Current Graduate Students

Reuben Biel


BA Biology, Colby College
PhD Student

Dissertation Research Interests

I study relationships between ecological communities processes, biophysical processes, and ecosystem services. My dissertation research uses coastal dune ecosystems to explore how two invasive beach grasses (Ammophila arenaria – European beachgrass and Ammophila breviligulata – American beachgrass) build sand dunes and provide coastal protection in the Pacific Northwest. These dune systems are actively changing due to ongoing beachgrass invasions, dune habitat restoration, and climate change. Accordingly, I am exploring how dune habitat restoration and climate change (e.g., sea level rise, storminess, and rising temperatures) may impact invasive beach grass distribution and abundance, dune geomorphology, and coastal protection. I utilize a combination of observational, experimental, and theoretical methods to connect observed patterns to underlying processes, and to better understand how invasions and climate change may impact ecosystems and their services. My research is funded by the Mamie Markham Award from the Hatfield Marine Science Center, the Zoology Research Fund, and the EPA.


Vanessa Constant


BS Natural Resources, Cornell University
PhD Student

Dissertation Research Interests

My dissertation research is focused on understanding the role of ocean productivity to dune ecosystem function. Sandy environments are generally thought to be nutrient poor, placing constraints on the potential rate of plant growth. However, nearly 50% of the Pacific Northwest coast is backed by densely vegetated coastal dune ecosystems that provide significant protection services through sand stabilization and foredune building. Despite this, few studies have explored the potential connection between dune plant production and marine subsides. Through observational surveys and experimental methods, my research examines the prevalence, patterns, and role of marine macroalgae and seagrass wrack on beach grass growth and production, and ultimately coastal protection. The possibility that marine subsidies could influence dune vegetation production is important in light of possible climate driven shifts in ocean productivity and coastal vulnerability.

Caitlin Magel


BA Biology & Environmental Science, Lawrence University
MS Marine Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
PhD Student (co-advised with Francis Chan)

Dissertation Research Interests

My interests stem from a fascination with the ways human impacts drive change in coastal ecosystems. For my PhD research, I am studying the function of seagrass and macroalgae ecosystems in Pacific Northwest estuaries to better understand adaptation to anthropogenic ocean acidification (OA). Currently, I am conducting field surveys to measure seagrass and macroalgae biomass in four estuaries and monitoring pH and pCO2 to determine the relative influence of factors influencing OA vulnerability in these systems. The outcomes of my research will accelerate our capacity to understand and predict OA impacts on estuarine function through a greater understanding of critical feedbacks between OA and eelgrass ecosystems. Coastal acidification research is important to me because OA has emerged as a critical threat to marine ecosystems and will present significant challenges for the future of coastal conservation and management.

Personal Website:

Rebecca Mostow


BA Biology, Oberlin College
PhD Student

Dissertation Research Interests

Broadly, I am interested in using biological invasions as natural experiments to study rapid evolutionary processes. The Oregon dunes were colonized twice in the past 200 years by non-native, congeneric grasses; first by European beachgrass (Ammophila arenaria) and second by American beachgrass (Ammophila breviligulata). These invasions dramatically changed the morphology, species diversity, and ecosystem services of the coastal dunes. In order to illuminate the state of population genetics, gene flow, hybridization, and genetic diversity of these two species in their native and invasive ranges, I will sample broadly across site, population, and species and build 2b-Rad genomic libraries for high-throughput Illumina sequencing. Understanding the population genetics of invasive taxa will contribute to the preservation of the biodiversity of the planet as well as offer a window of insight into the evolutionary theories of colonization, bottlenecks, and multiple introductions.

Katya Jay


BA Biology, Macalester College
PhD Student

Dissertation Research Interests

I am interested in studying the community ecology and geomorphology of coastal dunes, specifically the biophysical interactions that drive dune building and dune recovery processes. My dissertation research will investigate the role of vegetation and species-specific dune-building mechanisms along a transition zone between two native beach grasses (Uniola paniculata and Ammophila breviligulata) on North Carolina barrier islands. Dunes provide critical coastal protection services, and I am interested in looking at how they recover following major storm events such as hurricanes, thereby informing dune restoration efforts. In addition, I am interested in examining relationships between belowground morphology of grasses and sand deposition, and drawing comparisons between dunes in North Carolina and the Pacific Northwest. I plan to use a combination of observational, experimental, and modeling approaches to better understand relationships between dune ecology and geomorphology, as well as climate change effects on dune vegetation. 

Past Graduate Students

  1. Jennifer Motley, OSU MS MRM, 2013–2017 (Co–advisor: Fiona Tomas Nash), Characterizing mesograzers in upwelling-influenced eelgrass ecosystems: relative importance of local versus regional effects.
  2. Alison Barner, OSU PhD Zoology, 2010–2016 Completed (Co–advisor: Bruce Menge), Predictability and constraints on the structure of ecological communities in the context of climate change.
  3. Lindsay Carroll, OSU MS MRM, 2013–2016 Completed, Evaluating coastal protection services associated with restoration management of an endangered shorebird in Oregon, U.S.A.
  4. Jessica Reimer, OSU MS Zoology, 2011–2014 Completed (Co–advisor: Bruce Menge), Patterns of macrophyte wrack deposition on sandy beaches of the Pacific Northwest Coast, U.S.A.
  5. Jeremy Henderson, OSU MS Zoology, 2010–2013 Completed, Direct effects and tradeoffs affect vegetative growth and sexual reproduction in an invasive seagrass experiencing different disturbance regimes.
  6. Phoebe Zarnetske, OSU PhD Zoology, 2006–2011 Completed (Co-advisor: Eric Seabloom), The influence of biophysical feedbacks and species interactions on grass invasions and coastal dune morphology in the Pacific Northwest, USA.
  7. Margot Hessing–Lewis, OSU PhD Zoology, 2005–2011 Completed (Co–advisor: Bruce Menge), Context dependent eelgrass-macroalgal interactions in upwelling-influenced estuaries.
  8. Orissa Moulton, OSU MS Zoology, 2008–2010 Completed, Surfgrasses (Phyllospadix spp.) as dynamic foundation species for macroinvertebrates along the Oregon coast.
  9. Paulina Guarderas, OSU MS Environmental Completed 2007 (Co-advisor: Jane Lubchenco), Thesis Title: Marine conservation in Latin America and the Caribbean: An analysis of Marine Protective Areas (MPAs).
  10. Lorena Wisehart, OSU MS Environmental Science Completed 2006, Thesis Title: Impacts of oysters on eelgrass (Zostera marina L.): Importance of early life history stages in response to disturbance.
  11. Rebecca Martin, WSU Vancouver MS Environmental Science Completed 2005, Thesis Title: Identifying common stream characteristics using geomorphological associations on the Gifford Pinchot National Forest: implications for management and restoration.
  12. Tabitha Reeder, WSU Vancouver MS Environmental Science Completed 2002, Thesis Title: Removing a nonindigenous marine plant (Spartina anglica): importance of habitat type and consistent, long-term control on regrowth and reinvasion.