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.

Postdoctoral Scientists

Kayla I. Perry, Ph.D.

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.

Frances S. Sivakoff, Ph.D.

Frances’s research explores the factors that regulate the abundance and distribution of insects, from common agricultural pests to rare endangered butterflies, across agricultural, natural and urban landscapes. In particular, she is interested in understanding of how changes in habitat quality influences arthropods to improve habitat management and promote ecosystem services. Frances earned her Ph.D. in Ecology from the University of California, Davis in 2011 where she was supervised by Jay Rosenheim. She then worked as a postdoctoral researcher with Nick Haddad at North Carolina State University. Frances joined the Gardiner lab in 2015 where she works on the effects of heavy metal contamination in urban soil on pollinator health and the sustainability of pollination services for urban agriculture. You can learn more about Frances’s research at



Leo Taylor, Ph.D.
Dr. Leo Taylor is an entomologist and behavioral ecologist. He was born and raised in Muncie, IN and received a B.S. in psychology and M.S. in biology from Ball State University. In 2015 he received his Ph.D. in entomology from Cornell University.  Dr. Taylor currently works at The Ohio State University where he is a postdoctoral researcher in the Gardiner Lab within the Entomology Department and Program Director for Equity and Inclusion in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences. As part of his efforts to support OSU LGBTQ agriculturalists Dr. Taylor is spear-heading the creation of a Cultivating Change chapter. Additionally, he leads professional development workshops for OSU faculty, staff and students on topics such as implicit bias, microaggressions and allyship, and facilitates a support group for CFAES, SENR, and EEOB graduate students. Dr. Taylor’s current research focuses on the impact of heavy metal contamination on the reproductive behavior of insects and spiders. This work is part of a larger project investigating the ecology of vacant lots in Cleveland, OH.

Graduate Students

Yvan Delgado de la Flor

Originally from Lima-Peru, Yvan received his B.S. in Wildlife Conservation and Management at Humboldt State University in 2014. Yvan’ research experience includes studying mesocarnivores in the coastal dunes of northern California at HSU, and spider richness and abundance in Harvard Forest. He joined the Gardiner’s Lab in Fall 2014 and examined the diversity of ground and rove beetles from vacant lots in Cleveland, Ohio. Yvan has two projects ongoing. He is examining spider communities in Cleveland, more specifically food-web interactions among spiders, prey items, vegetation, and soil quality. Additionally, Yvan is surveying and cataloging the diversity and distribution of spiders in Cusco, Peru


Denisha M. Parker

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.

Christopher B. Riley

Chris graduated summa cum laude from the University of Maryland in 2014 with a B.S. in Environmental Science & Policy and minors in Geographic Information Systems and Sustainability Studies. As an undergraduate, Chris conducted research in the lab of Dr. Michael Raupp where he spent much of his time studying the biology and ecology of the invasive brown marmorated stink bug. For his honors thesis, Chris examined the effects of continental origin on the susceptibility of woody plants to biotic and abiotic problems within residential landscapes. Chris joined the ALE Lab in 2014 and is conducting the bulk of his dissertation research within the vacant lot system in Cleveland, Ohio, where he hopes to further explore his interests in urban ecology and forestry, native/exotic plant-insect interactions, and sustainability. His research involves examining the ecological role and conservation value of native and exotic trees on vacant land in supporting biodiversity and promoting arthropod-mediated ecosystem services within spatially complex and heterogeneous urban environments.

Sarah B. Scott

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. 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.



Emily Sypolt

In 2013, Emily received her B.S. in Wildlife Conservation and Management cum laude from Humboldt State University. While obtaining her undergraduate degree, she worked on a variety of projects including soil sampling, recycling analysis, marine mammal stranding intern as well as a field technician studying bees in North Dakota. After graduating, she moved around the country, from Utah to Virginia to Alaska working with a variety of mammals and birds. Emily will begin her M.S. in Entomology at OSU in the fall of 2017.





Katherine J. (Todd) Turo

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.

Alex Tyrpak 

Alex graduated from The Ohio State University in 2016 with his major in Entomology and a minor in Society and Environmental Issues. While completing his undergraduate degree, he helped identify ground beetles, and helped maintain termite and bed bug colonies. His interests in urban insects and taxonomy led him to joining the Gardiner lab in the spring of 2018 and he is currently pursuing his Master’s degree. He is studying ant diversity across urban green spaces in Cleveland, Ohio. Alex’s main research objectives are to determine how ant diversity is affected by mowing, landscape context, and soil quality.




Undergraduate Researchers 

Ellen J. Dunkle

Ellen is a current Undergraduate in the College of Food, Agriculture and Environmental Science planning to graduate in May of 2019. She is majoring in Entomology and minoring in Plant Pathology because the only thing she loves as much as insects is fungi. Presently she is working on a research project evaluating the effect that urbanization has on ground beetle assemblages and reproductive success. Following graduation, Ellen plans to take a long camping trip before starting life in the professional world.





Michael A. Rogers

Michael is currently an undergraduate student in the College of Food, Agriculture, and Environmental Science. He is majoring in Entomology and expected to graduate with his B.S. at the end of the 2019 summer semester. Michael evaluates the biodiversity of spiders and their prey within the vacant lot systems in Cleveland, Ohio, for his undergraduate research project. After graduation Michael hopes to utilize his interest in spider identification and biology as a focus to pursue further research and education in Entomology.





Chelsea Gordon, M.S. 2012

Caitlin Burkman, M.S. 2013

Ben Phillips, M.S. 2013

Mary Griffith, MPHM 2014

Andrea Kautz, M.S. 2015

Brian Klienke, MPHM 2015

Nicole Hoekstra, Research Assistant (2013-2017)

Scott Prajzner, Ph.D. 2016

Nicole Wright, MPHM 2016

Molly Dietrich Mabin, M.S. 2017

MaLisa Spring, M.S. 2017

Rachel McLaughlin, B.S. 2018