Office: 1116 - Life Science Annex
My research interests generally revolve around factors that influence the dynamics and regeneration of plant communities, though I am interested in a wide variety of topics in community ecology . Most of my 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. Recently, my research has expanded to include investigating chestnuts and hazelnuts as sustainable crops for Central Illinois as well as the ecology of riverine fish communities.
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 at The Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, Mary L. Cadenasso at UC Davis and Peter J. Morin at Rutgers University. More information on the BSS can be found on its website: www.ecostudies.org/bss. This study has provided a rich context for diverse studies of the ecology of lianas, the functional ecology of succession and the dynamics of species invasions. Current work is focusing on functional characterization of native and non-native species and on the phylogenetic patterns of community dynamics (in collaboration with Marc Cadotte, University of Toronto).
The ecology of invasion.
Much of our recent work, both experimental and using the BSS data, has been on the biology of non-native 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.
Allelopathy in communities.
In the last few years I have become interested in how allelopathy, plant-plant chemical interactions, functions in plant communities. Recent publications have described potential sources of variation in allelopathy and documented community-wide patterns in chemical production. Current work in the lab is exploring sources and consequences of variation in allelopathy, paricularly using goldenrod (Solidago canadensis) as a model system.
A long personal interest in growing nuts has now become a major research focus in my lab group. With funding from EIU and IL Sustainable Agriculture, we have set up a trial orchard for chestnuts and hazelnuts in collboration with a rural school district. This project is just beginning, but will focus on evaluating varieties for local production and compare the ecological performance of commercial cultivars and open pollinated lines. This project also has a major outreach component as it will train local students in issues of sustainable agriculture and develop programs for potential growers.
Ecology of riverine fish assemblages.
Through collaboration with EIU's fisheries biologist (Rob Colombo), we have started working on the dynamics of fish communities. Current projects include the impacts of dams on the metacommunity and genetic structure of fish, catfish movements and the dynamics of fish communities in response to disturbance.
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!
Sharon Dubosky (MS student) Evaluation of chestnut and hazelnut varieties for central Illinois
Marci Gallagher (MS student) Life history trade-offs with allelopathy in Solidago canadensis
Hanna Kruckman (MS student) Ecology of catfish populations in the Wabash River
Shannon Smith (MS Student) Effects of dams on the genetic structure of fish populations
Leo Herzberger and Emilie Pfeiffer (Undergraduates) Influence of soil microbial communities on native and non-native legumes in prairie restoration
Ashley Donnel (Undergraduate) Role of disturbance and dispersal in controlling plant-microbe interactions in plant communities
Taylor Opsahl (Undergraduate) Variation in stomatal density across hazelnut varieties as a way to predict drought tolerance
Scott Howard (MSNS HS teacher) Development of fine scale structure in prairie restoration
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. Assistant professor, University of North Dakota
Brent Wachholder (MS 2006) Thesis: Quantifying impacts of white-tailed deer on woodland plant communities. US ATF, Chicago, IL
Elise Tulloss (MS 2006) Thesis: Defining edge gradients using plant species composition in oak-hickory forests. Post Doc., UC Davis
Bill Stewart (MS 2006) Thesis: The effects of remnant seed source size on plant performance in a prairie restoration. Research associate, 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,New Mexico State
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. Post Doc., University of Wisconsin, Madison.
Lydia Miramontes Loyd (2009) Fragmentation effects on fitness in five common prairie species. Consultant, Michigan City, IN
Nikki Pisula (BS 2008,MS 2010). Does evolutionary exposure mediate allelopathic effects? Consultant, Chicago, IL
Kim Lang (MS 2010) Effects of forest edges on population dynamics in a successional system. Research technician, Bradley University
Royce Luo (MS 2012) Ecology of mycorrhizae during old field succession. Guilin Institute of Tourism, China
Peter Frey (MS 2014) Microenvironmental habitat selection of regenerating oak and maple seedlings. NRCS, IL
Ryan Hastings (MS 2014) Effects of dams on fish and macroinvertebrate communities in the Vermillion River, IL. USGS, IL
Anna Herzberger (BS 2014) Honor's thesis:Plant-microbial interactions change along a prairie restoration chronosequence Graduate student, Michigan State University
Kelsey Phipps (BS 2014) Undergraduate thesis: Impacts of soil micriobial communities on the allelopathic potential of goldenrod. D. Pharm. Concordia University
Kirstin Duffin (MS 2015) Functional ecology of leaf nutrient chemistry in a successional plant community. Science librarian, Easern Illinois University
James Megenhardt (MSNS 2015) Specificity of the allelochemical impacts of Solidago canadensis on prairie species. HS science teacher in St. Elmo, IL
Meiners, S. J., S. T. A. Pickett, and M. L. Cadenasso. 2015. An integrative approach to successional dynamics: Tempo and mode of community change. Cambridge University Press. Expected publication date - March, 2015.
Papers and book chapters:
Fenesi, A., J. Geréd, S. J. Meiners, B. Tóthmérész, P. Török, E. Ruprecht. In press. Does disturbance enhance the competitive effect of the invasive Solidago canadensis on the performance of two native grasses? Biological Invasions
Li, S., M. W. Cadotte, S. J. Meiners, Z. S. Hua, L. Jiang, W. S. Shu. In Press. Species colonization, not competitive exclusion, drives community overdispersion over long-term succession. Ecology Letters
Meiners, S. J., M.W. Cadotte, J.D. Fridley, S. T. A. Pickett and L. R. Walker. 2015. Is successional research nearing its climax? New approaches for understanding dynamic communities. Functional Ecology. 29:154-164.
Herzberger, A. J., S. J. Meiners, J. B. Towey, P. A. Butts, and D. L. Armstrong. 2015. Plant-microbe interactions change along a tallgrass prairie restoration chronosequence. Restoration Ecology. 23:220-227.
Ladwig, L. M. and S. J. Meiners. 2015. The role of lianas in temperate tree communities. Pp 190-204 InS. Schnitzer, F. Bongers, R.J. Burnham and F. E. Putz (eds.) The ecology of lianas. Wiley & Sons.
Meiners, S. J. 2014. Functional correlates of allelopathic potential in a successional plant community. Plant Ecology.215:661–672.
Pickett, S. T. A., M. L. Cadenasso,andS. J. Meiners. 2013. Vegetation dynamics. pp 107-140 In E. van der Maarel and J. Franklin (eds), Vegetation Ecology, 2nd edition . Wiley-Blackwell, New York.
Ladwig L.M., S.J. Meiners, N.L. Pisula and K. A. Lang 2012. Conditional potential allelopathy in temperate lianas. Plant Ecology 213:1927-1935.
Spyreas G., S. J. Meiners, J. W. Matthews and B. Molano-Flores. 2012. Successional trends in floristic quality. Journal of Applied Ecology. 49:339-348.
Pickett, S. T. A., S. J. Meiners, and M. L. Cadenasso. 2011. Domain and propositions of succession theory. pp 185-216 In The theory of ecology, S. M. Scheiner and M. R. Willig, eds. University of Chicago Press.
Pisula, N. L. and S. J. Meiners 2010. Relative allelopathic potential of invasive plant species in a young disturbed woodland. Journal of the Torrey Botanical Society. 137:81-87
Ladwig, L. M. and S. J. Meiners. 2010. Spatiotemporal dynamics of lianas during 50 years of succession to temperate forest. Ecology. 91:671-680.
Pickett, S. T. A., M. L. Cadenasso and S. J. Meiners. 2009. Ever since Clements: from succession to vegetation dynamics and understanding to intervention. Applied Vegetation Science. 12:9-21.
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. and S. J. Meiners. 2004. Invasion impacts species turnover in a successional system. Ecology Letters 7:764-769
Meiners, S. J., M. L. Cadenasso and S. T. A. Pickett. 2004. Beyond biodiversity: multiple responses of invasion in a self-assembling community. Ecology Letters7:121-126
Meiners, S. J., S. T. A. Pickett, and M. L. Cadenasso. 2002. Exotic plant invasions over 40 years of old field succession: community patterns and associations. Ecography. 25:215-223
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.