Department of Biological Sciences, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
Ph.D. 1984 University of Tasmania, Australia
Plant Community Ecology, Conservation Biology, Restoration Ecology & Biostatistics
Office: SLW 1250 Science West Building
Lab: SLW 0320 Science West Building
Phone: (618) 650 2975 or 650 3927
Fax: (618) 650 3174
Click here for Curriculum Vitae
Welcome to my home page, where you will find information about my teaching and research. This web site is constantly under construction and I will be updating and extending it as time permits. If you are a student that may be interested in doing research in my lab, either a Senior Project, research hours, the Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (URCA) Program or a Master's degree, please check out the information on my research interests and the projects of past students and contact me if you would like to find out more and discuss potential projects. I am especially interested in supervising students in projects related to the ecology, conservation or restoration of plant communities, including animal habitat studies, but will accept students in related fields, as long as I have the experience and infrastructure to support the proposed research in my lab. If you choose to do a research project under my mentorship, I will assist you in gaining knowledge, skills, and experience that contribute to your professional development and enhance your future studies and career options. I will expect you to be strongly self-motivated and prepared to put in the necessary time and effort to perform your research but you can rely on me to provide timely help, advice, and support when you need it.
Current Courses (fall 2013)
If you are a student enrolled in one of my current courses, you can access the course materials, web links, your grades, etc. through the BlackBoard system. Click here to log in to BlackBoard. Note: Blackboard courses will usually become available a few days before the start of the semester.
Biology 463 (Conservation Biology) Syllabus for Fall 2013
Biology 596 (Demons in Eden: the Paradox of Plant Diversity) Syllabus for Fall 2013
Biology 111 (Contemporary Biology) Syllabus for Spring 2010
Biology 111 sec F10 (Freshman Seminar) Syllabus for Fall 2012
Biology 121 (Biology II Plant Systems) Syllabus for Fall 2008
Biology 151 (Introduction to Biological Sciences II) Syllabus for Fall 2011
Biology 365 (Ecology) Syllabus for Spring 2013
Biology 417 (Quantitative Methods in the Biological Sciences) Syllabus for Spring 2006
Biology 463 (Conservation Biology) Syllabus for Fall 2012
Biology 490/590 (Ecological Analysis) Syllabus for Fall 2006
Biology 492a,b (Senior Colloquium) Syllabus for Fall 2008
Biology 492/492M (Senior Colloquium) Syllabus for Fall 2011
Biology 497 (Senior Project) Syllabus for Spring 2013
Biology 592 (Graduate Colloquium) Syllabus for Fall 2011
Biology 596 (Restoration Ecology) Syllabus for Spring 2008
Biology 596 (Biological Effects of Climate Change) Syllabus for Spring 2009
Biology 596 (Foundations of Ecology) Syllabus for Fall 2010
Panama Field Trip
Dr. Rick Essner and I led a student field trip to Panama in spring break, 2009. Details of the trip are at this link: Panama Trip 2009. The trip was a huge success and Dr. Essner and I are now planning a new biology course that will be based around a week-long field trip to Panama or Costa Rica.
My major research interest is the development of better methods for the analysis of ecological communities (sets of species that live together in a particular locality). These are techniques that allow us to describe, model and predict changes in communities in response to variation in the physical or biotic environment, including natural or human-induced disturbances. I am particularly interested in applications of these methods in the conservation and restoration of communities. Below you will find brief descriptions of my current research projects, recent publications and a list of student research projects that I have supervised.
Trajectory Analysis, a New Method for Evaluating the Success of Community Restorations
To evaluate the success of community restoration, clear goals and explicit quantitative criteria that define progress towards the desired future condition are necessary. I am developing a new statistical method, Trajectory Analysis, that tests the hypothesis that community composition is changing in a manner that indicates successful restoration. Community data are summarized by non-metric multidimensional scaling (NMDS) ordination and the time trajectory of each site within the ordination space is examined. Statistics are calculated that express the degree to which each site’s trajectory aligns with a specified target direction. Statistical significance is tested by random permutation of the data for each species among time steps within each trajectory, followed by ordination of the permuted data and recalculation of the statistics. Depending on restoration goals, the target direction can be defined in various ways. For example, the target direction for each site could be a vector from its initial pre-restoration point towards a suitable reference site point. If the aim is to shift sites along a specified environmental gradient, a vector of maximum correlation between ordination scores and a variable that expresses position on the gradient would be a suitable target direction. Trajectory Analysis is particularly useful when evidence of restoration success must be obtained within a limited time frame. The method is capable of assessing whether communities are heading in an acceptable direction, even if they have not yet attained their desired composition. I first developed Trajectory Analysis in contract research for The Nature Conservancy, in which I evaluated the success of wetland restorations in the Disney Wilderness Preserve, a 4,850 ha site in Central Florida. The restorations are mitigation for wetland destruction by development projects in the greater Orlando area. The method was refined and its statistical power investigated by simulation in summer 2005, when I held a an SIUE Summer Research Fellowship. Further improvements to Trajectory Analysis has been made in the course of collaborative research with Drs. Mike Ross, Evelyn Gaiser and Joel Trexler, Florida International University, in which I am applying the technique to monitoring data for vegetation, periphyton, fish and invertebrates collected as part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP). I am currently writing user-friendly software to make the method available and preparing several papers for publication on its development and application.
Multivariate Habitat Modeling of Birds and Small Mammals in Oak-Hickory Forest Remnants
This is a collaborative project with Dr. Rick Essner. We are using vegetation and environmental data from a network of 130 circular plots that we have established throughout two oak-hickory forest patches on SIUE campus and in Bohm Woods State Nature Reserve to model habitat requirements of bird and small mammal species. Several students have been involved in this research. Jerrod Looft, David Hartweger, Felicia Scaggs, and John Wendler set up the plots and Jerrod surveyed the vegetation as part of a National Great Rivers Research and Education Center (NGRREC) summer internship. Lane Richter held another NGRREC internship, in which he collected point-count data for bird species on the plots and constructed habitat models. Mandy Albus will conduct small mammal surveys on the plots in summer-fall 2009 and Lindsay Preston will be installing Thermochron iButton data loggers to monitor activity in nest boxes established on each plot. Zak French started a Master's project in my lab in spring 2010. Zak will be extending the research started by Lane Richter by obtaining a larger data set of bird point-count data and constructing predictive habitat models. Zak will also perform a comparison of foraging behavior among several species of woodpeckers. We have another NGRREC internship funded for summer 2010. See recent publications below for two papers arising from this project.
Evaluation of Chao's Indices of Community Dissimilarity
This project is in collaboration with Dr. Yong Cao, Illinois Natural History Survey. We are using simulated community data with known ecological structure to test new indices of community dissimilarity proposed by Anne Chao, which attempt to account for "unseen shared species". The new indices are thought to have superior sampling properties to traditional indices of community dissimilarity, such as the Bray-Curtis index, but this has not yet been tested.
Robust analytic methods in spatially complex systems where multiple sampling methods must be invoked for community characterization and inferences
Working in collaboration with Brian Ickes, USGS Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center, I am using simulated community data with known sampling biases to investigate effective ways to combine and analyze community data collected using different sampling methods. The research has broad applications in studies of animal communities, where different methods must be used to collect data for different components of the fauna. For example, long-term monitoring of fish communities in the Mississippi River system uses a combination of electrofishing and various types of nets and there is no agreement on appropriate methods to combine and analyze the resulting data.
Ground-truthing of Lidar-based vegetation classification for the Gulf Coast Network
My collaborators on this project are Dr. Loretta Battaglia, Southern Illinois University Carbondale and Dr. Bob Woodman, National Park Service Gulf Coast Network. We are analyzing ground-truthing vegetation data from John Lafitte National Historic Park and Preserve, Louisiana and Vicksburg National Military Park, Mississippi in order to evaluate the effectiveness of a vegetation classification based on remotely-sensed Lidar data. The aim is to identify those aspects of vegetation composition and structure that are reliably captured by the Lidar classification.
Bottomland forest restoration in the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley
My collaborators on this project are Dr. Loretta Battaglia, Southern Illinois University Carbondale and Dr. Davis Pritchett, University of Arkansas Fort Smith. We are studying restoration of bottomland forest on abandoned agricultural land in the Ouachita Wildlife Management Area, near Monroe, Louisiana. Our main study site is a field that was retired from soybean production in 1985. The project examines the processes of vegetation succession, including dispersal and establishment of woody species, and the gradual development of bottomland forest. For two papers arising from this research, see Recent Publications below.
Long-term Dynamics of Floodplain Forests of the Congaree National Park, SC
This is a collaborative project with Dr. Rebecca Sharitz, University of Georgia, Savannah River Ecology Lab, funded by a grant from the National Park Service. The Congaree National Park (CNP) protects the largest remaining tract of old-growth bottomland forest in the U.S. Since the Saluda Dam was constructed on one of the main tributaries to the Congaree River in 1930, changes in hydrology of the river and its floodplain have occurred, with unknown effects on the floodplain forests of the CNP. Long-term changes in forest composition may also be occurring in response to climate change. We have analyzed the size and age structure of floodplain forest communities to test for evidence of long-term change in forest composition. Existing diameter (DBH) increment and mortality data from nine 1-ha plots, established in 1989 after Hurricane Hugo, were first analyzed to derive age-DBH curves for canopy species. The curves were then applied to data from these plots and an additional 16 1-ha plots surveyed in summer 2004, to estimate the age of each tree and allocate them to year-of-establishment classes. Ordination and trajectory analysis identified 13 plots with a community trend from the oldest age class (trees that established prior to damming) through to younger age classes that paralleled the trend from slough forests to bottomland hardwood forests. Since 1930, age cohorts of trees on these sites have been increasingly dominated by species typical of less-flooded conditions. Though the observed pattern is consistent with long-term shifts towards drier forest types, alternative explanations exist. These include sediment deposition with consequent succession and temporary establishment of less flood-tolerant species on elevated microsites. This project is now almost completed. A detailed report has been submitted to the National Park Service and a paper is being prepared for publication. Papers on this project were presented at the Illinois State Academy of Science annual meeting in April 2007 and at the Ecological Society of America annual meeting in August 2007.
Recent Publications (* indicates student author)
Sah, J.P., Ross, M.S., Saha, S, Minchin, P.R. & Sadle, J. (2013). Trajectories of vegetation response to water management in Taylor Slough, Everglades National Park, Florida. Wetlands,
*Wood, T.J., Essner, R.L., & Minchin, P.R. (2013). Effects of prescribed burning on grassland avifauna at Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary. Polymath: An Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences Journal, 3, 19-38.
Essner, R. L., Jr., Z. R. *French, L. M. *Richter, & P. R. Minchin. (2012). Bohm Woods and the SIUE Nature Preserve: Valuable Conservation Assets for Southwestern Illinois. Meadowlark 21: 2-5.
*West, N.M., Gibson, D.J. & Minchin, P.R. (2010). Microhabitat analysis of the invasive exotic liana Lonicera japonica Thunb. The Journal of the Torrey Botanical Society, 137: 380-390.
*Richter, L. A., Essner, R. L. & Minchin, P.R. (2010). A survey of bluff forest avifauna in southwestern Illinois. Transactions of the Illinois State Academy of Science, 103: 39-48.
*West, N. M., Gibson, D. J. & Minchin, P. R. (2009). Characterizing the microhabitats of exotic species in Illinois shale barrens. Plant Ecology, 200: 255-265.
Battaglia, L. L., Pritchett, D. W. & Minchin, P. R. (2008). Evaluating dispersal limitation in passive bottomland forest restoration. Restoration Ecology, 16, 417-424.
Collins, B., Minchin, P. R., Dilustro, J. and Duncan, L. (2006). Land use effects on groundlayer composition and regeneration of mixed pine hardwood forests in the Fall Line Sandhills, S.E. USA. Forest Ecology and Management, 226, 181–188.
Klepzig, K. D., Robison, D. J., Fowler, G., Minchin, P. R., Hain, F. P. & Allen, H. L. (2005). Effects of mass inoculation on induced oleoresin response in intensively managed loblolly pine. Tree Physiology, 25, 681-688.
Oksanen, J. & Minchin, P. R. (2002). Continuum theory revisited: what shape are species responses along ecological gradients? Ecological Modelling, 157, 119-129.
Battaglia, L. L., Minchin, P. R. & Pritchett, D. W. (2002). Fifteen years of old-field succession and reestablishment of a bottomland hardwood forest in the southeastern USA. Wetlands, 22, 1-17.
*Martin, R. A. U., Burgman, M. A. & Minchin, P. R. (2001). Spatial analysis of eucalypt dieback at Coranderrk, Australia. Applied Vegetation Science, 4, 257-266.
*Pearce, J. & Minchin, P. R. (2001). Vegetation of the Yellingbo Nature Conservation Reserve and its relationship to the distribution of the helmeted honeyeater, bell miner and white-eared honeyeater. Wildlife Research, 28, 41-52.
Fensham, R. J., Minchin, P. R., Fairfax, R. J., Kemp, J. E., Purdie, R. W., McDonald, W. J. F. & Neldner, V. J. (2000). Broad-scale environmental relations of floristic gradients in the Mitchell grasslands of Queensland. Australian Journal of Botany, 48, 27-34.
Battaglia, L. L., Sharitz, R. R. & Minchin, P. R. (1999). Patterns of seedling and overstory composition along a gradient of hurricane disturbance in an old-growth bottomland hardwood community. Canadian Journal of Forest Research, 29, 144-156.
*Coates, F., Kirkpatrick, J. B. & Minchin, P. R. (1999). Towards an explanation of the causes of the rarity of two Tasmanian Spyridium species. Australian Journal of Ecology, 24, 11-17.
Research Students Supervised (*students for whom I was principal advisor/mentor)
*Leinweber, C.W.C. & Minchin, P.R. (2013). Baseline analysis of forest in the bluff corridor section of the SIUE Nature Preserve: conservation value of the canopy tree stratum. Senior Project poster presented at the 104th annual conference of the Illinois State Academy of Sciences, Jacksonville, IL, April 5-6, 2013.
*Miles, C.R. & Minchin, P.R. (2013). Baseline analysis of forest in the bluff corridor section of the SIUE Nature Preserve: exotic species abundance. Senior Project poster presented at the 104th annual conference of the Illinois State Academy of Sciences, Jacksonville, IL, April 5-6, 2013.
Wood, Travis. (2012). Effects of Prescribed Fire on Grassland Avifauna at Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary. M.S. thesis, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
Schneider, Brandon. (2012). Changes in Fish Use and Habitat Diversity Associated with Placement of Three Chevron Dikes in the Middle Mississippi River. M.S. thesis, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
*Fritzgerald, Adam. (2011). An analysis of the history of development of three oak-hickory forest fragments in southwestern Illinois as a predictor of current patterns of biodiversity. M.S. thesis, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
*Laquet, Jennifer. (2011). Predictors of the diversity and quality of the understory herbaceous plant community in fragmented oak-hickory forests. M.S. thesis, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
*Webb, Leslie A. (2011). Analysis of tree growth on long-term forest plots in Sweet William Woods, southwestern Illinois. Senior Project poster presented at the 103rd annual conference of the Illinois State Academy of Science, Charleston, IL, April 8-9, 2011.
*Ozyurt, Nevin I. (2011). Analysis of tree mortality on long-term forest plots in Sweet William Woods, southwestern Illinois. Senior Project poster presented at the 103rd annual conference of the Illinois State Academy of Science, Charleston, IL, April 8-9, 2011.
*Browning, Robbi. (2010). Invasion potential of golden rain tree in bluff forests of the Mississippi River. Senior Project poster presented at the Illinois State Academy of Sciences 102nd annual meeting, Decatur, IL, April 9-10, 2010.
*French, Zak. (2009). A comparison of habitat use and foraging behavior of two species of woodpeckers in oak-hickory forest. Senior Project presentation, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
*Andruska, Aaron. (2009) Testing effects of altered hydrology on floodplain forests in the Upper Mississippi River Valley. Senior Project presentation, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
*Rennie, Lauren. (2009). Does the Hellinger transformation make PCA a viable ordination method for community data? Senior Project poster presented at the Illinois State Academy of Sciences 101st annual meeting, Edwardsville, IL, April 17-18, 2009.
*French, Zak. (2009). Quantitative assessment of edge effects in oak-hickory forest fragments in southwestern Illinois. Undergraduate Research Academy, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Poster won 1st prize in the Botany section at the Illinois State Academy of Sciences 101st annual meeting, Edwardsville, April 17-18, 2009.
*Bragg, Rachel. (2009). A Study of Trillium flexipes and Trillium recurvatum on the SIUE Campus. M.S. thesis, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
Richter, Lane. (2008). A Multivariate Habitat Model for the State Threatened Cerulean Warbler and other Neotropical Migrant Songbirds in Southwestern Illinois. National Great Rivers Research and Education Center summer internship program.
*Looft, Jerrod. (2008). Patterns of Native and Exotic Plant Diversity in Fragmented Bluff Forests: a Test of the Biotic Resistance Hypothesis. National Great Rivers Research and Education Center summer internship program.
Kaufman, Sam. (2007). Plant species evaluation for extensive green roof applications in the midwestern United States. M.S. thesis, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
*Hogan, Kortney. (2007). Determining age and type of forest in the Sweet William Woods, Edwardsville, IL. Senior Project poster, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
*Whicker, Cullen. (2007). Comparison of oak-hickory forest fragments in Sweet William and Bluebell Woods, SIUE Campus. Senior Project poster, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
*Choudhury, Jessica. (2007). Assessment of the invasion potential of introduced tree species in the bluff forests of the Illinois and Mississippi River systems.. National Great Rivers Research and Education Center summer internship program.
*Romano, Meghan. (2007). Establishment of reference sites for bottomland forest restoration in the confluence region of the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers.. National Great Rivers Research and Education Center summer internship program.
Scaggs, Felicia. (2007). Ecological and genetic monitoring of southern flying squirrels in a fragmented riparian corridor. National Great Rivers Research and Education Center summer internship program and Undergraduate Research Academy, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
*Balestrieri, Nick. (2007). Evaluating bottomland forest restoration in the Two Rivers National Wildlife Refuge, IL. Senior Project Poster presented at the Illinois State Academy of Sciences 99th annual meeting, Springfield, IL, April 20-21, 2007.
*Finley, Alana. (2007). Dendrochronology of ash (Fraxinus sp.) in Sweet William Woods, Edwardsville, IL. Senior Project poster presented at the Illinois State Academy of Sciences 99th annual meeting, Springfield, IL, April 20-21, 2007.
*Wright, Kassie. (2007). Comparison of the edge zones of two forests near Edwardsville, IL. Senior Project Poster presented at the Illinois State Academy of Sciences 99th annual meeting, Springfield, IL, April 20-21, 2007.
Bolitho, Andrea. (2007). Dispersal potential of non-indigenous tree species at The Nature Institute, Godrey, IL. M.S. thesis, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
West, Natalie. (2006). Exotic species microhabitats in Illinois shale barrens. M.S. thesis, Southern Illinois University Carbondale.
*Hanley, Steve. (2006). Quantitative assessment of bottomland forest restoration in the Two Rivers National Wildlife Refuge. National Great Rivers Research and Education Center summer internship program.
*Clark, Shannon. (2006). Heterogeneity within forest fragments on SIUE campus. Senior Project presentation, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
Reed, Jerry. (2005). Nitrate analysis in the Piasa Creek Watershed. M.S. thesis, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
Ramirez, Raul. (2005). Ecosystem function of two dominant cyprinid species in heterotrophic Ozark headwater streams. M.S. thesis, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
Elith, Rosemary Jane. (2002). Predicting the distribution of plants. Ph.D thesis, School of Botany, The University of Melbourne.
Ramp, Daniel. (2001). Dispersion of Eastern Grey Kangaroos and their impacts on vegetation in semi-rural environments. Ph.D thesis, Zoology Department, The University of Melbourne.
Lee, Linda J. (2000). Winter food resources and carrying capacity in Victorian coastal saltmarshes in relation to the feeding ecology of the endangered Orange-bellied parrot (Neophema chrysogaster). Ph.D thesis, School of Botany, The University of Melbourne.
*Richdale, William E. (2000). The dynamics and the composition of the vegetation at the Banyule Marsh in response to an unnatural hydraulic regime caused by the inflow of storm water into the Banyule marsh. M.App.Sc. thesis, Faculty of Engineering, The University of Melbourne.
Read, Cassia. (1998). Assessment of florisitic edge effects within fragmented dry sclerophyll forests of N.E. Melbourne. Honours thesis, School of Botany, The University of Melbourne.
Ulrey, Christopher Joseph. (1998). Comparison of detrended correspondence analysis and nonmetric multidimensional scaling ordination techniques using vegetation data from the southern Appalachians. M.S. thesis, North Carolina State University.
Pearce, Jennie. (1997). The delineation and prediction of habitat, with particular reference to the endangered Helmeted Honeyeater. Ph.D. thesis, School of Forestry, The University of Melbourne.
*Sandercock, Gabrielle. (1997). Evaluating data standardisation in vegetation analysis using simulated data. Honours thesis, School of Botany, The University of Melbourne.
*Tolsma, Arn D. (1997). Measuring the success of gold mine rehabilitation in Victoria’s box-ironbark forests. Honours thesis, School of Botany, The University of Melbourne.
*Alexander, Jennifer. (1996). The vegetation of serpentine outcrops in East Gippsland, Victoria. Honours thesis, School of Botany, The University of Melbourne.
Blanks, Perpetua. (1996). The predictive value of ecological vegetation classes for the presence of bryophytes. Honours thesis, School of Botany, The University of Melbourne.
Coates, Fiona. (1996). Ecological and biogeographical correlates of rarity in two narrow endemics in Tasmania : Spyridium microphyllum (F. Muell. ex Reisseck) Druce and Spyridium obcordatum (Hook. f.) W.M. Curtis. Ph.D. thesis, Geography Department, University of Tasmania.
Martin, Rachel A. U. (1996). Spatial analysis of eucalypt dieback at Corranderrk, Australia. Honours thesis, School of Botany, The University of Melbourne.
Singer, Ruth. (1996). The regeneration ecology of Kunzea ericoides (A.Rich) J. Thompson at Coranderrk Reserve, Healesville. Honours thesis, School of Botany, The University of Melbourne.
*Williams, Nicholas S. G. (1995). Does logging shift the floristics of Wet Eucalypt Forests? Analysis of an East Gippsland chronosequence. Honours thesis, School of Botany, The University of Melbourne.
*Ramp, Daniel. (1994). Seed-bank dynamics and germination ecology in Mediterranean heathland, Wyperfeld National Park. Honours thesis, School of Botany, The University of Melbourne.