• Hawn, C.L, N.M. Haddad, Griffin, S., and J. Herrmann. In Press. Connectivity increases food web subsidies to predatory spiders. Ecology Letters
  • Woods, B., Cobb, M., Brown C. 2009. Elevation variation in life-history characteristics of populations of yellow-bellied marmots (Marmota flaviventris).Ethology Ecology & Evolution. 21:3-4, 381-392 

Research Themes

Food Web Ecology

I study predators and their food webs to understand how resources move through a mosaic of habitats.

Public Science

Collaborating with communities to produce science that centers people and their observations. Together, we can make new discoveries and increase science literacy.

Conservation Ecology

I use spiders as models for predators to test the efficacy of corridors to increase connectivity in fragmented landscapes.

Environmental Justice

I work with communities with environmental justice concerns to detect, quantify, and mitigate exposure to pollution.

Current Projects

Public Science

Spidey Senser

The mission of Spidey Senser is to ensure an equitable distribution of clean air in the United States. This is currently difficult to deliver because of a lack of fine-scale air quality monitoring across large regions. While technology has made air quality monitoring more possible for individuals, low cost sensors can still be a financial hurdle for many. Spidey Senser uses a network of neighborhood air quality monitors using tools already available to everyone: spider webs. Metals in the air settle as dust and drift onto spider webs. Public scientists collect these webs in thier neighborhood and send them to our lab where we identify the type and amount of metals in each sample. With spiders as bioindicators, we detect differences in air quality from neighborhood to neighborhood.

Black and white image of a dome-shaped spider web in the grass

Environmental Justice

Reducing the harm of urban pollution

This project is a collaboration with social scientist Erin Goodling and environmental scientist Melanie Malone focuses on the environmental justice concerns of houseless "rest areas".  Also called tent cities or encampments (and distinct from publicly funded highway rest areas), rest areas exist in over 100 US cities. They typically involve a collection of tents or temporary shelters, on public or private land. They are managed by and for houseless people, and they provide a safe place for daily life off the streets. Despite their growing prevalence and known environmental exposure of urban pollution, however, little is known about the role within broader social and environmental justice movements. This project begins to address these gaps, and will also entail the development of an "EJ Toolkit" that will assist rest area communities in analyzing environmental hazards, remediating toxic soil, and advocating for safe living spaces. Erin Goodling and Melanie Malone

Food Web Ecology

Riparian indicators of contaminant exposure

About 80% of streams world wide are contaminated with pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs). Thanks to work at the Baltimore Ecosystem Study by Emma Rosi, we know that contaminants affect streams along an urban-to-rural gradient, with the highest contamination in highly urbanized streams. Do these contaminants stay in the streams, or do they spread into our ecosystem through the food web? We're investigating contaminant subsidies from aquatic to nearby terrestrial (riparian) shoreline habitats. In particular, we use riparian spiders (many of which feed almost exclusively on adult aquatic insects) to measure contamination in Baltimore streams and evaluate the effect the contamination has on spider health and behavior.

Conservation Ecology

The effects of wildlife corridors on predators

Wildlife corridors are the most popular management strategy for reducing the devastating effects of habitat loss and fragmentation. There's only one problem: we aren't sure they work.

Conceptually, corridors are a win-win. They connect otherwise isolated high quality habitats to support species movement between populations to increase genetic flow, but without requiring large tracts of land that are giving way to human land use. It's definitely a win economically, but the jury is still out if they work in practice ecologically.

We're asking a lot out of corridors. They need to reduce extinction of the most sensitive species by maintaining ecological processes between landscapes with only a fraction of the real estate. And with each increasing trophic level, that job gets harder. I address connectivity issues through the lens of predation to study the ability of corridors to facilitate food web subsidies.

"We can't separate the physical environment from the cultural environment. We have to talk about making sure that justice is integrated throughout all that we do."

- Dr. Robert Bullard