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John A. Silander, Jr., Professor (Ph.D., Duke University)

Examples of proteas from the Cape Floristic Region of South Africa

Contact Information:
Dr. John A. Silander, Jr.
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
University of Connecticut
75 N. Eagleville Road , Unit 3043
Storrs , CT 06269-3043
Tel: (860) 486-2168
Fax: (860) 486-6364

Current Areas of Research:
Plant ecology and evolution: biogeography and spatial processes in ecology; landscape ecology; conservation biology; biology of invasive species; experimental plant population and community ecology; population dynamics and competition; forest community ecology of temperate and tropical regions.

Selected Publications:
Pacala, S. W., C. D. Canham, J. Saponara, J. A. Silander, Jr., R. E. Kobe, and E. Ribbens. 1996. Forest models defined by field measurements. II. Estimation, error analysis, and dynamics. Ecological Monographs 66(1): 1-43 [George Mercer Award paper (ESA) 1996] [pdf file]

Mickelson, J. G., Jr., D. L. Circo, and J. A. Silander, Jr. 1998. Delineating forest canopy species in the northeastern United States using multi-temporal TM imagery: Photogrammetric Engineering and Remote Sensing 64(9): 891-904.[ERDAS Award Paper for 1998] [pdf file]

Silander, J. A., Jr. and D. M. Klepeis. 1999. The invasion ecology of Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii) in the New England landscape. Biological Invasions 1:189-201. [pdf file]

Silander, J. A., Jr. 2000. Temperate forests: plant species biodiversity and conservation. In ( S.A. Levin ed.) Encyclopedia of Biodiversity. 5:607-626. Academic Press, New York . [pdf file]

Agarwal, D. K., A. E. Gelfand and J. A. Silander, Jr. 2002. Investigating tropical deforestation using two state spatially misaligned regression models. Journal of Agricultural, Biological and Environmental Statistics. 7(3):420-439 [American Statistical Society Award paper for 2000]. [pdf file]

Gelfand, A.E., A.M. Schmidt, S. Wu, J. A. Silander, Jr., A. M. Latimer and A.G. Rebelo. 2005. Modelling species diversity through species level hierarchical modeling. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, Section C Applied Statistics 54(1):1-20 [pdf file]

Agarwal, D. K., J. A. Silander, Jr., A.E. Gelfand, R.E. Dewar, and J.G. Mickelson, Jr. 2005. Tropical Deforestation in Madagascar : Analyses using hierarchical, spatially explicit, Bayesian regression models. Ecological Modelling 185:105-131 [pdf file]

Gelfand, A. E., J. A. Silander, Jr., S. Wu, A. M. Latimer, P. Lewis, Anthony G. Rebelo and M. Holder. 2005. Explaining species distribution patterns through hierarchical modeling. Bayesian Analysis 1:42-92. (pdf file ) (with supplement).

Leicht , S.A. , J.A. Silander, Jr. and K.E. Lerose. 2005. Assessing the competitive ability of Japanese stilt grass, Microstegium vimineum (Trin.) A. Camus. Journal of the Torrey Botanical Society 132 (4): 573-580 (pdf file ).

Latimer, A.M., J.A. Silander, Jr. and R.M Cowling. 2005. Neutral theory reveals isolation and rapid speciation in a biodiversity hotspot. Science 309:1722-1725 (pdf file ) (plus appendices).

Latimer, A. M., S. Wu, A. E. Gelfand and J. A. Silander, Jr. 2006. Building statistical models to analyze species distributions. Ecological Applications 16(1): 33-50 (pdf file ) plus Appendices: Ecological Archives: A016-003-A1 and A016-003-S1.

Leicht, S. A. and J. A. Silander Jr. 2006. Differential Responses of Invasive Celastrus orbiculatus (Celastraceae) and Native C. scandens to Changes in Light Quality. American Journal of Botany 93(7): 972-977 (pdf file ).

Bond, W. and J. A. Silander Jr., Jr. 2007. Springs and wire plants: anachronistic defenses against Madagascar's extinct elephant birds. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 274:1985-1992. (pdf file)

Barber, J.J., A.E. Gelfand and J.A. Silander Jr.. 2006. Modeling map position error to infer about true feature location. Canadian Journal of Statistics. 34(4): 1–18. (pdf file)

Leicht-Young, S.A. , J. A. Silander Jr. and A. M. Latimer. 2007. Comparative performance of invasive and native Celastrus species in heterogeneous environments. Oecologia 154(2):273-282. (pdf file)

de Gouvenain, R. C., R. K. Kobe, and J. A. Silander, Jr. 2007. Partitioning of understory light and dry-season soil moisture gradients among seedlings of four rain-forest tree species in Madagascar. Journal of Tropical Ecology 23(5): 569-579. (pdf file)

Bond, W., J. A. Silander, Jr., J. Ranaivonasy and  J. Ratsirarson 2008. The antiquity of Madagascar’s grasslands and the rise of C4 grassy biomes. Journal of Biogeography 35(10): 1743-1748 (with editorial commentary on the article). (pdf file)

Ibáñez, I.,  J. A. Silander Jr., A. M. Wilson, N. LaFleur, N. Tanaka and Ikutaro Tsuyama. 2009. Multi-variate forecasts of potential distributions of invasive plant species. Ecological Applications 19(2): 359–375. (pdf file)

Mosher, E.S., J.A. Silander, Jr. and A.M. Latimer 2009. The role of land-use history in major invasions by woody plant species in the northeastern North American Landscape. Biological Invasions 11(10):  2317-2328. (pdf file)

Latimer, A.M., S. Banerjee, H. Sang, E. S. Mosher and J. A. Silander, Jr. 2009. Hierarchical models facilitate spatial analysis of large data sets: a case study on invasive plant species in the northeastern United States. Ecology Letters 12: 144–154. (pdf file)

Leicht-Young, S.A., H. O’Donnell, A.M. Latimer and J.A. Silander, Jr. 2009. Effects of an invasive plant species, Celastrus orbiculatus, on soil composition and processes. American Midland Naturalist 161: 219-231. (pdf file)

Latimer, A.M., J.A. Silander, Jr. A.G. Rebelo and G.F. Midgley. 2009. Experimental biogeography: the role of environmental gradients in high geographic diversity in Cape Proteaceae. Oecologia 160:151–162. (pdf file)

Primack, R.B., I. Ibáñez, H. Higuchi, S.D. Lee, A.J. Miller-Rushing, A. Wilson and J.A. Silander, Jr. 2009. Spatio-temporal mismatches in species responses to climate change.  Biological Conservation 142: 2569–2577. (pdf file)

Ibáñez, I., J.A. Silander Jr., J.M. Allen, S.A. Treanor, and A.M. Wilson. 2009. Identifying hotspots for plant invasions and forecasting focal points of further spread. Journal of Applied Ecology 46, 1219–1228. (pdf file)

Wilson, A.M. A.M Latimer, J.A. Silander, Jr., A.E. Gelfand and H. de Klerk. 2010. A Hierarchical Bayesian model of wildfire in a Mediterranean biodiversity hotspot: implications of weather variability and global circulation. Ecological Modelling 221(1): 106-112. (pdf file)

Ferketic, J.S., A.M. Latimer, and J.A. Silander Jr. 2010. Conservation justice in metropolitan Cape Town: A study at the Macassar Dunes Conservation Area. Biological Conservation. 143(5): 1168-1174. (pdf file)

Ibáñez,  I., R. B. Primack, A. J. Miller-Rushing, E. Ellwood, H. Higuchi, S.D. Lee, H. Kobori, and J. A. Silander, Jr. 2010. Forecasting phenology under global warming. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society (B): Biological Sciences 365: 3247-3260. (pdf file)

Wilson A.M., J.A. Silander, Jr., A E. Gelfand and J. H. Glenn. 2011. Scaling up: linking field data and remote sensing with a hierarchical model (Special Issue paper: Spatial Ecology). International Journal of Geographical Information Science 25(3): 509-521. (pdf file)

Chakraborty, A.,  A. E. Gelfand, A. M. Wilson, A. M. Latimer and J. A. Silander, Jr. 2010. Modeling large scale species abundance with latent spatial processes. Annals of Applied Statistics 4(3): 1403–1429. (pdf file)

Merow, C., A. M. Latimer, And J.A. Silander, Jr. 2011. Can Entropy Maximization Use Functional Traits To Explain Species Abundances? A Comprehensive Evaluation. Ecology 92(7): 1523-1537. (pdf file

Merow, C, N. LaFleur, J.A. Silander, Jr. A.M. Wilson and M. Rubega. 2011. Developing dynamic, mechanistic species distribution models: predicting bird-mediated spread of invasive plants across northeastern North America. American Naturalist 178(1): 30-43. (pdf file)

Stacey A. Leicht-Young, S.A., A. M. Latimer., and J.A. Silander, Jr. 2011. Lianas escape self-thinning: experimental evidence of positive density dependence in temperate lianas Celastrus orbiculatus and C. scandens. Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics 13(3):163-172. (pdf file)

Chakraborty, A.,  A. E. Gelfand, A. M. Wilson, A. M. Latimer and J. A. Silander, Jr. 2011. Point Pattern Modeling for Degraded Presence-Only Data over Large Regions. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, Section C Applied Statistics 60(5): 757-776. (pdf file)

Bois, S.T., J.A. Silander Jr., and L. J. Mehrhoff. 2011. Invasive Plant Atlas of New England, the Role of Citizens in the Science of Invasive Alien Species Detection. BioScience 61(10):763-770. (pdf file)

Ellwood, E.R., J. M. Diez, I. Ibáñez, R. B. Primack, H. Kobori, H..Higuchi, J. A. Silander, Jr. 2012. Disentangling the paradox of insect phenology: are temporal trends reflecting the response to warming? Oecologia 168(4): 1161-1171. (pdf file)

Ahmed, K.F., G. Wang, J. A. Silander, Jr., A.M. Wilson, J.M. Allen, R. Horton, and  Richard Anyah. 2013. Statistical downscaling and bias correction of climate model outputs for climate change impact assessment in the U.S. Northeast. Global and Planetary Change. 100: 320-332. (pdf file)

Courses Taught: Methods of Ecology, Field Ecology, Seminars in plant ecology and spatial statistics.

Current Research Projects:

1. The Biogeography, Biodiversity and Climate Change in Southern Africa
This project is multidisciplinary, combining ecology, evolution, genetics, biogeography, climate change and statistics, supported by successive NSF grants. The first objective of the project was to explain biogeographic patterns of plant species distributions and biodiversity in the Cape Floristic Region of South Africa. The “Cape” is biotically one of the most diverse regions in the world, as diverse as many of the world's rainforests. The focal plant group for this study was initially the Proteacea, the iconic plant family of South Africa. We developed novel, spatially explicit statistical models (Hierarchical Bayesian) to understand and predict patterns in species distributions and biodiversity. The data sources include GIS (environmental) data layers, species attribute data, species inventories (from the Protea Atlas Project), phylogenetic information, and other data sources. Extensive field work including experimental biogeography and population genetic analyses was conducted in South Africa.  Selected recent papers and manuscripts are listed above. Continued NSF funding has allowed us to explore climate change in Southern Africa and the predicted population and species levels responses of proteas to past and future projected climate change. We also developed models predicting wildfires, biomass change, and ecosystem resilience over time.  A related NSF project focuses on evolutionary processes in Protea species. An NSF-IRES grant provided research training support for undergraduate and graduate students studying the ecology and evolutionary biology of the Cape Floristic Region.  Most recently, an NSF Dimensions of Biodiversity grant has allowed us to expand our study of biodiversity in the Cape Florist Region to focus on phylogeography, and the genetic and evolutionary basis of plant functional trait variation in two diverse plant genera in the Cape: Protea and Pelargonium. In addition, we are looking at the spatial and temporal dynamics of the plant communities in which these genera occur. Finally, we are developing mechanistically based, predictive range models of proteas, based on integral projection models that will allow us to forecast how species ranges may change over time as climate changes.    

Examples of the Proteaceae of the Cape Floristic Region [images are from: T. Rebelo. 2001. Proteas: A Field Guide to the Proteas of Southern Africa, Fernwood press, the Protea Atlas Project, and other sources.]

The Plant Biogeographic Regions of the World, showing the Cape Floristic Region (bottom, center)

Southern Africa

Fynbos: the dominant biome type in the CFR -- a Mediterranean climate shrubland. [images from: R. Cowling and D. Richardson. 1995. Fynbos. Fernwood Press, and other sources.]

The Cape Floristic Region [image from: R. Cowling and D. Richardson. 1995. Fynbos. Fernwood Press.]

A major invasive threat to New England:
Celastrus orbiculatus

2. The Ecology of Invasive Plant Species in New England. 
This project has focused on developing an on-line atlas and interactive database for invasive plant species and noxious weeds of New England. We are collecting both historical (herbarium) and current field records of species occurrences. With this information we have developed models to predict current and future patterns of invasive species distributions. An integral part of the project is developing an early-detection/early-warning system for new incursions of invasives in the landscape. We are also focusing ecological studies on selected problematic species, including the comparative ecology of native and invasive oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) and Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii) species in New England. Another project has focused on the effects of land-use history on susceptibility to biological invasions, and how land-use and land-use change are driven by socio-economic drivers. This project was funded by the USDA. Our IPANE Invasives web site is constantly being updated, and we have recently developed a collaborative relationship with to serve our data. We have developed predictive models of invasive species distributions using data from both their native ranges (focus on East Asian species) and where they have been introduced to the US and elsewhere. In addition, we have developed mechanistic, spatially explicit grid-based models of the joint spread of invasive plants and the bird species that disperse them.

3. Phenological Responses of East Asian species to Climate Change. This is a collaborative project funded by NSF that involves researches from UConn, Boston U, U Michigan, plus colleague s from Japan, South Korea and China. The focus is on how species of plants and animals and the communities they occur in have responded phenologically to climate change in the past and how they are forecast to respond in the future. We have used long-term phenological observations in Japan, South Korea and China, paired with meteorological stations, and we have also collaborated with the Japanese Center for Climate System Research for Regional Climate Model projections for the region for the future. Our group has focused on building mechanistic Hierarchical Bayesian models to predictive responses of flowering cherries to past and future climate change. We are also building HB landscape models of forest community responses to past and future climate change comparing responses in New England and East Asia. 

4. Sustainable Conservation in Madagascar. 
Prior funding from the MacArthur Foundation and NSF focused on understanding and explaining deforestation patterns over time in the eastern coastal rainforests of Madagascar. This project was multidisciplinary involving ecologists, anthropologists, archeologists, geographers, demographers and rural sociologists. Collaborators on this project included former student Dr. Joelisoa Ratsirarson. An experimental component of this project, done in collaboration with former student and post-doctoral fellow, Dr. Roland de Gouvenain, focused on understanding and predicting forest dynamics and regeneration of native tree species. A May 2006 expedition to Madagascar focused on the status and evolution of grassland and savanna systems. Grasslands and conservation of their biota have been largely ignored in Madagascar. We also initiated a study on the coevolutionary history of giant elephant birds and the vegetation they browsed in the thicket biome of southwestern Madagascar (see paper published in the PRS, and highlighted in Current Biology). On-going research focuses on the biology and evolution of the enigmatic elephant birds of Madagascar. A recent, collaborative grant from the MacArthur Foundation (UConn, U Antananarivo and U Cape Town) focuses on training the next generation of researchers in Madagascar on Sustainable Biodiversity, Conservation, and Climate Change Science and Policy.

Tampolo Forest Reserve: wet tropical forest zone of eastern Madagascar. This is the focal site for the tropical deforestation project initially funded by the MacArthur Foundation.

Lake Tsimanampetotsa National Park: xerophytic succulent thicket of southwestern Madagascar with Pachypodium spp, Alluaudia spp. Euphorbia spp. and many others

A phytometer is a group of seedlings used as bioassay for growth and mortality under a given environmental condition
Experimental plantings of forest tree seedlings in the Tampolo forest.

Elephant birds in the spiny, succulent thicket of southwestern Madagascar (reconstructions above and right with human figure for scale)

Current Graduate Student Advisees:

Yingying Xie:
Hayley Kilroy Mollmann:
Lara Ariori:

Past graduate students and where they are now:

2012: Adam Wilson, Ph.D.: Fire and climate: the implications of global change in the cape floristic region of South Africa:
now: Post-doc Yale University

Cory Merow, Ph.D.: Developing and assessing modeling strategies in plant population and community ecology.
now:  Post-doc Smithsonian Environmental Research Center

Jenica Allen, Ph.D.: Global Change Ecology: Native and Invasive Species Responses to  Climate and Land Use at Local to Biogeographic Scales.
now:  Visiting Assistant Professor of EEB UConn

Sarah Bois, Ph.D.: Invasive species colonization potential in New England: distribution, demography and adaptation.  
now: Director of the Conservation Research Program at the Institute for Applied Ecology, Corvalis, OR

2011:   Tsitsi McPherson, Ph.D.: Issues of species distribution modeling, sovereign State boundaries and indigenous people’ rights as they relate to conservation efforts in Guyana, South America. now: University of Guyana

2006:   Andrew Latimer, Ph.D.: Environmental and geographical controls on species distributions: a case study on proteas in the cape floristic region.
now: Associate Professor of Plant Sciences, U California, Davis

2005:   Stacey Leicht-Young, Ph.D.: The comparative ecology of an invasive bittersweet species (Celastrus orbiculatus) and its native congener (C. scandens).
now: Assistant Research Professor, UConn, and Adjunct Assistant Professor, U Rhode Island, & USGS Scientist

2005: Nava Tabak
, M.S.: Assessing the invasive potential of Impatiens glandulifera (ornamental jewelweed) in New England.
           now: GIS and Land Resources Analyst, Scenic Hudson

2004: Steve Citron Pousty. Ph.D.: Population response to spatial heterogeneity: Hemilepistus reaumuri as a case study.
now: software developer for Redhat OpenShift

2004: Eric Mosher, M.S.: Evaluating the contribution of land-use history to woody plant inavasions across a heterogeneous landscape.
now: Instructor in Biology, Asnuntuck Community College

2002:   Ricardo Rozzi, Ph.D. Biological and cultural conservation in the archipelago forest ecosystems of southern Chile.
now: Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies, University of North Texas

2001:   Roland de Gouvenain, Ph.D.: Regeneration dynamics of a Madagascar rainforest and their relationship to human disturbances.
now:  Associate Professor of Biology, Rhode Island College

1998:  John Caspersen, Ph.D.: Forest landscape dynamics: consequences of interspecific variation in drought and shade tolerance.
now:  Associate Professor of Forestry, University of Toronto

1994:  Jim Hill, Ph.D.: Population dynamics of hay-scented fern (Dennstaedtia punctilobula) and its impact on forest composition structure and dynamics.
now: Program Director, Academic Center for Exploratory Students, Center for Undergraduate Education, UConn 

1996:  Adrien Finzi, Ph.D.: Causes and consequences of soil resource heterogeneity in a transition oak - northern hardwood forest.
now: Professor Boston University

1995: Rich Kobe, Ph.D.: Scaling from individuals to forest communities and landscapes with models of juvenile tree growth and mortality.
now:  Professor and Chair of Forestry, Michigan State University

1988: Eric Ribbens, Ph.D.: Predicting tree seedling distribution: the role of recruitment in forest community dynamics.
now: Professor of Biology, Western Illinois University

1993:  Joel Ratsirarson, Ph.D. Population biology and conservation of an endangered Madagascar triangle palm: Neodypsis decaryi.
now: Professor of Forestry and Dean, Universite d’Antanarivo

1989: Michelle Zielinski, M.S.: Demography, genetic diversity, and light requirements of the rare plant Trollius laxus ssp. laxus.
now: ??

1992:  Loretta Johnson, Ph.D.:  Species-regulated Sphagnum decay in peat bogs.
now: Associate Professor of Biology, Kansas State University
1989:  Juliana Barrett, Ph.D.: Variation in the architecture of white clover (Trifolium repens L.) in contrasting habitats and the consequences of this variation on clonal dynamics. now: Cooperative Extension Educator, UConn

1987: Greg Miller, Ph.D.: The population biology and physiological ecology of species of Puya (Bromeliaceae) in the Ecuadorian Andes.
now:  President, American Hiking Society

Last updated: 6 February 2013