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.

Chris Gale, undergraduate researcher

I am a senior Microbiology and Cell Science major who began working in the Baiser lab in September 2016. Prior to joining the lab, I had little instruction in ecology; however, I always had a great interest in the field. As an undergraduate researcher, I have been able to not only expand my knowledge of ecology, but apply techniques learned throughout my courses in microbiology in an interdisciplinary fashion. My research involves characterizing the food web of the inquiline community within the northern pitcher plant, Sarracenia purpurea. I am specifically interested in how the biodiversity of bacteria within the pitchers is affected by top-down and bottom-up processes. Though tiny, bacteria have evolved to inhabit every ecosystem on the planet. The incredible diversity of bacteria has always interested me and drives me to continue studying them. In my free time I enjoy spending time outdoors and playing the guitar.

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