Jim Dalling

dalling_personnelJim is an Associate Professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. After completing his PhD research on forest regeneration in Jamaica he moved to Panama and spent eight years at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama based on Barro Colorado Island. His research explores the processes determining the local abundance and distribution patterns of tropical tree species. He is especially interested in understanding interactions between seeds, predators, and soil-borne pathogens, and more broadly, the role of edaphic factors in shaping the habitat requirements of tree species.


A. Elizabeth Arnold

arnold_personnelI am an evolutionary ecologist and mycologist interested in the diversity, ecological roles, and evolutionary origins of fungal symbionts of plants. I focus on fungal endophytes — one of the most ubiquitous but least-studied groups of symbionts on earth — and on seed-associated fungi, which are critical components of seed survival in soil.

I completed my B.S. in Biology at Duke in 1995 and my Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Arizona in 2002. Following an NSF Postdoctoral Fellowship in Microbial Biology at Duke (2003-2004), I joined the faculty in Plant Pathology and Microbiology/Plant Sciences at the UA in 2005.

Together, my students and I address diverse questions in fungal biology in plant communities ranging from tropical forests to Arctic tundra. We’re united by our interest in organismal biology, ecology, evolution, and phylogenetics. In addition to my research, I enjoy teaching at the undergraduate and graduate levels, collaborating with local teachers to conduct an active outreach program, and serving as Curator of the Robert L. Gilbertson Mycological Herbarium (ARIZ).

More information on my work and research group can be found at:

Adam Davis

davis-personnelDr. Adam Davis is a Research Ecologist with the USDA-ARS Global Change and Photosynthesis Research Unit in Urbana, IL, where he also serves as an Associate Professor in the University of Illinois Crop Sciences Department.
He received an M.S. in Ecology and Environmental Sciences from University of Maine, and a Ph.D. in Crop Production and Physiology (Weed Science) from Iowa State University, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship at Michigan State University.
Adam’s research makes use of both experimental and modeling approaches to solve applied weed ecology problems in field crop production systems.
Recent research areas include understanding weed seed defense mechanisms, modeling the evolution and spread of herbicide resistant weeds, developing multi-tactic integrated weed management systems for organic and low-external-input farms, and conducting risk analysis of bioenergy crop invasion potential.

Camilo Zalamea 

zalamea_personnelCamilo is a Colombian plant ecologist with interests in plant growth, functional traits, secondary forest dynamics, and community structure. His doctoral research assessed how morphological and phenological traits vary throughout plant ontogeny and across environmental conditions in Cecropia, one of the most emblematic pioneer genera in the Neotropics. He found that Cecropia morphology could be used as a chronometer to accurately date secondary forests, a finding that has multiple applications in ecology and conservation. After completing his PhD in Montpellier II University (France) and Los Andes University (Colombia), Camilo is now involved as a Postdoctoral fellow on the project: “Seed defense syndromes of tropical forest trees: emergent properties of seed dormancy, defense and microbial interactions” at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute on Panama.


Carolina Sarmiento

sarmiento_personnelCarolina is a Colombian biologist with experience in tropical aquatic fungi, wood density and anatomy, and host-microbial interactions in the skin of tropical frogs. After getting a Masters degree from Universidad de Los Andes in 2006, her curiosity and passion for tropical ecology have invited her to explore different research areas working in three different countries in South America: Panama, French Guiana and Colombia. Carolina joined the project in 2012 with the hope that her previous experience will help us understand how seeds interact with soil fungi and how it helps seeds to survive in the soil before germination.

Justin Shaffer

JustinShaffer_personnelMy interests surround the ecology of plants and associated microbes. I received my B.A. in environmental studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz, where I focused on the ecology of epiphytic lichen communities in a temperate forest. I am currently working on a Ph.D. in Plant Pathology and Microbiology at the University of Arizona with Drs. Betsy Arnold and Dave Baltrus, and am beginning to examine the relationships and interactions of endohyphal bacteria of seed-associated and foliar endophytic fungi. Beyond academia, I enjoy traveling, hiking, playing music, and creating art using oil paints and collage.

Simon Stump

SimonStumpSimon graduated from Harvey Mudd College (CA, USA) in 2006 with a degree in mathematical biology. He is currently pursuing a PhD under the guidance of Peter Chesson. He is broadly interested in how similar species are able to coexist. For his dissertation, he is studying what effects pathogens and other natural enemies have on mediating (or undermining) coexistence between plants, with a particular focus on the Janzen-Connell hypothesis.


Margaret Wilch


wilch_personnelI graduated with BSS in Biology from Cornell College in 1979 and completed a MS in General Biology for the University of Arizona in 1999. I have taught high school biology for 19 years, most recently with a focus on biotechnology, and have led an independent research program for high school students for the last 16 years. I have been very fortunate to share the process of research with many talented students whose work has ranged from mechanical engineering to archaeology to molecular genetics and ecology.

I find ecology and evolutionary biology most compelling and am fascinated by multi-trophic
interactions, including bacterial symbionts in insects and fungal symbionts in plants. I am collaborating with the Arnold lab to share the science of fungal-seed symbioses with students in my classes and beyond, and will conduct my own research project in Panama
with support from a Research Experiences for Teachers supplement from NSF.