Mary M. Gardiner, Ph.D – Lab Director 

Dr. Mary M. Gardiner received her Ph.D. in 2008 and is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Entomology at The Ohio State University. Her research program focuses on the ecological value of urban vacant land. This work is concentrated in Cleveland, Ohio – a city that has experienced significant economic and population decline. Cleveland currently contains 27,000 vacant lots encompassing approximately 4,000 acres of land. The Gardiner Lab examines how alternative vegetation designs and management regimes influence the value of vacant land for the conservation of biodiversity and the provision of ecosystem services. Mary is also a State Specialist in Extension and works with several stakeholder groups including home gardeners, Master Gardeners, Master Naturalists, and urban farmers. Her extension programming focuses on identifying and attracting beneficial insects to gardens and farms to promote conservation and ecosystem services. In 2015, she released a book focused on natural enemies and their role in biological control in home gardens titled: Good Garden Bugs: Everything You Need to Know about Beneficial Predatory Insects. She has also embraced the use of citizen science in her research with the statewide program, Pollination Investigators, which engages volunteers in the study of pollination services.

Ellen Danford
MS Student

Ellen graduated from Western Kentucky University in 2021 with a B.S. in Environmental Science, a B.A. in Spanish, and a certificate in Geographic Information Systems (GIS). She became interested in urban ecology through her undergraduate thesis project, which included a tree survey and ecosystem services summary of the urban forest and led to suggestions for the maximization of the forest resources on campus. She then got to work with Southern Kentucky Community and Technical College to complete a tree survey of their campus for a Tree Campus USA application, which cemented her interest in urban ecology. Ellen is generally interested in urban ecosystems and how greenspaces can benefit the populations surrounding them. At Ohio State, she is studying urban pollinators and how pollinator-aimed greening can help contribute to healthy urban ecosystems.

 Lucy Guarnieri
PhD Student 

Lucy graduated from the University of Maine in 2019 with a B.S. in Biology and a minor in Spanish. She developed an interest in applied entomology while spending two summers working for the Maine Department of Agriculture, where she conducted invasive insect surveys on small farms and plant nurseries. Lucy’s graduate research will explore how different types of insects use urban habitats and how urban green space can be managed to provide the greatest benefits for humans and wildlife. She is currently developing a moth survey in the Columbus Metro Parks to demonstrate the importance of urban green space for moth conservation.

Michelle Pham
PhD Student

Michelle graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles in June 2020 with a B.S. in Environmental Science and minor in Geography and Environmental Studies. She became interested in urban conservation through her undergraduate research at the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge, a laboratory that examines the socioeconomic formation and dynamics of neighborhoods. From 2018 to 2019, she researched how pocket parks can provide recreational and social benefits to city residents that lack access to green space. The following summer, she participated in an NSF-funded research program (UPIR-REU) to study the anatomy and morphology of borage flowers. These research experiences stimulated her interest in the social-ecological dynamics of urban green spaces. For her senior capstone project, Michelle collaborated with an interdisciplinary team of researchers and non-profit environmental agencies to identify suitable locations to establish urban parks seeded with native plants in the Los Angeles Basin. Michelle is interested in solving urban conservation problems through interdisciplinary research that considers the ecological needs of local biodiversity and the social needs of city residents. 



Carlee Shepard
PhD Student

Carlee graduated from Hendrix College in 2020, double majoring in Biology and Environmental Studies for her undergraduate degree. Carlee has had an ongoing interest in pollinators, which was furthered by her work during undergrad studying the Texas frosted elfin (Callophrys irus hadros) butterfly population in public lands. This research project, along with a study of Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus) response to fracking noise, stimulated her interest in the influence human dominated landscapes can have on different organisms. At Ohio State, Carlee is studying native pollinators in urban environments with a focus on how areas can be modified to improve the health of these pollinator communities.



Headshot of Lydia Fyie

Lydia Fyie
PhD Student

Lydia graduated from Kalamazoo College in 2017 with a B.A. in Biology and Theatre Arts, where she completed her undergraduate thesis examining the distribution of an invasive crayfish in the Lake Erie basin. She worked as an intern for the Ohio EPA evaluating stream and wetland mitigation. Her research interests lie in urban ecophysiology and how insects respond to anthropogenic environments and pollutants. She is also interested in urban vector biology and ecology. Her graduate research examines the effects of Artificial Light at Night (ALAN) and Urban Heat Islands (UHI) on the seasonal biology of the Northern house mosquito. Lydia joined the lab in 2018 and is co-advised by Dr. Megan Meuti.




Erika Wright
PhD Student

Erika graduated from Mississippi State University in May 2023 with a M.S. in Entomology and previously graduated from Virginia Tech in 2021 with a B.S. in Environmental Resources Management and Urban Forestry. She developed an interest in urban ecology and pest management in the two summers she spent at the Bartlett Tree Research Laboratory in Charlotte, NC as a research intern, working closely with the lab entomologists. During her master’s, she studied the population dynamics and dispersal mechanisms of an invasive pest of a widely planted ornamental tree, crapemyrtle bark scale, and gained an appreciation for working with tiny insects and the immense damage they can cause. Erika’s current research focuses on the potential for biodiversity conservation and climate resilience of vacant lands in legacy cities across the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest regions of the United States.



Graduate Alumni

Chelsea Gordon, M.S. 2012. Lab Assistant II with Cooperative Extension Kern County, University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources

Caitlin Burkman, M.S. 2013. Pesticide Inspector, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Pesticide and Plant Pest Management Division

Ben Phillips, M.S. 2013. Vegetable Extension Educator, East Central Michigan

Mary Griffith, MPHM 2014. Agricultural and Natural Resource Educator, OSU Extension

Andrea Kautz, M.S. 2015

Brian Klienke, MPHM 2015

Nicole Hoekstra, Research Assistant (2013-2017). Study Coordinator, Reporting & Technical Support Services, Charles River

Scott Prajzner, Ph.D. 2016

Nicole Wright, MPHM 2016

Molly Dietrich Mabin, M.S. 2017. Biological Science Lab Technician, USDA- ARS, Vegetable Crops Research Unit

MaLisa Spring, M.S. 2017

Christopher B. Riley, Ph.D. 2019. Entomological Researcher & Technical Support Specialist, Bartlett Tree Research Laboratories

Emily Sypolt, M.S. 2019

Yvan Delgado de la Flor, Ph.D. 2020

Alex Tyrpak, M.S. 2020

Denisha M. Parker, Ph.D. 2021

Katherine J. (Todd) Turo, Ph.D 2021, Post Doctoral Researcher in Dr. Rachael Winfree’s Lab, Rutgers University

Sarah B. Scott, Ph.D 2022, Newton International Fellow and Post Doctoral Researcher in Dr. Lynn Dicks’ Agroecology group, Cambridge University

Frances S. Sivakoff, Ph.D., Assistant professor, OSU at Marion, Dept of Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology,

Leo Taylor, Ph.D., Program director at the Ohio State University Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Kayla I. Perry, Ph.D.,Postdoctoral Scientist at Kent State University, Bahlai Laboratory

Undergraduate Alumni

Rachel McLaughlin, B.S. 2018. Ph.D. student at Penn State University

Ellen J. Dunkle, B.S. 2019

Michael A. Rogers, B.S. 2019