Nichole Barger received her B.A. from the The Evergreen State College (1995), M.S. from the University of California, Berkeley (1998), and Ph.D. from Colorado State University (2003). Dr. Barger examined the constraints to colonization of an invasive African grass in Venezuela for her masters work, which was conducted under the supervision of Dr. Carla D’Antonio. Her dissertation research focused on nitrogen cycling in biological soil crusts in the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region, China and Canyonlands National Park, Utah. This research was conducted in collaboration with Dr. Dennis Ojima from Colorado State University and Dr. Jayne Belnap with the USGS in Moab, Utah. The research conducted within Canyonlands National Park was supported by the Canon National Parks Science Scholars Program. Dr. Barger continued her work on the Colorado Plateau as a post-doctoral research scientist at the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR) at the University of Colorado, Boulder. She worked in collaboration with Dr. Connie Woodhouse , director of the INSTAAR Dendrochronology Laboratory. Dr. Barger explored the role of land use change such as livestock grazing and the natural range in climate variability in pinyon-juniper woodland expansion on the Colorado Plateau. She conducted her work in Canyonlands National Park, Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, and Zion National Park.
Jason Fridley received his B.A. from Bennington College in 1997 and his Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2002. His doctoral work, under the direction of Robert Peet, focused on the reationship between local plant diversity and ecosystem production in different environmental contexts. Dr. Fridley's NPER Fellowship project shifted his focus from small-scale plant diversity to the regional-scale floristic diversity of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Using null models and new approaches to gradient analysis (developed in the Smokies over 50 years ago by Robert Whittaker), Dr. Fridley examined the nature of spatial species turnover along broad environmental gradients (climate, soil, topography) to better understand the regional controls of floristic diversity. Floristic patterns from the Smokies were compared to those from other national parks throughout the country using vegetation data from the NPS Vegetation Mapping project and a high-resolution climate database. More information about Dr. Fridley's interests and research is online at www.unc.edu/~fridley.
Jennifer Nagel received her B.S. degree in Environmental Science and English in 1997 from Allegheny College in northwestern Pennsylvania. She then earned her Ph.D. from Columbia University in 2003 in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences. Her dissertation research with Dr. Kevin Griffin focused on elucidating physiological mechanisms that could influence the performance of invasive nonindigenous plant species in native communities under ambient environmental conditions and with changes in resource availability. As an NPER Post-Doctoral Fellow, she joined the laboratory of Dr. Jake Weltzin in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Tennessee. Dr. Nagel’s NPER Fellowship project focused on examining how physiological properties, in particular the balance of energetic gains and costs, could influence plant community composition, processes of plant species’ invasion, and their responses to environmental changes in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. She examined energetic properties of co-occurring invasive and native plant species in old-field communities within the Park and relate these properties to their relative community-level performance. This study was linked to an ongoing project at the nearby Oak Ridge National Environmental Research Park designed to assess the responses of invasive and native old-field species to changes in multiple interacting environmental manipulations of atmospheric CO2, air temperature, and soil water availability.
Bibit Halliday Traut
Bibit Halliday Traut received her B.A. in Biology and M.S. in Marine Sciences from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Her thesis focused on examining the natural history and feeding ecology of a large herbivorous kelp forest snail. Dr. Traut then received a M.S. in Botany and Plant Pathology from Oregon State University where her thesis focused on the effects of variation in ecosystem carryover on biodiversity and community structure of forest floor bryophytes and understory vascular plants. In 2003, Dr. Traut completed her PhD. in Ecology from the University of California, Davis. Her doctoral work focused on the structure and function of the high salt marsh ecotone and examined the influences of grazing and nitrogen addition on community dynamics. Dr. Traut’s NPER Fellowship project continued to examine the marine/terrestrial transition zone at Point Reyes National Seashore, but more specifically examined the relationship between plant diversity and ecosystem function. In collaboration with Whendee Silver and Carla D’Antonio at the University of California, Berkeley, her study examined the relationship between plant composition and nitrogen cycling. They also tested the predictions that resistance to invasion will increase in more diverse plots, and that in those plots that are invaded (e.g. by a C4 annual invader) nitrogen retention will be reduced. Coastal transition zones provide essential ecological functions regulating fluxes of nutrients, water and organisms. Biological processes in these areas of transition mediate nitrogen retention and removal. As we are faced with rapid destruction of these crucial “filters,” it is imperative to increase our understanding of the consequences of biodiversity on ecosystem function. Results from this study provided important information for the greater scientific community, as well as managers charged with conserving and restoring the marine/terrestrial transition zone.