Lab Members

Hsun-Yi Hsieh

Food webs are complex networks of interacting organisms. I study how key biological and ecological processes structure interaction webs, and how these interactions affect population and evolutionary dynamics of focal species and their ecosystem functions. In my PhD study, I focus on trait-mediated cascading (TMC) effects induced by phorid-ant interactions. Not only can TMC facilitate energy transfer, but also it affects population dynamics and biocontrol effects of a predatory beetle.

M.S SNRE, University of Michigan; PhD candidate, Resource Ecosystem Management, SNRE, University of Michigan (expected graduation 2014)

Research Interests: food webs, trait-mediated interactions, agroecology, biological control s

Email: hhsieh@umich.edu

Maria Carolina Simao

My research focuses on how urban landscapes affect pollination services within urban gardens. Urban agriculture has been gaining prominence as a way to increase sustainability and access to healthy food within cities, and bees play an important role in the pollination of these gardens. Very urban landscapes tend to cause declines in bee populations, but whether this decline significantly affects pollination services is still not completely understood. My research aims to understand what specific factors of the urban landscape cause declines in bee populations, and what level of decline affects pollination services with urban gardens.

B.S., Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Rice University (2009), Ph.D, University of Michigan (2012 - current)

Research Interests: ecosystem services (pollination, bees), biodiversity, urban landscapes, urban agriculture, socio-environmental interactions

Email: simao@umich.edu

David Gonthier

My research is centered in our basic and applied understanding the drivers of the distribution of biodiversity and the consequences of the loss of that biodiversity.  I focus on biodiversity within agriculture because land-use conversion and the intensification of agriculture are considered the most important causes of biodiversity loss. Yet within these agroecosystems biodiversity may directly and indirectly benefit agricultural productivity and sustainability.


B.S., Biology, Hope College (2007), M.S., Biology, University of Toledo (2010), Ph.D, Natural Resources and Environment, University of Michigan (2010 - 2014)

Research Interests: dimensions of biodiversity, community ecology across modified landscapes, chemical ecology

Email: gonthier@umich.edu

Chatura Vaidya

My research interests are predominantly in the conservation and persistence of wild and native bees in human dominated and disturbed landscapes. I am interested in looking at the effects of limiting resources such as nesting sites and floral preferences along with foraging and dispersal patterns in regulating and maintaining bee populations in urban and agricultural ecosystems. Understanding connectivity of habitats, species specific traits and the population dynamics of beneficial insects can help inform land management programs in their maintenance for agroecosystems, urban landscapes as well as wild plants.


B.S. Engineering, University of Pune, India. M.S Bioengineering, Clemson University, SC, USA, Research Assistant, SNRE 2012-present

Research Interests: diversified farming systems, urban agriculture, bee conservation , biodiversity, landscape ecology

Kevin Li

I am interested in using concepts of spatial ecology and landscape ecology to understand how human land-use practices impact ecosystem functions and services in agricultural ecosystems. My current thesis work is on understanding the spatial effects of agricultural intensification on an important species of ant (Azteca sericeasur) in coffee agroecosystems of Chiapas, Mexico. In addition, I am also interested in urban agriculture and beneficial insects, and potential fragmentation effects that urban landscapes present to agro-ecosystem functions and services.


B.S. Biology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; MS/MLA University of Michigan

Justin Burdine

My studies focus on food security and international development. I’m interested in the implementation of sustainable food systems at the local scale, focusing on community-specific needs and agroeological strategies. I’m currently working on a Master’s Project entitled, “Examining Disparities in Food Access and Enhancing Food Security in Underserved Populations”.


B.S. Environmental Science, University of Toledo (2012); M.S. Conservation Ecology, University of Michigan (2015)

Research Interests: agroecology, food systems, sustainable development, direct trade and certification, leafhoppers, food security

Email: jburdine@umich.edu

Ryan Kuesel


B.S. Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, University of Michigan (2015)

Research Interests:complex predator-prey relationships, community ecology, plant ecology, biodiversity, restoration ecology.

Jonathan Morris

I am broadly interested in biodiversity conservation and ecosystem services in agricultural landscapes. Specifically, I study how biodiversity functions in food production and how agricultural management strategies affect the provisioning of ecosystem services associated with that biodiversity. My current research focus is on ant pest control services in coffee agroecosystems.


B.S. Environmental Science, University of Florida (2010); M.S. Natural Resources and Environment, University of Michigan (2013 – current)

Research Interests: biodiversity, conservation, ecosystem services, agroecology, pest control, food nutrition

Email: jonno@umich.edu

Zachary Hajian-Forooshani

As an undergraduate in the lab, I have worked on several projects which range from trying to understand what is shaping arboreal spider communities in the shade trees of coffee agroecosystems, to looking at context-dependent biocontrol of coffee pests though an indirect ant-plant mutualism. In pursuing my masters, I plan to focus my research on the ecology of mutualisms within coffee agroecosystems. I am interested in how multi-species mutualisms effect pest control in coffee, and also how mutualisms facilitate invasive ant species.

B.S. Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Michigan (2013); M.S. Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Michigan (2014-2016)

Research Interests: mutualisms, biodiversity in agriculture, ragtime, symbiosis, ecosystem services, invasive species

Email: simao@umich.edu