Introduction to DNR’s Post-Doc Researchers

This year the Department of Natural Resources is fortunate to have several post-doc researchers working with them. Below are short biographies of their diverse backgrounds and current research interests.

Selmin Creamer:

Selmin is a postdoctoral research associate at the Human Dimensions Research Unit and currently working on a project investigating the recreational impacts of the aquatic nuisance species (ANS) in the Great Lakes and Upper Mississippi River Basins with Bruce Lauber. Two primary objectives of the project are to provide defensible economic benefit estimates associated with current recreational angling in the study area and to collect contingent behavior information from existing anglers in the study area about how their fishing activities would change in response to variations in the species composition that could result from ANS. The results are intended to generate estimates of the effects on recreational angling activity and benefits associated with management decisions regarding the spread of ANS between the Great Lakes and the Upper Mississippi River Basin through the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal and other aquatic pathways.

Before coming to the Department of Natural Resources, Selmin completed her PhD and MA at Washington State University. Her PhD thesis focused on forest economics. For her first paper, she conducted an econometric study using the data from U.S. Forest Service’s National Woodland Owners Survey and examined the family forest owners’ forest certification program participation behavior in the Pacific Coast and Southern regions of the United States.

For her second paper, she investigated a forest owner’s decision on when to harvest her/his forest and how much it is currently worth, using the real options framework for a representative Douglas-fir stand in the Pacific Northwest, when the carbon price was stochastic and there was a risk of fire. For her MA thesis, she conducted an econometric study for estimating and forecasting the passenger and heavy truck annual vehicle miles of travel (AVMT) on each highway functional class for Washington State.

Andrea Dávalos:

Andrea was born and raised in Ecuador, where she did my B.Sc. in Biology. After spending many years in the rainforest, working on sustainable timber management and associated conservation challenges, she decided to return to school.  Andrea came to Cornell to pursue a M.Sc. an later a Ph.D in Natural Resources, where she addressed issues in biological invasions and biological control applying a quantitative and experimental approach.  After completion, she returned to Ecuador where, together with local governments and NGOs, they developed management plans for protected areas. During that time, she also taught extensively at a local University and later became the Director of the Department of Biological Sciences. She then realized she would like spend more time doing research and therefore, decided to return to Cornell as a post-doc in Prof. Bernd Blossey’s lab. Currently, she is working on understanding the interactive effects of multiple stressors (deer overabundance, earthworm invasion and invasive plants) on populations of endangered plants, as well as examining how these factors can be manipulated to achieve successful management. Her research interests are centered on community dynamics, especially in the context of plant-herbivore interactions and the spatial and temporal scales at which they occur. Her work is motivated by a strong interest in conservation and in the development of tools to restore natural ecosystems.

Nadine Heck:

Nadine is currently a postdoctoral research associate at the Department of Natural Resources working on the human dimensions of fishery management in the Great Lakes with Rich Stedman. The main aim of the project will be to rewrite a framework on human dimensions’ research needs for the Great Lakes fisheries based on input from fishery managers and other stakeholder groups.

Before coming to Cornell she did a PhD in geography at the University of Leeds (UK) in collaboration with the University of Victoria (CA). Her thesis focused on the identification and selection of indicators for evaluating temperate marine protected areas (MPAs) in British Columbia, Canada. The thesis also examined distinct evaluation information needs of diverse stakeholder groups and protected area managers as well as their opinions on the design of an evaluation and monitoring constraints. In addition, she investigated how far stakeholders would like to participate in MPA evaluation activities and which factors are influencing stakeholders’ opinions on MPA performance and participation. Since marine jurisdictions in Canada are very complex and often overlapping, a significant part of her research focused on governance aspects for marine conservation efforts.

Dan Ilut:

Dan did his undergrad work at Cornell (class of ’97) in physics and philosophy, followed by several years as a software developer, and eventually doctoral work in plant biology (once again at Cornell) with prof. Jeff Doyle.  He is currently a postoc working with Matt Hare (DNR) and Kelly Zamudio (EEB) under a grant from the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future ( Dan’s main research interest is genome archaeology: identifying older evolutionary events whose fingerprints are still present in a species’ genome, along with the relationship these events might have to current ecological niches occupied by those species.  Previous work included a comparative transcriptomics project among wild relatives of soybean in order to try and understand the “polyploid advantage” (Ilut et al. 2012; as well as an angiosperm-wide comparative study of key genes and taxa involved in the evolution of floral organs (Floral Genome Project;  His work in the Hare lab involves the development of bioinformatics methods for high confidence SNP detection using genotype-by-sequencing (GBS) in highly heterozygous non-model organisms such as sea squirts and oysters. In addition, he is working with Kelly Zamudio on research involving the global pandemic strain of the fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), a pathogen that is currently eradicating frog populations worldwide.

Sarwat Ismail:

Sarwat is a Plant Ecologist, who received her Ph.D.  from University of Karachi, Karachi, Pakistan. During her Ph.D. she studied Heavy Metals pollution in different Mangrove Habitats of Pakistan.  In her Post-Doctoral research from Cornell University, she worked on identification and localization of copper transporters  in plants. Currently, at Department of Natural Resources, Cornell University, with Dr. Shorna B. Allred  she is studying conservation of degraded  mangrove forest of Pakistan through community forestry for sustainable management of natural resources and to analyze the socio-political dimensions of mangrove forest conservation. The purpose of this project is to bring the local community in a common vision for the area development that leads towards linkage between poverty and environmental degradation. At the same time the values of the Mangrove Ecosystem should be communicated at both the local and national level to encourage support for mangrove management and conservation.