Lab Members


Justin Becknell Postdoctoral Fellow in the Institute at Brown for the Study of Environment and Society

I am interested in ecosystem processes in secondary tropical forests. As deforestation continues, the proportion of the world’s forest that is recovering from being cleared increases, now making up more than half of the world’s forest. I work to understand how ecosystem processes in these forests compares to those of primary forest and what factors affect the return of ecosystem function as forests regenerate. I am interested in carbon uptake and storage, relationships between plant functional traits and ecosystem function, and nutrient cycling. My Ph.D. work focused on secondary tropical dry forests in Guanacaste, Costa Rica. Currently I am studying the regenerating Atlantic forest in Bahia, Brazil.






Joy WinbournePostdoctoral Fellow in the Institute at Brown for the Study of Environment and Society

Broadly, my research focuses on tropical forest ecology and coupled biogeochemical cycles. I am motivated by the pressing need to understand the function of tropical forests and how they will respond to anthropogenic activities. I am particularly fascinated by the process of biological N fixation, a microbially-mediated process responsible for the conversion of the abundant di-nitrogen in the atmosphere into biologically reactive forms. There are a number of pathways by which N fixers make a living including symbiotic relationships with trees (e.g. legumes) or free-living in the soil. My previous research activities investigated how variation in bedrock derived nutrients – namely phosphorus, molybedunum, and iron – influenced patterns of free-living N fixation in the rainforests of Belize. We found iron to limit rates of free-living N fixation in the soil of forests growing on limestone geology. My postdoctoral research focuses on understanding controls and patterns of symbiotic N fixation during secondary forest succession in the Atlantic forest of Brazil. Symbiotic N fixing trees are abundant in tropical forests yet little is known about the regulation of N fixation via this pathway especially in secondary forests. I plan to explore this gap in our knowledge in order to inform regional restoration objectives and global N budgets.


OsborneBrooke Osborne
Ph.D. Student in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and the IGERT Reverse Ecology Program

Broadly, I am interested in terrestrial ecosystem ecology and biogeochemistry. I like thinking about microbial linkages between global change and ecosystem-scale processes and am especially interested in questions that will advance our understanding of nutrient cycling dynamics and address knowledge gaps for management/mitigation purposes in the face of global change.Currently I am focused on better understanding the influence of geomorphology, climate, and biological diversity on nitrogen cycling and limitation in lowland tropical forests and the underlying mechanisms of control. Additionally I am a student of Brown University and the MBL’s

“Reverse Ecology” IGERT program. My cohort and I are working to integrate net generation sequencing into improving our understanding of nitrogen cycling in salt marsh systems.In addition to my research I enjoy designing and participating in creative communication and outreach efforts to connect the public and decision makers to science. 



lindsaymccullochLindsay McCulloch Ph.D. Student in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

I am interested in tropical ecosystem ecology with a specific interest in how nutrients move throughout a system. Broadly, I study the interface between plants and soils and the varying potential influences they have on each other. I often think about the relationship between fungal hyphae and plants and how that facilitates the movement of nutrients in typically nutrient poor soils. I plan to better understand how this relationship contributes to larger processes, such as the carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus cycle to gain a better understanding of the intricate workings of these cycles and potential global impacts.



LoviniaLovinia Reynolds (Undergraduate in Department of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences)

I am working in the Atlantic Forest in Brazil on a reforestation project with the support of the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship. I am interested in learning about how nutrient cycling in degraded areas influences reforestation success.  







Aida FengAidaFeng (Undergraduate in Department of Chemistry)I am an undergraduate researcher working at the intersections of chemistry, biology, and environmental science. My research, supported by the Voss Undergraduate Research Fellowship, explores how soil nitrogen availability varies across secondary tropical forests in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest. To this end, I am tracking specific steps of the terrestrial nitrogen cycle, including mineralization and denitrification, with particular attention to plant-microbial interactions. I am excited for these findings to help inform larger-scale policy conversations surrounding agriculture, reforestation, and CO2 reduction initiatives.



Ruby Ho (Lab Manager)

I am responsible for the day to day operations in the lab, including helping students with their work and running samples that come in from our various projects.  All inquiries that are lab-specific should be sent to me.




Some Recent Lab Alums:

Maya Almaraz (former PhD Student):  Current whereabouts: NSF Funded post doc in Ben Houlton’s Lab at UC Davis

Eric Roy (former post doc):  Current whereabouts: Assistant Professor at The University of Vermont

Rachel Chelsea Nagy (former Ph.D. student):  Current whereabouts:  Postdoctoral Fellow in Balch Lab at CU Boulder.

Cooper Tamayo (former undergrad):  Current whereabouts:  Graduate school at UCSB.

Rebekah Stein (former undergrad):  Current whereabouts: Graduate program in Ecology at the University of Michigan 

Laura Schreeg (former post doc):  Current whereabouts:  Program Manager at U.S. Agency for International Development and U.S.Department of Agriculture (USDA)

Radika Bhaskar (former post doc):  Current whereabouts – Visitng faculty at Haverford

Steven Goldsmith (former post doc).  Current whereabouts:  assistant professor at Villanova.

Joaquin Chaves (former post doc).  Current whereabouts: Research Scientist, NASA Ocean Biology and Biogeochemistry

Shelby Hayhoe Riskin (former Ph.D. student).  Current whereabouts: Publishing papers and being a mom.  

Carmen Tubbesing (former Bio undergrad).  Current whereabouts: Ph.D. Student, UC Berkeley.

Jesse Bateman (former GeoBio undergrad).  Current whereabouts: Graduate student in ecology at Stanford.

Mana Tang (former GeoBio undergrad).  Current whereabouts: Graduate student in anthropology at the Washington University in St. Louis

Timothy Huth (former Env. Studies MS student).  Current whereabouts: Risk analyst at Risk Management Solutions.