Alum research in the NY Times



invasive Eurasian barberry (Berberis) in Acadia National Park (photo, Kerry Woods)

Research of alum Jason Fridley (’97, Ph.D. Univ. North Carolina), now a professor at Syracuse University, is featured in Carl Zimmer’s science column in the New York Times:

Several of Jason’s research projects have received wide recognition.  Zimmer’s column focuses on his work on the ecology of invasive species and its evolutionary underpinnings.  Fridley has worked with Dr. Dov Sax of Brown University to explore whether a Darwinian perspective on ecological relationships can help understand patterns of invasion.

Alum news: Adam Scheinkman ’02 joins USDA Foreign Agricultural Service


Adam Scheinkman (third from left, standing), near the summit of Mt. Washington on an ecology class field trip in the fall of 1998.

Adam Scheinkman (’02) visited Bennington this summer and reported that he has just taken a full-time position at the Foreign Agricultural Service of the USDA.  He’ll be based in Washington DC as an “International Agriculture Program Specialist” working with  the “Norman E Borlaug International Agricultural Science and Technology Fellowship Program.”  The Program brings agricultural scientists and experts from developing and middle-income countries to the U.S. for fellowships at various research institutions; Adam will be working with Fellows from both Latin America and Asia. Adam’s work at Bennington focused on ecology and evolutionary biology.

After graduation from Bennington, Adam joined the Peace Corps and spent two years in Ecuador where he applied his ecological background to sustainable agricultural development.  Following his Peace Corps stint, Adam chose to do graduate work in agricultural ecology and policy and took a Master’s at Cornell University.

Over the last decade and more we’ve seen increasing student interest in sustainable agriculture and food systems.  Adam shows that such interests can lead to very interesting places.


Alum news: (Dr.) Catherine Ravenscroft ’2001, (Prof.) Daniel Levitis ’1999

Good news from two of our science alums:

Congratulations to Catherine Ravenscroft, class of 2001, who recently successfully defended her Ph.D. thesis in ecology at Syracuse University.  Her thesis title is “Local adaptation to climate change in a calcareous grassland system.”  Catherine’s advisor at Syracuse, Prof. Jason Fridley, is a Bennington alum himself. Catherine is second from left in photo at right (a field crew for a U.S. Forest Service-funded study of the vegetation of the Taconic Mts. from 2000).

And Dr. Daniel Levitis, class of 1999, recently took a position on the faculty at the University of Southern Denmark in the Institute of Biology and Max-Planck Odense Center on the Biodemography of Aging.  Prior to that, Daniel earned his Ph.D. at UC-Berkeley and was a post-doctoral researcher at the Max-Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock, Germany.  He has recently published several papers on the evolution of senescence and longevity in humans and other primates. (Daniel is at right in this photo from a 1999 field crew doing research in old-growth forests in Michigan).

Science Workshop, 19 April – Forest invasions of Eastern North America: a case of pre-adaptation?

Jason Fridley

Dr. Jason Fridley (Bennington class of ’97), Associate Prof. in the Biology Department at Syracuse University, has quickly established himself as an influential researcher on several of the ‘hot’ questions in ecological science, including the effects of biodiversity on ecosystem function, interactions between successional dynamics and climate change, and the ecology and biogeography of invasive species.  He’ll be presenting recent work on this last theme in his workshop talk at 1:00 pm, 19 April, in Dickinson 225.  You can find background material  here in an about-to-be-published article for the Annals of the New York Academy of Science.

Common garden experiment, with native and invasive shrubs, at Syracuse University — photo by Jason Fridley

Jason is a 2012 recipient of the Academy’s Blavatnik Award for Young Scientists). He also has the  unusual distinction of having papers published in both Nature and Science in 2012.  Also in 2012, two graduate students in Jason’s lab received prestigious National Science Foundation fellowships.  It was a good year.  (Another of Jason’s grad students, Catherine Ravenscroft, is also a Bennington alum.)

Biodiversity Research in Central America

Costa Rica’s National Institute for Biodiversity (INBio) is a much admired and imitated cooperative undertaking to document and understand that small country’s vast

 taxonomic diversity.  Mara McPartland, a 2012 grad, put her studies in ecology and Spanish to use in an internship with INBio’s arthropod collections (here she is with one of the arthropods, a stick insect. Mara is the one in back).  She’s just moved on to a volunteer position at a field station in Nicaragua at Reserva Natural Laguna de Apoyo.

Climate Change and Allergies: Alum Research

Kristina Stinson (second from right) with Bennington field bio class in 1992

Alum, Dr. Kristina Stinson, ’92 (Harvard Forest and University of Massachusetts) is featured in a youtube video posted from Harvard University.  The spot features her research on how climate change is likely to interact with allergenic pollen production by ragweed in New England (it’s going to get worse!).  This research has been supported by a million-dollar grant from US-EPA.  Dr. Stinson is also well-known for her research on the ecological relationships of the invasive garlic mustard plant, and she was recently awarded a two-million-dollar grant from the Department of Defense to support extensions of this research. Kristina will be talking about the ragweed research in Science Workshop on 9 November.

Alum Jason Fridley’s Big Year

Jason coring trees as a research assistant in faculty member Kerry Woods’ research on Michigan old-growth forests

It’s been a good year for Jason Fridley (Bennington ’97, Ph.D. Univ. North Carolina ’02), a faculty member in Biology at Syracuse University.  He was awarded tenure earlier this year, and also received the Blavatnik Award for Young Scientists from the New York Academy of Sciences.  Among seven papers published this year (so far), he was first author for papers in BOTH Science and Nature (just one of these is worth noting).  And his good fortune seems to rub off; two of the graduate students in his lab received prestigious NSF graduate fellowships in 2012.

Downloading data from microclimate sensors at Great Smoky Mt. National Park (research recently published)


Jason’s research addresses, among multiple threads,  ecology of invasive species (the Nature paper) and the relationship between diversity and ecosystem function (the Science paper — and the subject of his undergrad thesis at Bennington).  Bennington connections remain strong; Jason will be returning for a talk next spring, and one of the grad students in his lab is Bennington alum Catherine Ravenscroft.

Research by Tambu Kudze (2010) Published in Science

A research paper co-authored by Bennington graduate Tambu Kudze (2010) was published in the August 24, 2012 issue of Science. The article, “Neurexin and Neuroligin Mediate Retrograde Synaptic Inhibition in C. elegans,” describes research aimed at understanding mutations linked to disorders such as autism and schizophrenia. By examining how the proteins neurexin and neuroligin, which are critical in synaptic processes, function in the nematode C. elegans the researchers hope to shed light on the mechanism by which mutations influence neural development.

The work was performed in the laboratory of Dr. Joshua Kaplan (group website) of the Department of Molecular Biology at Massachusetts General Hospital, where Tambu has worked since 2010. While at Bennington Tambu did research in the lab of Amie McClellan, which culminated in her thesis, “YJR088C Encodes a Functional HSP90 Co-Chaperone.” After graduation, Tambu was selected as a graduate representative on the Bennington College Board of Trustees. Tambu discussed some of her work, including her Field Work Terms, in this interview.

Tambu Kudze, photographed in June 2012, on a return visit to campus for a meeting of the Board of Trustees.