Our Team

Benjamin Baiser, PI

I am a community ecologist who takes a combined theoretical and empirical approach to understand how ecological communities assemble, change, and collapse. I did my undergraduate degree among the Redwoods at the University of California Santa Cruz and completed my PhD at Rutgers University. In the course of my research, I have worked with bird, plant, invertebrate, and protozoan communities in exciting locations such as the Florida Everglades, Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, and ombrotrophic bogs across Vermont and Massachusetts.

When I am not trying to unravel the mysteries of biodiversity, I enjoy spending time with my wife and daughters, biking, hiking, and birding. When I can’t get outside, I enjoy listening to music, attempting to play the keyboard, and following the New York Islanders, Mets, Giants, and Knicks. View CV

Daijiang Li, Post-doctoral researcher

I am broadly interested in biodiversity and community ecology. Specifically, how and why species occur where they are and assemble into communities? How have communities changed overtime and how will they respond to global change? I do both theoretical and empirical work to understand these questions. I received my Ph.D in Botany and M.S. in Biometry from University of Wisconsin-Madison. My PhD research focused on the long-term taxonomic, functional, and phylogenetic dynamics of Pine Barrens in central Wisconsin since 1958. In August 2016, I joined the lab as a postdoctoral associate to develop methods to integrate different facets of biodiversity and apply them to study effects of global change on communities.

Alicia McGrew, PhD student

I received both my B.S. in Biology (Natural Resources) and my M.S. in Conservation Biology from Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant, MI. As an undergraduate, I became interested in zooplankton, and worked as a research technician to quantify zooplankton taxa used as food by larval fishes in a major river delta in Michigan. For my Master’s research, I investigated the basic feeding ecology of the Great Lakes invader, Hemimysis anomala, with a particular focus on their capacity for herbivorous and omnivorous feeding. My PhD research in the Baiser Lab will explore size spectra (body size-abundance relationships) of the aquatic community in the leaves of the carnivorous plant, Sarracenia purpurea. I am interested in how top-down and bottom-up forces interact to influence the distribution of body sizes, and how these size spectra change over the course of ecological succession. While my research interests center on aquatic and community ecology, I’m also interested in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, and using active and collaborative learning strategies to enhance student involvement and learning.

Lauren Trotta, PhD student

My passion for ecology stems from an encompassing desire to understand the natural systems that surround us. My research operates at the intersection of ecology, evolution, and natural history to answer: why do we see, what we see, where see it? I leverage community phylogenetic techniques to explore how evolutionary relationships between species shape ecological communities. My Master’s research at the University of Florida examined the relatedness of invasive, threatened, and endangered species in Florida’s globally imperiled pine rockland ecosystem using a phylogeny I constructed from field-based collections. My PhD will investigate the role of environmental drivers, such as fire frequency and habitat fragment size, on community phylogenetic patterns across Florida’s pine ecosystems.

Pablo Moreno García, PhD student

I am a Fulbright student from Madrid (Spain). I received my Bachelor’s in Ecological Engineering from Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (UPM). I studied how demographic variables affect the persistence of various theoretical trophic chains. Then, I became a Research Assistant in the REFORM project (REstoring rivers FOR effective catchment Management). I worked in the Hidrobiology Research group in the UPM to determine how the macroinvertebrate community assembly responds to spatial scales in the Duero catchment (Spain). I started a MSc in Conservation Biology in Lund University (Sweden). I am currently working on my Ph. D at the Basier’s lab. I am interested in determining the characteristics that confer ecological resilience to interaction networks. Specifically, I am working on the implications that functional redundancy has on the ecological resilience of diverse empirical  and theoretical ecological networks. Nevertheless, I am generally interested in macroecological patterns such as ecological networks architecture, biotic responses to environmental gradients, meta-population and meta-community assemblage and structure, and spatial patterns and fragmentation of the habitats of large mammals.

Owen Schneider, PhD student

I hold a BS in Evolutionary Biology and a Certificate in Environmental Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. During my time there, I was able to work as a Native Plant Specialist and Ranger at the University of Wisconsin Arboretum, and later, as a Bio-Tech in the Tongass National Forest. The hours spent working, hiking, and exploring these environments allowed me to notice the spatial and temporal changes between plant communities and sparked my interest in the drivers of plant community composition. For my PhD, I will examine the plant community composition of the Florida Everglades endangered pine rockland system. Specifically, how do, elevational and hydrologic gradients, fire frequency, and functional traits drive community composition, and what does that mean for Everglades restoration?

Cherice Smithers, MS student

I received my B.S. in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation from UF. Since graduating, I have worked in several different capacities within the fields of ecological research and conservation, including as an environmental monitor on the BP oil spill response, a native pollinator researcher with the UF Honey Bee Research and Extension Lab, and most recently as a field biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Research Institute. My diverse research and fieldwork experiences have greatly shaped my research interests: examining the interplay of restoration, community ecology, and biodiversity in Florida’s pine ecosystems. I am interested in understanding the linkages between ecosystem functioning and biodiversity, and how these relationships are influenced by fire, hydrology, and management activities. My Master’s research will focus on Bee community diversity in the Sandhill ecosystem.

Baiser Lab Alumni

Josh Epstein 2014-2016

MS “Functional Diversity of Southeastern United States Fish Communities”.
Currently a PhD student at the University of Florida

Chris Gale 2016-2017

Undergraduate research on pitcher plant microbiome.