Welcome to the Larkin Lab

  • lab photo

We are in the Department of Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.

We focus on applied problems in plant ecology, particularly related to invasive species management and ecological restoration. We are interested in how plant communities respond to species invasions, anthropogenic disturbances, and other drivers of change, and how we can improve our ability to restore diverse, resilient, high-functioning ecosystems.

Our study systems include lakes, wetlands, and prairies. We use observations, synthesis, and experiments to (1) understand the contributions of plant communities to key functions, (2) investigate causes and consequences of plant species invasions, (3) evaluate the extent to which restored habitats perform desired functions, and (4) develop guidance for restoration, conservation, and invasive species management.



May 2018

  • How can we predict how quickly plant species used in restoration will germinate? By using information about seed traits and evolutionary history, as Becky Barak demonstrates for 32 prairie species in a new paper in Ecology and Evolution (check out this artwork by Julia Ferguson!)


April 2018

  • New review paper on starry stonewort biology, ecology, and management from the Nitellopsis Working Group (UMN, New York Botanical Garden, Central Michigan Univ., Univ. of Geneva, Univ. of Wisconsin, Minnesota DNR) now available in Aquatic Botany.

March 2018

February 2018

  • Exciting action shots from under-ice sampling of starry stonewort phenology

ice sampling


October 2017

September 2017

  • Great to have new graduate students Rafael Contreras-Rangel and Carli Wagner join the lab!
  • Welcome Jesús Pinto-Ledezma! Jesús is a Grand Challenges postdoctoral researcher co-advised with Jeannine Cavender-Bares.
  • Congratulations Rebecca Tonietto on her start as an assistant professor in Biology at University of Michigan-Flint!
  • Rebecca T. also has an exciting new meta-analysis out in Journal of Applied Ecology showing that wild bees broadly benefit from ecological restoration efforts.

August 2017

  • It was a thrill to see how great the phylogenetic prairie restoration experiment at Morton Arboretum looks 1 year after planting!

becky bplots

July 2017

  • Our MnPhrag project investigating distribution, reproduction, and management of non-native Phragmites australis (common reed) in Minnesota has begun. Julia Bohnen started as project manager on this collaboration with fellow FWCB faculty Sue Galatowitsch and Laura Dee.
  • A new paper in PLoS One predicts distribution of the invasive alga starry stonewort under future climate scenarios for Minnesota.

June 2017

  • A fun, busy spring of AIS Detectors workshops culminated with our 8th and final workshop of the year in Brainerd.

April 2017

Barak defense


March 2017

  • Holy cow! Mike Verhoeven received an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship! Congratulations, Mike!
  • Becky Barak will become a Smith Fellow after she defends this spring! She'll be working with Lars Brudvig and Kay Havens on Effective seed mix design for ecological restoration. Congratulations, Becky!
  • In other Becky Barak news.... her dissertation work showing that restored tallgrass prairies had lower phylogenetic diversity than remnant prairies is now out in Journal of Applied Ecology.
  • A new paper in Soil Biology and Biochemistry from Paul Hartzog's dissertation shows strong "bottle effects" during a denitrification assay---calling into question the method's reliability for assessing relative differences in denitrification potential. This research was done in collaboration with John Kelly's lab at Loyola University Chicago.

February 2017

  • A paper led by Vicky Hunt on our Phragmites invasion crowdsourcing project, PhragNet, has been published in Wetlands Ecology and Management.
  • Ranjan Muthukrishnan and Carli Wagner presented on starry stonewort research at the Midwest Aquatic Plant Management Society annual meeting. Ranjan's ecological niche modeling predicts regions of high invasion risk in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Carli's work shows high potential for reinvasion via bulbils following summer 2016 management on Lake Koronis and earned her a poster presentation award

January 2017

  • Erin Vander Stelt's work on Isoëtes butleri has been published in Aquatic Botany.

December 2016

November 2016

August 2016

  • Welcome Mike Verhoeven! (PhD student)
  • Welcome Wes Glisson! (Research Fellow)
  • Welcome Ranjan Muthukrishnan! (Postdoc)

July 2016

June 2016

  • Our paper on incorporating phylogenetic considerations into plant ex situ conservation was published in PLoS One.
  • It was great to see Dr. Paul Hartzog again at his hooding ceremony!