• 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 to restore ecosystem function in TDFs growing on theVertisols 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

    We are 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 which functional traits predict the highest performance of seedlings in these soils. 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

    We 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.

    Using 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

    Leland K. Werden, Pedro Alvarado J., Sebastian Zarges, Erick Calderón M., Erik M. Schilling, Milena Gutiérrez L., Jennifer S. Powers. 2017. Journal of Applied Ecology, In press.

    Timothy L. H. Treuer, Jonathan J. Choi, Daniel H. Janzen, Winnie Hallwachs, Daniel Peréz-Aviles, Andrew P. Dobson, Jennifer S. Powers, Laura C. Shanks, Leland K. Werden, David S. Wilcove. 2017. Restoration Ecology, In Press.

    Mark A. Ditmer, John B. Vincent, Leland K. Werden, Jessie C. Tanner, Timothy G. Laske, Paul A. Iaizzo, David L. Garshelis, John R. Fieberg. 2015. Current Biology 25: 1-6.

  •  Media Coverage

  • "Finding a recipe for forest restoration"


    University of Minnesota Press release -- September 22nd, 2017

    "Re-peeling the effects of degradation: low-tech application of orange crop waste shows potential to restore tropical forests"


    Mongabay -- August 25, 2017

    "Drones could be stressing out wildlife, scientists suggest" 


    Washington Post -- August 13, 2015. 

  • Contact