Current Lab Members

Post Docs

Laura Russo

laurarprofileI study mutualistic interactions, particularly those between pollinators and plants. In a community context, these interactions form networks, the structure of which is a healthy area of research. Beyond these network representations, pollination services are increasingly important, and increasingly threatened, in agroecosystems. Much of my work focuses on shifting our reliance away from the domesticated honeybee toward communities of many species of wild bees. I’m broadly interested in community structure, mutualisms, coevolution, and ecosystem services. I did my graduate work at Penn State and a postdoc at Cornell University with Bryan Danforth before returning to Penn State for another postdoc.”

Shouli Li

My major research interests lie in quantitative ecology and environmental decision-making. I combine modeling and/or experimental approaches to understand and predict the Shouli Liresponse of populations to rapidly changing environmental conditions, as well as to provide support for environmental decisions in the areas of desert restoration, invasive species management and epidemic intervention. I am currently working on Ebola modelling and management.  By using simulations of alternative intervention strategies under different models, I am trying to provide insights into how model uncertainties could affect decision-making, and how this would differ when the management objectives are different.  During my previous researches at Turku University and Utrecht University, I combined demographic modeling, molecular markers, large scale filed experiments and common garden approaches to explore the factors driving the population establishment of invasive plants and the population dynamics of desert shrubs in response to different environmental stresses and disturbances.

My webpage at researchgate:


Yun Tao

I am a post-doctesttoral researcher in the Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics. My work consists of developing behavioral models of vaccination strategies for the management of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) in the United States. I completed my PhD with Alan Hastings in theoretical ecology at the University of California, Davis. My research interests combine animal behavior, population ecology, and epidemiology, with a focus on predicting the emergence of complex spatiotemporal patterns stemming from movement patterns. My past experience also includes modeling metapopulation dynamics at the University of Helsinki with Otso Ovaskainen and Ilkka Hanski. I am currently in collaboration with researchers at EcoHealth Alliance to investigate the risks and management options of Rift Valley Fever based on the seasonal home range patterns of wild and domestic ungulates.

Chris Baker

My research is aboutparents house.JPG developing mathematical models of biological systems to help improve the way that we manage them. Here at Penn State, I am working on management strategies for treating drug-resistant diseases. Before moving to Penn State I completed a BSc and a MSc in applied mathematics, followed by a PhD in the Quantitative and Applied Ecology group, all at the University of Melbourne, Australia. I have worked on a range of problems, including in optimising invasive species management and predicting how management decisions will affect networks interacting species.


Graduate Students

Amalie McKee

Snapshot_20121018_4I am broadly interested in theoretical disease ecology and disease management.  Both disease dynamics and disease management depend on population parameters, such as age structure.  Much of disease management is done at a broad scale, with individuals and organizations making public health recommendations on the country scale.  However, relatively small changes in population parameters, such as age structure or disease history, can make huge differences in the effectiveness of these recommendations.  I study how optimal disease management strategy depends on these population parameters.  I am particularly interested in measles vaccine policy, with regard to how the timing of routine immunizations interacts with age structure and maternal acquired immunity.

Joe Keller


I am working to better understand how climate affects interactions between plants and herbivores. My work focuses on tracking the seasonal timing of life history events for the invasive thistle Carduus nutans and the biological control weevil Rhinocyllus conicus. I use information gathered from field experiments and from detailed observations of naturally occurring populations to find out how climate affects seasonal synchrony between the two species and to examine how synchrony affects population dynamics.


Undergraduate Researchers

Ciara Hovis
CiaraHovisI started working in the Shea lab during the fall of 2012. Over the summer of 2013, I assisted Joe Keller with his field data collection in Harrisburg and at the Rock Springs Research site. During that time, I also began  an experiment using Carduus nutans to determine whether or not the timing and duration, intensity, frequency, or genetic composition of propagule pressures affects establishment of a species. This experiment is being done in collaboration with Dr. Ruth Hufbauer’s lab at the University of Colorado Boulder where they are conducting the same experiment, but with the beetle Tribolium castaneum.  I am now serving as the lab manager in addition to finishing up my research before I graduate in May 2016. 

Riley Mummah

I apply value of information analysis to Ebola management, specifically the 2014 West African Ebola outbreak, for my honors thesis in biology. Structural and parametric uncertainties exist between and within models, making it challenging to quantitatively rank the utility of Rileyintervention tools. Without a formal method of comparison, policymakers are forced to subjectively decide which models should dictate decision-making.
Value of information (VOI) analysis, commonly used in economics, quantifies the extent to which decision-making is hampered by such uncertainties, thus providing guidance as to how to prioritize future information gathering. This research is done in collaboration with Ottar Bjørnstad, Matthew Ferrari, and Shouli Li.

RJ Chandler


I began working in the lab in January 2015, initially helping Joe Keller with data collection and entry related to his work with climate change and the invasive thistle, Carduus nutans. During fall 2015, I started my own experiment to further explore the link between terminal velocity and Carduus nutans dispersal characteristics, including seed weight and the dimensions of the pappus (hair-like projections). These effects are measured in response to different treatment conditions, and this research will help to answer questions on how to control the spread of this invasive thistle.