Current Lab Members
Dr. Kenneth J. Feeley
University of Miami
Smathers Chair of Tropical Tree Biology
Department of Biology
Coral Gables, FL 33146, USA
Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden
11935 Old Cutler Rd.
Coral Gables, FL 33156, USA
Manuel is from Colombia and got his undergraduate degree in Forestry Engineering at the National University of Colombia in Medellin. He got his Masters degree in Management and Conservation of Tropical Forests and Biodiversity from CATIE University in Costa Rica. His past research focused on using tree ring analyses and dendroecology to study forest dynamics along a tropical elevational gradient. His plan is to continue with dendroecological approaches to look at the effects of climate change on tree growth and forest dynamics in Colombia (and South Florida).
Catherine earned her B.S. in Biological Sciencies from La Molina National Agrarian University (Peru) and her M.Sc. in Biology from Florida International University. For her Masters thesis, she studied functional traits of tropical tree seedlings along an elevation gradient in Manu National Park.
For her Ph.D., Catherine is continuing her research in Manu, working on the ecophysiology of understory plants and how these characteristics relate with their distribution at different elevations.
Belen earned her B.S. in Biology from the Universidad del Pais Vasco (Spain) and her MSc. of Biodiversity of Tropical Areas and Conservation from Spain's Universidad Menendez Pelayo and Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas (CSIC). For her Masters thesis, she studied liana distributions along an altitudinal gradient in the Ecuadorian Andes.
For her Ph.D., she is working on how the multiple Bamboo species that occur along the Andes-Amazon gradient in Peru distribute and what physiological characteristics are responsible. She is also researching how bamboo affects plant communities in the cloud forests and the Amazon using plot data and remote sensing. Belen is also involved in studies investigating Andean forest dynamics and diversity and, in particular, how undergoing global change is promoting altitudinal species migrations in the Andes.
Timothy graduated from the University of Vermont in 2010 with a BSc in Plant Biology. Before joining the Feeley lab at Florida International University in 2014, his interests in ecology developed from his participation in a myriad of projects such as sage grouse habitat assessments, clearwing butterfly ecology research, a chronosequence tree census, and development of an environmental education curriculum. Visit his website!
Throughout the tropics rainforests trees are not growing as fast as a they once did. The “decelerating” growth observed in tropical trees is thought to occur because of increased respiration. As temperatures rise due to climate change, trees respire more and deplete the carbon reserve they would otherwise use for growth. However, some research indicates that respiration rates acclimate to higher temperatures suggesting that other explanations for the decelerating growth rates are needed. Heat tolerances are relatively unexplored for understanding how tropical rainforests will respond to climate change, but may help to explain the decelerating growth rates of trees. Timothy’s dissertation research focuses on understanding the causes of variation in heat tolerances, and using this information to test the hypothesis that heat tolerances influence the growth rates of tropical tree species. An additional goal of his research is to develop predictions about which species are most susceptible to climate change. His other research interests include the use of botanical and herbarium collections to understand the effects of climate change on plants.
Christine got her undergraduate degree at Florida International University where she founded the award-winning undergraduate ecology club GLADES. She worked as a research assistant for Dr. Ken Feeley in Peru and for Dr. Steve Oberbauer in Alaska and as a summer REU research assistant at Harvard Forest. She started her doctoral program with Dr. Ken Feeley at UM in 2016.
Christine's dissertation research will explore invasions by plants in tropical forests. She is interested in investigating the role of species traits in invasiveness, the impact on native communities and forest succession in tropical forests, and investigating plant invasions to understand community assembly. She will also utilize ethnography and ethnobotany to increase the interdisciplinarity of invasion biology and to understand how local people value exotic and non-native plant species. Her field sites are in Southern Costa Rica, primarily at Las Cruces Biological Station and the Wilson Botanical Garden and a privately owned forest Finca Loma Linda. The surrounding landscape consists of tropical pre-montane forest patches. Her main study species is Zingiber spectabile, a species of herb native to Malaysia that was introduced into the region as an ornamental and has subsequently escaped into the understory of the remnant tropical forests in the landscape.
Olga got her undergraduate degree at the University of Havana in Cuba. After graduating, she worked as a research assistant on several projects and as a curator for the plant collections at Cuba's National Museum of Natural History. Olga came to the USA 3 years ago and has worked here as a biology school teacher and as an administrative assistant in UM's nursing school. She started a non-thesis Masters degree in Biology at UM last year, but after working with me this summer on a project investigating the thermal ecology of trees in the Gifford Arboretum, I asked her to join our team as a full time PhD student. Olga plans to conduct her research looking at the effects of climate change on tropical plants and hopes to conduct field research in Cuba.
Alyssa earned her B.A. in Environmental Science and Spanish from Colby College in 2018. After graduating, she spent a year in Ecuador with a Fulbright scholarship, conducting independent research on a few rare species of magnolia in a montane cloud forest. She was primarily concerned with comparative morphology, phenological monitoring, and distribution modelling of three poorly known species. Alyssa joined the Feeley lab as a PhD student in the Fall of 2019, and she is currently developing a project in the Peruvian Amazon to investigate possible impacts of increased temperatures on plant communities along the Boiling River, which could act as a model system of the Amazon under climate change.
Post Doctoral Researchers
Dr. Tyeen Taylor
Variation in the metabolic traits of plant species produces a mosaic of physiological strategies at the scale of forests. To predict forest function, we must determine how metabolic traits affect both the performance of individual trees and, as a consequence, the functional composition of forests across environments. My research is focused around the emission of isoprene gas from tree leaves, a trait that helps trees tolerate physiological stress. In the atmosphere, isoprene significantly influences chemistry and physical processes such as aerosol and cloud formation. I developed a new instrument during my PhD that is uniquely capable of bringing isoprene research to the field. My results help to resolve the present and future metabolic mosaic of forests, and thereby their interactions with the atmosphere, by learning how isoprene affects the physiological differentiation and community assembly of tree species in tropical forests. I am currently a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Biology. For an example of my work, see Taylor et al., 2018, New Phytologist (DOI: 10.1111/nph.15304).
Dr. Richard Tito
Richard is from Peru and got his undergraduate Biology degree from UNSAAC University in Cusco, Peru. He got his Masters and PhD in Biology from the Federal University of Uberlandia in Brazil. For his graduate work, Richard worked with Heraldo Vascolcelos on several projects related to plant-herbivore interactions in the Brazilian cerrado. He also completed a set of transplant projects in Peru to look at the effects of climate change on local corn and potato production and started a similar transplant study to look at the effects of climate change on Weinmannia tree species in Manu National Park, Peru. As a postdoctoral associate he will continue working on this transplant project and will assist in several other ongoing projects in Peru.