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, woodlands, 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.

 

News

Summer 2019

  • Where is invasive Phragmites australis (common reed) established in Minnesota? Visit our MnPhrag website for latest map, identification guide, management recommendations, and more.

 phrag map

  • Great to get out in the field recently with M.S. student Sara Nelson (efficacy of goat browsing for buckthorn management).

goats

  • Heck of a year for Arnoglossum plantagineum in the phylo/functional restoration experiment at Morton Arboretum!

arnoglossum

Spring 2019

  • Team AIS Extension (Megan Weber, Pat Mulcahy, and I) traveled Minnesota again this spring to teach five AIS Detectors workshops

backus

  • I was excited to be part of this new article in Wetlands led by Sheel Bansal (USGS), which provides a fantastic review of the state of knowledge on the ecology and management of invasive cattail in North America.
  • Great to work with Team Typha again on this paper in Ecology & Evolution, led by Shane Lishawa of Loyola University Chicago, which shows that removal of invasive cattail--and its litter--can increase taxonomic and phylogenetic diversity of Great Lakes coastal wetlands.

December 2018

  • After a busy fall semester for PhD student Mike Verhoeven (and his committee members!), Mike successfully defended his Master's and advanced to doctoral candidacy by passing his written and oral preliminary exams. Way to go, Mike!

November 2018

  • How do biotic and abiotic factors influence plant invasions in restored prairies? Evelyn Williams' new manuscript in Basic and Applied Ecology shows that, at the neighborhood scale at which plants directly interact with each other, invasions were mediated by biotic factors: invasive species that were more closely related to the resident community were more likely to invade (consistent with Darwin's pre-adaptation hypothesis) and neighborhoods with more resident species were less likely to be invaded (consistent with the biotic resistance hypothesis). At the larger, site scale, invasibility was driven by abiotic factors: soil organic matter, soil pH, and soil heterogeneity.
  • A continental analysis of North America's vascular plant flora led by Jesús Pinto-Ledezma, and published in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, integrated taxonomic, functional, and phylogenetic approaches to examine how patterns of beta diversity correspond to biome boundaries.

September 2018

  • Congratulations to our own Carli Wagner, recipient of the Conservation Sciences Master's Student of the Year award for 2017-2018!!!
  • How can we do a better job training citizen scientists to contribute to invasive species surveillance and response efforts? By "flipping the classroom" based on our analysis of two UMN Extension programs reported in the Journal of Extension.
  • A chapter led by Andrew Hipp in the new book Phylogenetic Diversity details our efforts to construct a robust experiment for testing the effects of phylogenetic diversity on restoration outcomes, i.e., not conflating phylogenetic diversity with phylogenetic identity (a.k.a., there are an awful lot of Asteraceae spp. in prairies!)

August 2018

  • We are excited to welcome some new faces to the lab! MS students McKaylee Duquain and Sara Nelson will be conducting research related to wild rice conservation (McKaylee) and response of native vegetation to common buckthorn removal using goats (Sara).
  • We bid a fond farewell to 2016-18 postdoctoral researcher Ranjan Muthukrishnan, who has moved to Indiana University as a Fellow in the Environmental Resilience Institute. 
  • Speaking of Ranjan, his paper predicting risk of starry stonewort invasion in Minnesota and Wisconsin lakes based on water chemistry is now out in Aquatic Botany. This research was conducted in collaboration with Robin Sleith and Ken Karol of the New York Botanical Garden.

June 2018

  • A busy spring of workshops with Extension colleagues Megan Weber and Pat Mulcahy led to the minting of 96 new AIS Detectors! Giving us a great distribution of over 200 AIS Detectors throughout Minnesota:

Detectors map

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!)

seeds

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

ponar

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!

Hartzog