Jonathan Levine

From an “Ecologist Directory” maintained by the ESA Education Office about 2004-2005. Profile circa 2004.

Degree                                            Ph.D. 2001 (University of California, Berkeley)

ESA George Mercer Award for 2002

jonathan_levine_profileI was always interested in the outdoors, but was first exposed to ecology in an invertebrate zoology course my second year of college. I found myself interested in marine ecology, and worked for several summers as an undergraduate researcher. After working in salt marshes, I became particularly interested in plant ecology, and the types of questions one could ask in plant systems. By the time I began my Ph.D., I was confident that I wanted to pursue a career in ecology.

I did my undergraduate Bachelors of Science at Brown University in Providence, RI, my doctorate in the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of California, Berkeley, and postdoctoral research at the NERC Centre for Population Biology, Imperial College, Silwood Park, Ascot, UK.

Mark Bertness was my undergraduate mentor and deserves much of the credit for getting me interested in ecology. He also gave me an undergraduate research experience, which was comparable to a Masters degree and thus had me well prepared to conduct my dissertation work. My PhD advisors, Carla D’Antonio and Wayne Sousa were outstanding, and my interests in species diversity and biological invasions were fostered and honed by working with each of them. They both take very thoughtful approaches to ecology that I try to achieve in my own work.

My work is currently focused on using basic principles of community ecology to better understand two of the most important issues in conservation biology, the impacts of exotic plant invasions and the persistence of rare species. Most recent work on biological invasions has examined the factors controlling the establishment of exotic species, but this reveals very little about the ultimate impacts of the invasions. I am currently conducting literature reviews and field experiments examining the factors regulating the impacts of exotic plant invasions once they have successfully established. With respect to rare plant persistence, I am using a combination of mathematical models and field experiments to examine rare annual plant persistence in variable environments. I am particularly interested in how incorporating the dynamics of the surrounding community and exotic invasions changes the common perception that environmental variation is detrimental to rare species persistence. Much of this work is being conducted on the California Channel Islands, a habitat with numerous endangered annual plants, extensive invasion by exotic grasses, and tenfold variation in annual rainfall.

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