Dr. Julie Zinnert

Research interests: My research is focused on plant ecology across spatial scales within the context of global change: long-term changes in plant communities, biotic interactions, and interactions with the physical environment. Ecophysiological studies are powerful in elucidating plant function and identifying traits that are adaptive for various environmental conditions.  Plant functional traits integrate species interactions with the biotic and abiotic environment and ultimately influence ecosystem properties. I approach questions at a variety of scales, from minutes to decades and from leaf to region, by combining laboratory studies, field work, airborne /satellite remote sensing. I am co-PI at the Virginia Coast Reserve (VCR) Long-Term Ecological Researach (LTER) site. Current research includes 1) mechanisms of state change between grassland/shrubland, 2) functional composition and connectivity across the barrier island landscape, and 3) carbon dynamics in barrier island communities.

Curriculum Vitae


B.S., Biology (2001)
M.S., Biology (2004), Virginia Commonwealth University
Ph.D., Integrative Life Sciences (2008), Virginia Commonwealth University
Dissertation: The relationship between lead optical properties and physiological responses for stress detection in coastal plant species

Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) Post-doctoral Reserch Fellow (2008-2009)

Research Biologist, US Army Corps of Engineers (2009-2013)

Dr. Donald R. Young


Research interests: My research interests focus on the ecology of coastal plants, with a primary emphasis on woody species, especially those that form shrub thickets. A broad objective for my research is to understand the adaptive mechanisms for survival and success in coastal environments and the interplay of physical stresses and biotic interactions on the distribution of plants in coastal environments. Our projects have and continue to focus on specific environmental and biotic factors affecting the distribution of barrier island plants, successional processes in coastal environments, shrub expansion in coastal environments, ecological significance of coastal storms, ecology of coastal wetlands, control of invasive species in coastal areas, effects of salinity and flooding on plant ecophysiological processes, and restoration of coastal communities.


B.S., Biology (1975), 
Clarion University of Pennsylvania

M.S., Botany (1979), University of Wyoming

Ph.D. Botany (1982), University of Wyoming

Post-doctoral Research Fellow (1983-1984), University of California Los Angeles




Joe Brown

Research Interests:  My research interests include trait-based plant community assembly and the use of trait-based ecology to understand coastal ecosystems across spatial scales.  I am particularly interested in how complex biotic and abiotic interactions vary across stress gradients, leading to heterogeneous plant functional groups dictated by the amount of physical or biotic stress plants must tolerate.  My PhD research will contribute to using trait-based ecological theory to decipher what complex and interacting factors influence coastal plant zonation.  


B.S. Biology (2013), Virginia Commonwealth University

M.S. Biology (2016), Virginia Commonwealth University


Lauren Wood

Lauren Wood

Research interests:  My research interests include variations in plant physiology across a stress gradient and how that subsequently alters plant allometry or anatomy. Specifically, my research has focused on temperature gradients and associated water stress. I am more broadly interested in water availability and plant distribution across habitats.

B.S., Biology (2013), Appalachian State University

M.S., Biology (2016), Appalachian State University
Master's thesis: Title: Using an alevation gradient as a surrogate for climate warming to understand the effects on wood anatomy and water relations of fraser fir (Abies fraseri) Christmas trees

Ashley Moulton

Research Interests: My research interests include understanding how feedbacks between abiotic and biotic factors influence the distribution of vegetation in coastal landscapes. I am also interested in utilizing spatial analysis to better understand variance within these dynamic systems. My research aims to further develop best management practices which aid professionals who work to restore coastal systems to improve their resiliency and stability. 


B.S. Environmental Sciences, Virginia Commonwealth University

Benjamin Nettleton

Ben Nettleton

Research Interests:  My research interests are motivated by an urge to restore and conserve natural resources and habitats, understand and mitigate the effects of climate change and to improve public support and education on these topics. I am broadly interested in ecosystem functions, geomorpholology, and interactions between abiotic and biotic systems. I aim to understand how the ecosystems on Virginia's Barrier Islands influence the geomorphological characteristics of the islands themselves. By doing this we can begin to understand the implications of the decline or local extirpation of any one member of the islands' ecosystem. These understandings can help to prioritize conservation resources and education to best protect our coastlines under threat from rising seas and stronger storms.


B.S. Biology (2016), University of Northern Iowa

Edward Long

  • Undergraduate Student (REU)

Interests: I am interested in much of the sciences. I've always had a passion for biology, and am currently pursuing a bachelor's in chemistry, concentrating in chemical modelling. I'm an avid explorer and outdoorsman. I paint, draw, and occasional dabble with sculpture.

Education: B.S. Chemistry Anticipated 2019

Austin Tuley

  • Undergraduate

Interests:  I'm interested in food science, plant migration, climate change, and nutrient exchange. I like hammock camping, cooking, mornings, and ukulele.

Education: Environmental Studies, Anticipated 2018