Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources
Two recent publications from the Winfree lab give new insights on biodiversity preservation and ecosystem functionsDr. Rachael Winfree recently published an article in Ecology Letters (featured by Nature as a research highlight), which shows that the major contribution to crop pollination in New Jersey and Pennsylvania is provided by a few common native bee species, whereas many rare species contribute little to this vital ecosystem function. In a large, international study published this month in Nature Communications, Dr. Winfree and colleagues reported that wild bee species provide significant crop pollination services averaging over $3,000 per ha per year, but that these services are provided by only 2% of the species found in the countries where the research took place. Together, these studies suggest that if other ecosystem services are similar to crop pollination, then efficient conservation of ecosystem services would target only a few common species. read more
Unfortunately, such conservation actions would likely be insufficient to support threatened species. Hence, conservation of the biological diversity, at least of bees, should be motivated not only by immediate benefits from ecosystem services, but by the full richness of arguments for conservation. Co authors from Dr. Winfree's lab are postdoc Dr. Dan Cariveau, postdoc Dr. James Reilly, graduate student Faye Benjamin, and Winfree lab alumnus Dr. Ignasi Bartomeus.
See articles at Rutgers Today, wired.com, conservationmagazine.com, natureworldreport.com, latimes.com, sciencedaily.com, qz.com, independent.co.uk, theguardian.com, washingtonpost.com
Students Contribute to the Success of the Delaware Bay Shorebird ProjectWith red knots and ruddy turnstones in hand, students in the undergraduate Field Techniques course contributed to the success of the annual Delaware Bay Shorebird Project. Their participation in this activity is an annual happening under the tutelage of Professor Rick Lathrop and the watchful supervision of alumnus Dr. Larry Niles of LJ Niles Associates LLC, head of the International Shorebird Project and the Habitat Conservation Initiative of Conserve Wildlife NJ, and alumna Dr. Amanda Dey of the Endangered and Nongame Species Program in NJ Department of Environmental Protection. read more
Slim Karkar publishes a paper in PNAS on the evolution of metabolic connectivity in algaeSlim's paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA (PNAS) is part of a collaborative research project in the Bhattacharya lab with Dr. Andreas Weber in Germany on the evolution of metabolite transporters that line the inner membrane of photosynthetic organelles, the plastids. Plastids are the workhorses of primary production on our planet and provide the air we breathe. Using genomics and cell biology Slim and his co-authors figured out that most plastid transporters are of host nuclear origin with some key components provided by foreign bacteria through horizontal gene transfer (HGTs). This work supports the hypothesis that the creation of new organelles is directed by the host cell, with the endosymbiont making a smaller contribution to host-plastid connectivity. Slim's work and ideas can be incorporated into the nascent field of synthetic biology, whereby scientists are trying to engineer artificial symbioses that provide platforms for biofuel or other biotechnological uses. read more
While in the Bhattacharya lab, Post-doctoral fellow Slim Karkar was supported by a collaborative Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation grant led by Paul Falkowski and took part in research that addressed redox enzyme evolution in deep time. He has completed his research stay at Rutgers, New Brunswick and is now employed at our sister institution in Camden. There, he is working with bioinformaticist and systems biologist Prof. Desmond Lun.
Our interdisciplinary department specializes in ecology, evolution, and natural resource conservation. We study the evolutionary origins and maintenance of biodiversity, conserving and restoring native ecosystems, and issues of global change such as managing natural resources within urban ecosystems.