Jacob Zeldin MS Student

Major Adviser:
Andrea Kramer, PhD

Research Interests:
Plant Community Ecology, Functional Ecology, Restoration Ecology, Invasion Ecology, Plant Secondary Metabolites, Plant-Insect Interactions

Current Research:
For my master’s thesis, I am investigating functional diversity in plant communities and how it may act as a barrier to invasion, and the role that nitrogen plays in modulating this relationship. Invasive plant species are a major driver of global plant community change and substantially affect recipient ecosystems and plant community structure. Functional diversity in plant communities may act as a biotic barrier to invasion, with the complementary life-history traits of resident species preempting resources and preventing the establishment of invasive species. This relationship may be dependent on the level of nitrogen in the environment and artificially high nitrogen levels may break down the functional diversity-invasion resistance mechanism by limiting the ability of resident species to effectively preempt resources required for invasive species establishment. The results of my work will emphasize the potential value of increasing functional diversity in restoration seed mixes to increase invasion resistance in restored ecosystems. The findings of this study will also highlight issues of anthropogenic nutrient addition to natural and restored ecosystems, and how they act to alter biotic resistance to invasion.

I am also conducting an observation field study to investigate the relationship between plant community functional composition and the persistence and growth of rare plant populations in the Chicago region. I am working with the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Plants of Concern (POC) program to relate the size and growth in populations of two rare and threatened plant species (Hill’s thistle; Cirsium hilli, and wooly milkweed; Asclepias lanuginosa), to the functional compositions of their respective plant communities. The results of this study will help to establish high priority sites where rare species may be at the most risk of population decline based on the structure of their respective plant communities.

Grants and Awards:
2016 Garden Club of America Scholarship in Field Botany ($2500)