The Poetic Side of Ecology

Art and science have a long history of entanglements from Leonardo da Vinci’s beautiful anatomical drawings to the revolutionary essays of Henry David Thoreau and Aldo Leopold. After all, both practices are about understanding ourselves and our surroundings. In keeping with this tradition, the Western Aspen Alliance has launched a new feature called WAA Creates. The most recent newsletter (Volume 6(4), November 2015) features a poem by one of our own, Amy Flansburg.



New Phytologist Paper




Recently, a former member of the Lindroth Research Group published a manuscript on condensed tannins and nitrogen recovery in New Phytologist. Madritch and Lindroth investigated how condensed tannin concentration in aspen leaves and below ground nitrogen cycling are influenced by herbivory. High levels of condensed tannins were correlated with nitrogen recovery within the same and following seasons in defoliated trees suggesting that tannins may be mediators of tolerance rather than resistance.

Lindroth Lab Members in the Spotlight


It’s been a busy week in the news for the Lindroth Lab group. Ken Keefover-Ring, a post-doctoral scientist and soon to be faculty of the Botany and Geography departments at UW Madison, is one of the investigators on a major multi-university NSF grant. In a recent UWMadScience article, Poplars, perfumes, willows and insects: Understanding tree biodiversity, he talks about the project which looks at how chemical ecology can help us understand how insect pollination contributes to tree biodiversity.


Bee pollinating a willow


Michael Falk, a Master’s student, made the eCALs news this week with a video he and another graduate student created for the Entomological Society of America’s student video competition. Be sure to check out this poignant video describing his work and why it’s important not only for science, but for society as a whole. Click here to watch (A)synchrony – An Untimely Problem.


A cottonwood dagger moth rests on a trembling aspen leaf

New additions to the Lindroth Research Group!


We would like to welcome Jennifer Riehl and Olivia Cope to the Lindroth research group! 

Jennifer received a Ph.D. in Forest Molecular Genetics and Biotechnology from Michigan Technological University.  Her dissertation focused on North American red oak genetic variation, population structure, and local adaptation. She is joining our lab in a post-doctoral position, in which she will investigate the genes underlying ecologically important traits in aspen and aspen-insect interactions. Jennifer is originally from Austin, Texas and received her B.S. in Biology from Texas Lutheran University and an M.S. in Molecular Biology from SUNY Albany. In her spare time she travels by car with her husband and loves attending various musical events from rock to symphony concerts.


Olivia Cope received a B.S. in Genetics and Plant Biology from the University of California, Berkeley, where she conducted undergraduate research focused on insect galls. She will be working as a Ph.D. student under Rick Lindroth and Eric Kruger studying the ecology of herbivore defense in aspen.Olivia is originally from Seattle, Washington and likes to spend her free time riding her bike and playing the banjo.

New Nature Plants Paper

Couture et al 2015 Nature Plants Cover

Recently, current and former members of the Lindroth Research Group published a manuscript on herbivory and global change in Nature Plants. Couture et al. investigated the effects of atmospheric change on insect herbivory in northern temperate forests. A key finding was that elevated levels of carbon dioxide stimulated insect herbivory, and thus limited the ability of forest trees to act as a carbon sink. Check out the news feature from UW-Madison!

Three minute thesis competition

hilary 3mt

Hilary Bultman and Amy Flansburg recently participated in a Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition. This event was hosted by the Graduate Women in Science at UW-Madison (GWIS-Beta) and involved a university wide graduate student competition. The challenge was for students to communicate the big-picture ideas and motivation behind their research in three minutes or less.

We’re happy to announce that Hilary won 2nd place for her presentation on work linking aspen genes to insect communities found on this foundation tree species. Amy also gave a fantastic presentation on her research examining triploidy in aspen.

amy 3mt

UW science outreach

The Lindroth lab participated in Saturday Science at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery. It was our first chance to teach our new “Elements of Food Webs” lesson.

We’ve developed educational materials and hands-on activities to teach students about concepts in Biology and Chemistry through the “Elements of Food Webs”. Lessons explore feeding relationships among species. Students learn about the transfer of energy and elements from the sun to plants, from plants to insect herbivores, and from insect herbivores to insect predators. 

To illustrate food webs to kids and their families, we brought in some live specimens of aspen trees, aphids, ladybugs, and ants. Aphids eat sap from aspen, which is rich in sugar, and ladybugs are predators of aphids. Luckily, some aphids have ant bodyguards for protection. Ants feed on “honeydew”, a sugary substance that aphids secrete. In turn, ants protect aphids from predators.

Here’s a photo highlight from the event that the kids took using our digital microscope!

Ladybug predation at Saturday Science Outreach Event!

Elements of Food Webs Booth

Introducing the newest lab members

We’d like to welcome two new graduate students to our research group.

andrew helm

Andrew Helm is pursuing a Master’s degree in Forestry, co-advised by Eric Kruger. He will be working on a project examining intraspecific competition among aspen.



michael falk small

Michael Falk is a Master’s student in Entomology, co-advised by Ken Raffa. He will be studying the effects of climate change on forest tent caterpillar and aspen.