Faculty and Staff
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Scott J Meiners
Office: 1116 - Life Science Annex
My research interests generally revolve around factors that influence the dynamics and regeneration of plant communities. Most of this research has been conducted in abandoned agricultural land. While not the most exotic of research sites, the abundance of these areas makes it an important part of our modern landscape. By understanding factors that influence the dynamics of vegetation change in these areas, we may be able to improve land management strategies. I use a variety of experimental, observational and statistical techniques to address these research topics. I have summarized a few current research questions below. If you are interested in getting involved in undergraduate research or in the graduate program at Eastern, and think that you would like to work with me, please contact me.
Buell-Small Succession Study.
I am currently the leader of the Buell-Small Succession Study (BSS) – the longest continuous study of succession dynamics. While the larger group has varied interests, I have focused on using the long-term vegetation data to answer questions on the causes and consequences of exotic plant invasions. This work has been funded by the USDA and NSF and is in collaboration with Steward T. A. Pickett and Mary L. Cadenasso at the Institute of Ecosystem Studies and with Peter J. Morin atRutgers University. I currently have NSF grant support for two MS students/year to work on this project. More information on the BSS can be found on its website: www.ecostudies.org/bss.
The once continuous forest that covered most of the eastern United States is all but a memory now, persisting as isolated fragments. I am interested in the ecological consequences of this fragmentation, particularly as it relates to the ability of trees to reproduce within these forest fragments. This was the topic of my Dissertation research at Rutgers University but continues to be of interest to me. Many questions remain unanswered, especially in dealing with the effects of edges on plant-animal interactions such as seed predation or herbivory.
My passion has been, and probably always will be in understanding tree biology. I currently have projects dealing with the regeneration of oak trees across forest edges and the establishment and reproduction of eastern red cedar in old fields. My main interests lie in how individual species of trees respond differently to the environment. My research has included studies on competition, herbivory, seed predation, seedling growth and mortality. I use a variety of tree species in an attempt to understand how these factors shape the composition and spatial pattern of forest communities.
The ecology of invasion.
Much of our current work, and the focus of my current NSF support, is on the biology of exotic plant species. I am specifically interested in determining the mechanisms of impacts as well as in understanding the dynamics of these invasions in natural systems. I am also working on quantifying the differences between native and exotic communities as a whole. Recent work has specifically focused on three species, Lonicera japonica, Rosa multiflora, and Microstegium vimineum (pictured to the right).
It is my firm belief that students need to design and develop their own research program as part of their education. Therefore, my students are all free to study whatever research topic interests them. Below are some current student and recent research projects being done in my lab. If you are interested in joining my group, please contact me!
(MS Student) Sugar maples are expanding within many forests in the Midwestern United States and represent a major conservation concern. My work aims to 1) determine stand characteristics which favor the selective recruitment of sugar maple over oak species and 2) compare the microclimactic conditions associated with maple regeneration in contrast to other species to determine habitat selectivity. The ultimate goal of this work is to generate management guidelines to preserve oak-hickory forests.
(MS Student) Nikki’s research interests lie in understanding the chemical interactions among plants, particularly allelopathy. Allelopathy is the chemical inhibition of other plants through chemicals released from leaf litter or other plant parts. Nikki’s research investigates the role of allelochemicals in determining 1) the abundance of goldenrod species in succession and 2) their impacts on associated plant species using both the BSS data and laboratory assays.
(MS Student) Habitat fragmentation is a major threat to biodiversity, but may also play a role in the regeneration of communities adjacent to remnant habitats. Though the successional recovery of disturbed areas is primarily thought of as a temporal process, it is also inherently a spatial process. Kim’s research uses the BSS data to determine the range of species’ response to edges in succession and to determine the population level mechanisms (dispersal and environmental filters) which drive those responses.
(Undergraduate) Natalie is also interested in allelopathy. Species are typically considered to be allelopathic or not, while very little work has been done to determine under which condition a species will be more or less allelopathic. Natalie has conducted an experimental study of Solidago canadensis to determine if the strength of its allelopathy varies in response to light and soil fertility.
Jamie Jordan (MS 2004) Thesis: The eastern box turtle (Terrepene c. carolina) as a dispersal vector of seeds and spores. USDA ARS, TN
Kathryn Yurkonis (MS 2005) Thesis: Plant species turnover as a mechanism of community change in response to biotic and abiotic perturbation. PhD Candidate, Iowa State
Brent Wachholder (MS 2006) Thesis: Quantifying impacts of white-tailed deer on woodland plant communities. USDA Phytoprotection officer, IL
Elise Tulloss (MS 2006) Thesis: Defining edge gradients using plant species composition in oak-hickory forests. PhD Candidate, UC Davis
Bill Stewart (MS 2006) Thesis: The effects of remnant seed source size on plant performance in a prairie restoration. Lab technician, UC Davis
Steve Banasiak (MS 2007) Thesis: Long term population dynamics of Rosa multiflora in a successional system. High School Teacher, IL
Jeremy Klass (MS 2008) Thesis: Soil variability and its influence on plant performance. PhD Candidate New Mexico State University. PhD Candidate New Mexico State University.
BreAnne Nott (BS 2008) Honor’s thesis: Edge influences on the reproductive success of Symphoricarpos orbiculatus. PhD Candidate Washington State University.
Timothy Rye (MS 2008) Long-term functional trait dynamics in abandoned agricultural fields. Illinois Natural History Survey.
Matt Burmeister (MS 2008) The influence of seed source on vegetative and reproductive performance of three common prairie grasses common in grassland restoration. Consultant, IL.
Laura Ladwig (MS 2009) Ecology and impacts of lianas in regenerating forests. PhD Student, University of New Mexico.
Ladwig, L. M. and S. J. Meiners. In Press. Spatio-temporal dynamics of lianas during 50 years of succession to temperate forest. Ecology.
Pisula, N. L. and S. J. Meiners. In Press. Allelopathic effects of goldenrod species on turnover in successional communities. American Midland Naturalist.
S. T. A. Pickett, S. J. Meiners, and M. L. Cadenasso. In Press. Domain and propositions of succession theory. In The theory of ecology, S. M. Scheiner and M. R. Willig, eds. University of Chicago Press.
Meiners, S. J., T. A. Rye, and J. R. Klass. 2009. On a level field: The utility of studying native and non-native species in successional systems. Applied Vegetation Science. 12:45-53.
Banasiak, S. E. and S. J. Meiners. 2009. Long-term dynamics of Rosa multiflora in a successional system. Biological Invasions 11:215-224.
S. J. Meiners, M. L. Cadenasso and S. T. A. Pickett. 2007. Succession on the Piedmont of New Jersey and its implication for ecological restoration. Pp 145-161 In V. A. Cramer and R. J. Hobbs (eds.) Old fields: Dynamics and restoration of abandoned farmland. Island Press.
S. J. Meiners. 2007. Apparent competition: an impact of exotic shrub invasion on tree regeneration. Biological Invasions 9:849-855.
S. J. Meiners. 2007. Native and exotic plant species exhibit similar population dynamics during succession. Ecology 88:1098-1104.
Yurkonis, K. A., S. J. Meiners, and B. E. Wachholder. 2005. Invasion impacts diversity through altered community dynamics. Journal of Ecology 93:1053-1061.
Meiners, S. J., M. L. Cadenasso and S. T. A. Pickett. 2004. Beyond biodiversity: multiple responses of invasion in a self-assembling community. Ecology Letters 7:121-126.
Meiners, S. J., S. T .A. Pickett, and S. N Handel. 2002. Probability of tree seedling establishment changes across a forest-old field edge gradient. American Journal of Botany. 89:466-471.
Meiners, S. J. and S. N. Handel 2000. Additive and non-additive effects of herbivory and competition on tree seedling mortality, growth and allocation. American Journal of Botany 87:1821-1826.