• Interests

    Restoration ecology | Tropical forests | Ecophysiology | Biogeochemistry | UAVs

    I am a graduate student in the Plant Biological Sciences program at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities where I am advised by Dr. Jennifer Powers. My PhD thesis focuses primarily on the restoration of tropical dry forest (TDF) on degraded Vertisols, soils that shrink and swell with the seasonal rains in this ecosystem. The bulk of my thesis work seeks to determine the effectiveness of planting native tree species, in combination with soil amendments, to restore ecosystem function in TDFs growing on Vertisols widespread in this region.


    In addition to this project I am also investigating the impacts of reduced precipitation on the effectiveness of restoration plantings, seeking to determine how soil edaphic factors influence the distribution of native TDF tree species, and have been developing methods for the use of UAVs for ecosystem and wildlife monitoring.


    See more on my Google scholar profile or current CV.

  • Research Areas

  • Restoration of TDF on degraded vertisols

    I am restoring 6-hectares of TDF on degraded Vertisols by planting TDF trees native to this region. Research thus far has enabled us to determine which tree species are suitable for restoration plantings on degraded Vertisols, and what soil amendments increase the predicted survival and growth of planted seedlings. With these results in hand we used a functional trait-driven approach to design species mixes for 6-hectares of restoration plantings in 2015.

    Impacts of decreased precipitation on restoration plantings

    I have developed and implemented a throughfall exclusion experiment to examine the impacts of a reduced growing season length on the growth of establishment of TDF tree seedlings. Tree species that are commonly used in restoration plantings in this region were used in order to have the ability to make recommendations to practitioners restoring forests in this region based on the results of this study. 

    Development of methods for the use of UAVs for ecosystem and wildlife monitoring

    Minnesota and Costa Rica

    I have been collaborating with an interdisciplinary group of researchers in Minnesota to develop techniques to monitor the behavior of free-roaming wildlife with UAVs. Additionally, I am currently using UAVs to collect aerial imagery of successional forests in Costa Rica to track forest regeneration and dynamics. 

  • Recent Publications

  • For a complete list of my publications see my Google scholar profile or current CV

    Bears Show a Physiological but Limited Behavioral Response to Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

    Mark A. Ditmer, John B. Vincent, Leland K. Werden, Jessie C. Tanner, Timothy G. Laske, Paul A. Iaizzo, David L. Garshelis, John R. Fieberg. Current Biology 25: 1-6. 

    Explaining Legume Success in Tropical Dry Forests Based on Seed Germination Niches: A New Hypothesis

    German Vargas G., Leland K. Werden, Jennifer S. Powers. Biotropica 47 (3): 227-280. 

  •  Media Coverage

  • "Proyecto de Restauración en Suelos Vertisoles - Estación Experimental Forestal Horizontes"


    Area de Conservación Guanacaste -- October 17, 2015

    "Drones Take Flight As Wildlife Research Tools While Conservationists Debate Their Proper Role"


    International Business Times -- August 13, 2015

    "Drones could be stressing out wildlife, scientists suggest" 


    Washington Post -- August 13, 2015. 

  • Contact