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.

Kayla I. Perry, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Scientist

Kayla is a USDA NIFA Postdoctoral Fellow (2018) and her research interests are focused on understanding the drivers that influence how insect communities are assembled and maintained to foster ecosystem services, with an emphasis on the role of natural and anthropogenic disturbances. She graduated with her Ph.D. in Entomology in 2016 from Ohio State University where she was advised by Dr. Dan Herms. Kayla’s research focused on elucidating mechanisms that explain the role of disturbance in maintaining ground-dwelling arthropod diversity, structure, and function in forest ecosystems by investigating the effects of emerald ash borer, wind from a tornado, and salvage logging. She also developed a novel method to quantify the movement of arthropods to understand recolonization potential following disturbance. Kayla joined the Gardiner Lab in 2017 to investigate regional and local processes of community assembly for ground-dwelling beetles and ants in Cleveland, Ohio using a functional trait-based approach.

Denisha M. Parker
PhD Student

Denisha attended Rust College, majoring in Biology for her undergraduate degree. An internship during the summer of 2013 at The Ohio State University in Dr. Mary Gardiner’s lab stimulated her interest in Entomology. During that time Denisha got the chance to do research studying the distribution of sheet-web spiders in vacant lots and community gardens throughout Cleveland, OH. The following summer Denisha continued on with research in entomology by gaining an internship at the University of Mississippi in Dr. Bradley Jones lab doing research on identifying glial cell markers in fruit flies. Denisha soon joined the ALE lab after graduating and is currently evaluating how urban land management influences the diversity, abundance and ecological function of predatory arthropod fauna.

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 green space through her research in the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge, a research lab dedicated to understanding the socioeconomic formation and dynamics of neighborhoods in order to inform actionable policies.From 2018 to 2019, she researched the efficacy of the LA 50 Parks Initiative in marginalized communities and examined barriers to homeownership for Asian Americans. The following summer, she participated in a research internship at Kettering University studying floral anatomy and morphology which piqued her interest in combining her social understanding of urban green space inequities with an ecological perspectiveFor her senior capstone project, Michelle worked with a team of researchers and non-profit environmental agencies to identify suitable locations for native seed gardens within the Los Angeles Basin. Michelle is broadly interested in finding sustainable solutions to biodiversity loss and environmental injustices that disproportionately impact low-income communities of color in urban areas

Sarah B. Scott
PhD Student

Sarah  graduated from Michigan State University in 2014 with a B.S. in Zoology with a concentration in Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal biology, and a specialization in Environmental Studies.  She became interested in pollinator ecology and conservation while working for the US Geological Survey, conducting field research on pollinator forage and habitat quality in the Northern Great Plains region. She pursued a handful of other opportunities around the world to learn about bee health and management, as well as human’s influence on bees before joining the Gardiner lab in 2017. Sarah is a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellow (2019). Currently, Sarah is studying how the byproducts of urbanization are influencing native bee health in human dominated landscapes. Specifically, she is researching the impacts of heavy metal contamination on the health and fecundity of the common eastern bumble bee.

Caralee Shepard
PhD Student

Caralee graduated from Hendrix College in 2020, double majoring in Biology and Environmental Studies for her undergraduate degree. Caralee 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, Caralee is studying native pollinators in urban environments with a focus on how areas can be modified to improve the health of these pollinator communities.



Katherine J. (Todd) Turo
PhD Student

Katie is a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellow (2016) and PhD candidate. She graduated summa cum laude from Messiah College in May, 2013 with a B.S. in Environmental Science and a B.A. in English. For her undergraduate honor’s thesis, she studied sunflower crops as a potential conservation resource for wild pollinators. Katie has also worked on a spectrum of research at Pennsylvania State University, Michigan State University and the University of Connecticut where she was involved with: monitoring BMSB parasitism, evaluating native wildflowers for pollinator attractiveness, rearing moths, and reviewing the ecological impacts of emerald ash borer invasion. Katie is broadly interested in Reconciliation Ecology and finding creative ways to conserve biodiversity within human dominated systems, both urban and agricultural. At Ohio State, Katie’s current work focuses on how both landscape and urban green space design influence Hymenopteran communities, the reproductive output of cavity nesting bees/wasps, and pollen resource capture on urban farms.



Postdoctoral Scientists

Frances S. Sivakoff, Ph.D.

Assistant professor, OSU at Marion
Dept of Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology




Leo Taylor, Ph.D.

Program director
Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion






Graduate Students


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

Undergraduate Students


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

Ellen J. Dunkle, B.S. 2019

Michael A. Rogers, B.S. 2019