D. University of California Riverside, Department of Botany and Plant Science 2000
Master of Science, University of California Santa Barbara Department of Biology, 1994
B.A. Environmental Biology and Conservation, Humboldt State University 1985

Early signs of interest in plant dispersal

Curriculum Vitae

 Mike Lloyd Michael Lloyd, Ph.D. Candidate Plant Science Graduate Program

M.S. Biology, Towson State University May 2007
B.S. Loyola College in Maryland 2005

Michael has been studying multiple aspects of the genetic diversity of Vallisneria americana in the Chesapeake Bay. He has quantified genetic diversity at naturally occurring sites representing its range in the Chesapeake Bay and its major tributaries. He has found a wide range of clonal diversity within sites and that differentiation among sites is organized into four genetic regions in the Bay that have implications for restoration (Lloyd et al. 2011).

Michael has also examined the impact restoration practices have had on genetic diversity of restored sites. ( Lloyd et al. 2011).

He has also been linking the observed genetic diversity patterns with potential and functional connectivity of the species. Using graph theoretic techniques he has been examining the patterns of landscape level connectivity at a range of potential dispersal distances. He is linking the distribution of habitat in the Bay with actual movement of pollen using a technique that relies on genotyping maternal tissue and offspring to infer paternity of the offspring. The inferred paternity is then used to calculate the distances over which pollen is dispersed. His research is part of a larger collaborative effort with the lab of Dr. Katia Engelhardt at the University of Maryland Appalachian Lab and has been funded by SeaGrant Maryland and the Maryland Agricultural Experiment Station.

Prior to his work UMD, Mike worked on examining the genetic diversity of Arabidopsis lyrata including potential for local adaptation using a combination of molecular and reciprocal transplant and common garden experiments.

Curriculum Vitae

 Brittany Brittany West, Ph.D. Candidate Marine Estuarine Environmental Science Program (MEES)

B.S. Biology, University of Richmond 2008
Brittany is investigating how the potential for acclimation or adaptation varies in the submersed aquatic plant species Vallisneria americana (wild celery) at local, regional, and macrogeographic scales across the Atlantic coast. This question is particularly pertinent as populations of SAV that have already experienced global declines from stressors such as increased nutrient and sediment inputs, physical disturbances, competition with non-native species, and loss of habitat connectivity are further being stressed by the ongoing effects of climate change.

To determine how the potential for acclimation and adaptation varies among individuals within sites, among sites within regions, and among regions she is quantifying the genetic diversity and differentiation of populations sampled from across the latitudinal gradient. She will then investigate the links between genetic diversity and the phenotypic responses of different genotypes as well as look for evidence of local adaption of populations along local and regional environmental gradients. The results of this research will provide information on how local conditions have affected diversity within V. americana occurrences and will provide insight into the potential for adaptation to the future conditions anticipated under climate change.

Prior to the University of Maryland, Brittany worked as an undergraduate on two projects that examined variations in population and community composition of host organisms and their symbionts. In one project she and her collaborators characterized the effects of different suits of symbiotic bacterial communities on the phenotype, larval behavior, and distributional patterns of two species of Chesapeake Bay sponge, Clathria prolifera and Halichondria bowerbanki. In a separate project she found evidence that several symbiotic associations involving arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi with ferns of the mid-Atlantic are driven by environmental factors as opposed to fern root morphology.

Undergraduate Students

 Hayley Hayley Tumas

Hayley helps with DNA extraction and PCR, planting in the greenhouse, field collecting, and just about anything that needs to be done to keep the Vallisneria projects moving along. She has been awarded an HHMI grant for summer 2012 to support her independent research project evaluating the potential ecosystem service benefits of meeting the light requirements of the total maximum daily load standards for the Chesapeake Bay.

 Paul Paul Widmeyer

Paul has been using GIS technology to develop potential habitat models for Vallisneria americana in the Chesapeake Bay based on bathymetry, water quality data, and mapped distributions of submersed aquatic vegetation. He is also developing resistance surfaces that will provide the basis for quantifying potential and actual connectivity among patches of Vallisneria.

 Lessley Lessley Peterson

Lessley is an Environmental Science & Technology major who helps maintain the Vallisneria plants in the greenhouse. She has also assisted with major field collecting trips and helps process all sorts of samples associated with the Vallisneria project. Other tasks have included planting freshly collected shoots, preparing tissue for DNA extraction. She also conducted an independent research project examining the reproductive success of crosses between Vallisneria from Florida and the Chesapeake. For this research she spent a lot of time measuring seed and capsule traits and monitoring germination. She presented her results to the Mid-Atlantic Section of the Ecological Society of America and at the UM Undergraduate research day.

Research Assistant

 Paul Niko Anderson

Niko graduated from the UMD Plant Sciences Program in December, 2011 and joined the lab to finalize a synoptic Web-based key to woody plants of the Mid-Atlantic region. This work is a perfect blend of his combined expertise in plant science and computer programming. Additionally he is developing the Website for the Norton-Brown Herbarium that will host the key. Niko will also be working on databasing the collection of the Norton-Brown Herbarium.

Honorary Affiliates

 Sara Sara Ziegler

Sara was a Ph.D. student in the Geography Department. She is evaluating the importance of integrating spatial data in population viability modeling. For her dissertation research she is working with Ruth DeFries and Bill Fagan but we have adopted her and she has an RAship in the lab working on endangered species recovery. Prior to starting the Ph.D. program she graduated from the UMD Conservation and Sustainability program.

Sara is now a Post Doctoral Researcher at Virginia Tech where she works on Red Cockaded Woodpecker demographic modeling.

In the small amount of spare time she has, Sara also raced for the University of Maryland Cycling Team and for a number of different local teams as USCF Cat 3

 Eric Eric Lind

Eric was a Ph.D. student in the Behavior Ecology and Systematics (BEES) program and he was affiliated with the Entomology Department where he worked with Pedro Barbosa. He was been adopted into the lab through an RAship working on endangered species recovery.

For his dissertation research Eric used theoretical and empirical tools of community ecology to examine the structure of an assemblage of forest macrolepidopteran larvae (moth caterpillars) sharing a single host plant (Acer negundo). He examined life history differences between abundant and scarce species at a local scale using a phylogenetically controlled approach. He also examined the macroecological patterns produced in a long-term survey dataset, comparing different theoretical models and their predictions against this intensively sampled assemblage abundance information. In addition he is interested in the spatial variance of the assemblage depending on landscape features such as isolation, and in the effect of plants other than the host on the composition of the focal assemblage. He is otherwise generally fond of caterpillar behavior and ecology but he is not as fond of wearing skin tight lycra as many of the rest of us. In May 2008 Eric obtained a Post Doctoral Fellowship through the Smithsonian Institution.

Curriculum Vitae

Past Lab Members

 Joanna Joanna Grand, NSF Post Doctoral Fellow in Biological Informatics (March 2005-2007),
Post Doctoral Researcher March 2007-2011

Ph.D. University of Massachusetts Organismic and Evolutionary Biology May 2004
Master of Environmental Studies, Yale University Conservation Biology Science May 1995
B.A. Vassar College Psychology May 1990

The goal of Joanna's research is to predict the consequences of using reserve selection algorithms to select nature reserves when only poor biological data are available. Reserve selection algorithms represent a significant improvement over ad-hoc reserve selection methods; however, they are extremely data-intensive. Many regions most in need of conservation effort lack the economic resources necessary to obtain the extensive data these algorithms require. In collaboration with Dr. Mike Cummings (University of Maryland) and Dr. Taylor Ricketts (World Wildlife Fund) she is evaluating the effects of poor and biased data on species representation in reserves by subsampling well-known species distributions to reflect realistic sampling in data-poor areas.

Her previous research includes demographic modeling to predict the effects of a combination of conservation strategies on threatened loggerhead sea turtle populations; multi-scaled variance partitioning of species-environment relationships in threatened bird and moth communities; using landscape associations to predict the distribution of bird and moth rarity hotspots in a pine barrens community to inform conservation priority setting; and comparing fine and coarse-filter conservation prioritization methods.

Curriculm vitae

 Joe Joe Hereford, Post Doctoral Researcher, NSF Minority Postdoctoral Fellow

PhD Florida State University Department of Biological Science September 2005
B.S. University of New Orleans Biological Sciences May 1997

Joe's research goal is to understand how populations respond to natural selection. In the past he has used methods such as field-based evolutionary ecology, quantitative and population genetics as well as meta-analysis to address basic questions about natural selection, adaptation, and speciation. His specific research goal is to understand how microevolutionary processes lead to complex adaptations. We know that there is strong selection on trait means and variances, but how does this selection translate into the spectacular array of adaptations that we see in nature? One adaptation that can provide a model of how these complex adaptations evolves is C4 photosynthesis. There have been multiple origins of this mode of photosynthesis, and Joe is working with a species that occurs under a wide climatic range, and is intermediate in characteristics between C4 and the ancestral C3 modes. In the Neel lab he continued to develop molecular tools to study the ecological genetics of this species including using next generation sequencing approaches.

Allison Leidner, Post Doctoral Researcher

Ph.D. North Carolina State University, Department of Zoology, 2009
M.S. Stanford University, Department of Biological Sciences, 2003
B.S. Stanford University, Department of Biological Sciences, 2002

Allison is broadly interested in the conservation of rare and endangered species. At the University of Maryland, she will be using bioinformatic approaches to develop scientifically defensible recovery goals for threatened and endangered species in the United States. Allison's dissertation research examined how urban and agricultural fragmentation affected butterfly communities, and particularly focused on conservation strategies to ameliorate the effects of habitat fragmentation.

In addition to the biological aspects of conservation, she is interested in the intersection of science and policy, and promoting communication between scientists, policy-makers, and the general public. Allison left the lab to accept a prestigious AAAS postdoctoral fellowship where she is working with NASA on climate change issues.

 Lesley C. Lesley Campbell, Post Doctoral Researcher

Ph.D. Ohio State University Department of Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology (EEOB) 2007
Master of Science, University of Guelph, Integrative Biology 2001
B.Sc. Plant Biology, University of Guelph 1998

Lesley's primary research interests center around mechanisms driving population dynamics of both rare and invasive species. For her dissertation, she worked with Dr. Allison Snow on NSF and USDA-sponsored projects to test the general hypothesis that hybridization stimulates the evolution of invasive weeds, using the Raphanus crop-weed complex. Her work produced several important insights for the fields of evolutionary ecology and crop- wild hybridization. For instance, local selection gradients can significantly alter rates of crop allele introgression. Further, phenotypic evolution via selection occurs more rapidly in hybrid populations than non-hybrid populations.

Her M.S. research with Dr. Brian Husband (University of Guelph, Canada) focused on the relative importance of evolutionary and ecological factors in pollen limitation of natural plant populations (Hymenoxys herbacea) over a range of population sizes. This work generated conservation recommendations to the Canadian government and made key advances in understanding how functional genetic diversity and clonality may limit the reproductive success of a rare plant.

Lesley is now a faculty member in the Department of Chemistry and Biology at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada.

 David David Luther, Post Doctoral Researcher

Ph.D.University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill May 2008
B.S. University of Oregon at Eugene December 1995

David is interested in terrestrial vertebrate species, primarily in ecology of tropical bird species. He is especially interested in research questions at the interface of animal behavior, ecology, and evolution, and conservation applications.

He was involved with data collection to examine the life history traits of federally listed threatened and endangered species as described in their recovery plans to find correlations between life history traits, abundanance, and threats that may allow us to set defensible recovery objectives for these species.

 Ali in the field Alison Parker, Research Assistant

Ali was a Research Assistant in the lab working on effects of habitat fragmentation on pollination, reproductive success and gene flow in the endangered plant species Agalinis acuta. She is now at University of Toronto doing a Ph.D. in the lab of James Thompson.

 Robert B Robert Burnett, Research Assistant

Robert finished his B.S. in Environmental Science & Policy with a concentration in Biodiversity and Conservation Biology in Fall 2007. He began working in the lab as an undergrad and he was simply too awesome to let him go when he graduated. He developed microsatellite loci to use for to gauging the amount and distribution of genetic diversity present in populations of the submerged aquatic plant Vallisneria americana. Genetic data gathered from the microsatellite screening process is being used in field experiments to see the effects of genetic diversity on survival and growth in restoration efforts. Ultimately, information gathered from this project will guide restoration using V. americana in the Chesapeake Bay.

Robert spent the summer of 2006 and winter break of '06-'07 at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) in Edgewater, MD as an intern in the Plant Ecology Lab studying the relationship between a native orchid, Tipularia discolor, and its mycorrhizal symbionts, many of which have not yet even been desrcribed taxonomically.

Also a former music student at UMD, Robert is an avid musician who plays violin in both classical ensembles and local bands and jams/open mics. It was a great loss (although we are all happy for him) when he moved on from the lab in 2010 to pursue his social and spiritual callings.

 Jamie at Brandywine Jamie Pettengill, Ph.D. Student Behavior Ecology and Systematics (BEES)

M.S. Biology, University of North Carolina Greensboro May 2003
B.A. Biology, Earlham College May 1999

Jamie examined phylogenetic relationships among a number of closely related Agalinis species in the section Erectae using a combination of molecular (microsatellites and anonymous nuclear sequences) and morphological data. This section of the genus includes a number of state-rare species as well as the federally-listed Agalinis acuta. Understanding levels of distinctiveness among the putative taxa in this section is critical to setting conservation priorities.

As for hobbies, Jamie was all about cycling (USCF Category 2 and races collegiate A's for the University of Maryland Cycling Team), music, politics, and soccer (Div III All-American).

 Christina Christina Kennedy, Ph.D. Candidate Behavior Ecology and Systematics (BEES)

Master of Environmental Management, Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University 2000
B.S., Cornell University 1997

Christina's research examined how patterns of land conversion in the tropics affect species diversity and persistence. In particular she investigated how habitat mosaics and fragmentation patterns interact with species' traits and interspecific relationships to affect the vulnerability and response of birds to land use change in Jamaica. Ultimately this will help us understand how life history traits relate to patterns of species persistence and abundance in fragmented landscapes with the goal of improving their potential to support native biodiversity.

Christina was co-advised by Dr. William Fagan and her research is conducted in conjunction with UMD and the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center (Dr. Peter Marra's lab). Support was provided by by U.S. Fulbright Student Fellows Program, Smithsonian James Bond Trust Fund, the NASA Earth System Science Fellowship, the Cosmos Club, and the Explorers Club Washington Exploration & Field Research Grant.

Prior to the University of Maryland, Christina worked for three years as the Science & Policy Analyst for the Environmental Law Institute, as a Spatial Analyst for the Avian Lab at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, and in various research positions for the University of Hawaii, the State Department of Land & Natural Resources, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Hawaii.

Christina is now a scientist for The Nature Conservancy working on the Natural Capital project. Curriculum Vitae

 Joe Joe Ferrari, Masters Degree 2005 Natural Resource Sciences

M.S. University of Cincinnati Aerospace Engineering April 1995
B.S. Pennsylvania State University Aerospace Engineering April 1993

Joe evaluated the behavior of graph theory metrics across gradients in habitat area. He used forested habitats in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed for this evaluation. Graph theory holds great promise for quantifying habitat connectivity based on gap crossing abilities of particular organisms. This evaluation will allow greater understanding results from species and landscape specific analyses.

In addition to doing his research Joe was a TA in Woody Plants for Mid-Atlantic Landscapes fall semester 2004.

Joe is now working for Todd Lookingbill at the Appalachian Lab in Frostburg, Maryland.

Graduated Undergraduate Research Assistants

 John John Fuetsch
Pomona College
775.338.3221 cell

John was the "resident" expert database designer/programmer and Web designer. He developed the lab Website and is working on several database projects. He did all of this from his current home in Claremont, California where he was a student at Pomona College.

Photo Coming Soon Marcy Lewis

Marcy was in the undergraduate Honors Program at University of Maryland. In addition to keeping up with her heavy course loads Marcy does DNA extractions and PCR to help keep research in the lab progressing. She was the first person to join the lab when I arrived at UMD.

 Laura T Laura Templeton-Brandt

Laura did an independent study project investigating the role of genetic data in conservation decision making and examining the threats to endangered plant species from invasive species. She finished her B.S. in Plant Science in in spring 2008.

 Kristy Kristy Sikorski

Kristy was a Landscape Management major who spent winter break 2005 helping put together the lab manual for the second semester of the woody plants course. She was also on the University of Maryland team that competed in the 2005 PLANET Career Days; her specialty was - no surprise - woody plant identification.

 Allison Allison Kuzniar

Allison was a double major in Business and Landscape Management and competed on the University of Maryland Women's Water Polo Team. Her job in the lab was to compile the data necessary to build Web-based synoptic keys of the woody plants of the Mid-Atlantic Region. Don't be fooled, this is a REALLY fun way to spend your summer! Luckily for her she also had an internship with Garden Gate Nursery so she got to spend time outside in the fabulous Mid-Atlantic heat and humidity.

 Adam Adam Pyle

Adam contributed to developing a database of landscape characteristics for the woody plants that are used in landscaping in the Mid-Atlantic region. When this database is finished students will be able to use it to learn about landscape uses of ~400 species.

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Direct questions and comments to Maile Neel