Jun 23, 2024  
2022-2023 Graduate Catalog 
2022-2023 Graduate Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Plant Science

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The School of Biology and Ecology offers graduate study leading to the following M.S. and Ph.D. degrees. Independent research under the direction of a faculty advisor is a major component of all of these programs (excepting certain of the Masters degrees which have a non-thesis or literature-research option).

Doctor of Philosophy

  • Biological Sciences
  • Ecology and Environmental Sciences
  • Plant Science
  • Zoology

Master of Science

  • Botany and Plant Pathology
  • Ecology and Environmental Sciences
  • Entomology
  • Zoology
  • Four Plus Advantage (Combined BS and MS degrees in Botany, Entomology, and Zoology)

Research Specializations

Graduate-degree candidates conduct research under the guidance of the School of Biology and Ecology faculty. The expertise of the faculty covers a broad spectrum, ranging from molecular and cell biology, through system- and organism-level biology, to ecology; and it applies to a diversity of organisms from protists and lower plants and invertebrate animals through vascular plants and vertebrates. By choosing a faculty advisor, graduate applicants can associate themselves with any of a number of research specializations:

Animal Behavior and Behavioral Ecology, including chronobiology, feeding behavior, foraging, host plant selection, reproductive behavior, behavior and endocrinology of birds, migration, and predator-prey interactions.

Applied Biology, including biological control and insect pest management, fisheries, and plant pathology.

Botany, Plant Biology, Mycology, including plant and fungal systematics, molecular and morphological phylogeny, reproductive biology, quantitative morphology, molecular basis of plant responses to the environment; plant ecology, marine algal ecology, plant paleoecology, microscopy of zoosporic fungi, mycology, and physiology and molecular biology of fungal pathogens.

Developmental and Cell Biology, including cell and molecular biology of muscle development, biology, developmental genetics, embryology, cardiac pacemaker mechanisms, and neurobiology.

Ecology, Environmental Biology, and Paleoecology, including aquatic, community, insect and plant ecology; biogeochemistry; biodiversity; conservation biology; paleolimnology population dynamics; population modeling; and Quaternary paleoecology.

Entomology, including insect ecology and biodiversity, insect pathology, biological control and insect pest management, ecology of aquatic insects, and predator- prey interactions, pollination ecology, and computer simulation of insect population dynamics.

Fisheries Biology, including ecology and behavior of fishes, fish microevolution and population ecology, salmonid biology, and aquaculture.

Freshwater Biology, including toxicology, ecology and behavior of fishes, lake, stream and river ecology, and paleolimnology.

Genetics and Molecular Biology, including behavioral genetics, molecular systematics, pathogen-plant interactions, plant molecular genetics and functional genomics, and the molecular basis of plant responses to the environment.

Plant Pathology, including control of fungal pathogens, and pest management.

Physiology and Physiological Ecology, including metabolic physiology of vertebrates, environmental physiology of marine invertebrates, fungal physiology, insect-plant interactions, pathogen-plant interactions, endocrine physiology and systemic physiology.

Science Education, including course and program assessment and developing innovative instructional techniques.

Systematics and Evolution, including microevolution, phylogenetics of plants, fungi, invertebrates, and fishes, and comparative morphology.

Special Options

The School is also associated with the Institute for Quaternary and Climate Studies with which students may arrange cooperative programs of study.

Students of genetics may choose, as an option, study in a Ph.D. program on mammalian genetics offered in cooperation with the Jackson Laboratory. Thesis work may be conducted at the Jackson Laboratory; the doctorate is awarded by the University.

Training in applied fishery science is provided through the Maine Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, operated at the University under an agreement among the University, the Biological Resources Division of the U. S. Geological Survey, the Wildlife Management Institute, and the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. Also, the Migratory Fish Research Institute supports basic research on fishes.


Key to the School’s research efforts are several facilities providing equipment, space and professional personnel. Among equipment available for graduate-student use, for example, are automated DNA-sequencing equipment, laser confocal and electron microscopes, digital imaging equipment, gas liquid chromatographs, scintillation counters and controlled-environment chambers. Aquatic laboratories for raising fishes and invertebrates, greenhouses, The University of Maine herbarium, an on-campus arboretum, and numerous sites for field research on both managed and natural habitats in marine, freshwater, and terrestrial ecosystems are easily accessible. Sites managed by the Maine Agricultural and Forest Experiment Station include the Blueberry Hill Research Farm in Jonesboro, the Organic Blueberry Research Site in Whitneyville, the Aroostook Potato Research Farm in Presque Isle, The Rogers Sustainable Agriculture Research Farm in Stillwater, and the Demeritt and Penobscot Experimental Forests in Orono and Bradley. Marine research facilities are available through the University’s Ira C. Darling Center at Walpole, Maine; through the Huntsman Marine Science Center at St. Andrews, New Brunswick, Canada; and through the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory at Salsbury Cove, Maine. In affiliation with the Institute for Quaternary and Climate Studies, the department operates the Laboratory for Paleoecology and Paleohydrology. The Molecular Forensics Laboratory in Murray Hall provides DNA analysis for the Maine Warden Service and other wildlife enforcement agencies.


Applicants need to identify an area of research interest and a potential advisor at the time of application; they should feel free to contact members of the faculty to discuss possible research projects before submission of the application. A research project is a central part of both the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees.

All applicants will be automatically considered for teaching or research assistantships. Many students are supported by research grants to individual faculty members; interested students should contact faculty members directly for further information on grant-supported assistantships.

Additional information is available from the Graduate Coordinator, School of Biology and Ecology, 5751 Murray Hall, Orono, ME 04469-5751, (207) 581-2540, E-mail: umbiosci@maine.edu, https://sbe.umaine.edu/ .

Graduate Faculty

Andrei Alyokhin, Ph.D. (University of Massachusetts, Amherst, 1999), Professor. Insect behavior and ecology, integrated pest management, biological control.

Seanna L. Annis, Ph.D. (University of Guelph, 1995), Associate Professor. Physiological, molecular, and field studies of fungal pathogens of plants and animals.

Christopher S. Cronan, Ph.D. (Dartmouth College, 1978), Professor. Biogeochemistry; plant ecology; ecosystem ecology.

Benildo G. de los Reyes, Ph.D. (Oklahoma State University, 1999),  Professor. Plant molecular genetics and functional genomics; molecular basis of plant responses to environmental stresses.

Francis A. Drummond, Ph.D. (University of Rhode Island, 1986), Professor. Insect quantitative ecology, pest management, population dynamics, simulation modeling, biostatistics, and pollination ecology.

Adria Elskus, Ph.D. (Boston University, 1992), Associate Professor. Aquatic toxicology, biomarkers of exposure and effect, development of chemical tolerance, fish health.

Jacquelyn Gill, Ph.D. (University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2012), Assistant Professor of Paleoecology and Plant Ecology. Climate change, extinction, and biotic interactions through time.

Hamish Greig, Ph.D. (University of Canterbury, 2008), Assistant Professor of Stream Ecology. Community ecology, environmental gradients, global change; aquatic ecology, freshwater invertebrates

Eleanor Groden, Ph.D. (Michigan State University, 1989), Professor. Insect ecology, insect pathology, biological control.

David Hart, Ph.D. (University of California, Davis, 1979). Professor. Watershed science and management.

Clarissa Henry, Ph.D. (University of Washington, 2000), Associate Professor. Cell and molecular biology of segmentation and muscle development in Zebrafish.

Rebecca Holberton, Ph.D. (State University of New York, Albany, 1991), Professor. The endocrine basis of bird ecology and behavior; reproductive biology, bird migration and conservation.

Michael T. Kinnison, Ph.D. (University of Washington, 1999), Professor. Microevolution, aquatic ecology, population and conservation genetics, fish ecology (including salmonids).

Danielle Levesque, Ph.D. (University of KwaZulu-Natal, 2014), Assistant Professor. Evolutionary and ecological physiology of mammals: energetics, metabolism, temperature, life histories and global change.

Joyce E. Longcore, Ph.D. (University of Maine, 1991), Research Associate Professor. Chytridio-mycete systematics and phylogeny; chytrid pathogen of amphibians.

Brian McGill, Ph.D. (University of Arizona, 2003), Professor. Large scale ecology and global change.

Brian Olsen, Ph.D. (Virginia Tech., 2007), AssociateProfessor. Avian ecology, behavior, demography, mating systems, and life history evolution.

Jasmine Saros, Ph.D. (Lehigh University, 1999).  Professor. Paleolimnology, phyto-plankton ecology, lake ecosystem response to global change.

Michelle Smith, Ph.D. (University of Washington, 2006). Assistant Professor.  Science education.

Kristy Townsend, Ph.D. (Boston University, 2007), Assistant Professor.  Brain and peripheral organs/tissues communication; regulation of energy balance, diabetes, obesity and body weight; adult neural plasticity; neurotrophic factors and neuropathy; CNS fuel utilization and energetics.

Mary S. Tyler, Ph.D. (University of North Carolina, 1975), Professor. Developmental biology; organogenesis in vertebrates; morphogenesis in Drosophila; educational multimedia materials.

Seth Tyler, Ph.D. (University of North Carolina, 1975), Professor. Invertebrate biology; electron and fluorescence microscopy; phylogeny of lower invertebrates, especially meiofauna.

Cooperating Faculty

Susan H. Brawley, Ph.D. (University of California, Berkeley, 1978), Professor of Marine Sciences and Cooperating Professor of Biological Sciences. Developmental biology and physiology of fertilization; marine ecology; environmental control of reproduction.

William O. Bray, Ph.D. (University of Missouri, 1981), Professor of Mathematics and Cooperating Professor of Biological Sciences. Classical analysis, harmonic analysis.

Jim Dill, Ph.D. (Purdue University, 1979), Extension Associate Program Administrator and Cooperating Professor of Biological Sciences. Integrated pest management of vegetable and small fruit crops.

David Hiebeler, Ph.D. (Cornell University, 2001), Associate Professor of Mathematics and Cooperating Professor of Biological Sciences. Mathematical population ecology, complex adaptive systems, modeling.

Sara Lindsay, Ph.D. (University of South Carolina, 1994), Associate Professor of Marine Sciences and Cooperating Professor of Biological Sciences. Marine physiological ecology, marine invertebrate zoology.

William H. Livingston, Ph.D. (University of Minnesota, 1985), Associate Professor of Forest Pathology and Cooperating Associate Professor of Biological Sciences. Disease, ectomycorrhizal, and ethylene effects on growth of conifers.

James D. McCleave, Ph.D. (Montana State, 1967), Professor of Marine Sciences and Cooperating Professor of Biological Sciences. Migratory and transport mechanisms of fishes; fisheries oceanography.

Paul Rawson, Ph.D. (University of South Carolina, 1996), Assistant Professor of Marine Sciences and Cooperating Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences. Quantitative and population genetics of marine invertebrates, molecular evolution.

Alan M. Rosenwasser, Ph.D. (Northeastern University, 1980), Professor of Psychology.  Behavioral neuroscience, chronobiology, and animal models of psychiatric disorder.

Walter C. Shortle, Ph.D. (North Carolina State University, 1974), Senior Scientist, U.S. Forest Service, Adjunct Professor of Biological Sciences. Plant pathology, biotransformation and nutrient cycling in forest ecosystem, acid precipitation.

Robert S. Steneck, Ph.D. (Johns Hopkins, 1983), Professor of Marine Sciences and Cooperating Professor of Biological Sciences. Ecology and evolutionary biology of benthic marine algae, invertebrates and communities. An emphasis on crustose coralline algae, herbivores and lobsters.

Rebecca J. Van Beneden, Ph.D. (Johns Hopkins University, 1983), Professor, Biochemistry and Marine Sciences, Cooperating Professor of Biological Sciences. Environmental toxicology: molecular mechanisms of carcinogenesis, comparative carcinogenesis, aquatic toxicology.

Robert G. Wagner, Ph.D. (Oregon State University, 1989), Henry W. Saunders Distinguished Professor in Forestry and Cooperating Professor of Biological Sciences. Forest sustainability,forest regeneration following harvesting.


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