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Faculty in Ecology

Laura Spence

Email: lspence@sterlingcollege.edu

Phone: (802) 586-7711 x116

Laura Spence, Ph.D., is a Faculty in Ecology at Sterling College in Craftsbury Common, Vermont.  She teaches Ecology (NS 107); Field Ecology (NS 301); Field Botany (INT100); Fungal Ecology (NS380) and Winter Ecology (NS 360), and may be available to supervise independent studies and student research projects relating to plant functional traits, mycorrhizal fungi, mushroom cultivation, invasive species and other topics.

Laura is a plant ecologist whose research interests are focused on the interaction between plant communities and aspects of global change such as climate change and invasive species. Her Ph.D. research took her to the mountain beech forests of the Southern Alps, New Zealand, and where she investigated the roles of forest dynamics, natural disturbances and mycorrhizal fungi on the invasive spread of an exotic understorey herbaceous weed.  Following this, she joined the PIRE Mongolia project that investigated the ecological consequences of climate change and grazing pressures by nomadic pastoralism in northern Mongolia.

Research interests: vegetation response to climate change; forest understorey invasion; native and exotic species dynamics; consequences of rising deer populations; interaction between arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and invasive plants; fairy rings, amphistomaty; plant functional traits

Education and Experience

Postdoctoral Researcher (2011-2013) PIRE Mongolia Project, University of Pennsylvania

Field team leader (2009-2010) Landcare Research, Lincoln, New Zealand

Ph.D. Plant Ecology, University of Cambridge, UK, Supervisor: Dr. David A. Coomes (2009)

B.A. Natural Sciences, University of Cambridge, UK, 2004

Publications (peer reviewed)

Spence L.A., P. Liancourt, B. Boldgiv, P.S. Petraitis, & B.B. Casper, Climate change and grazing interact to alter flower production in the Mongolian steppe. Oecologia in press

Liancourt, P., L.A. Spence, D.S. Song, A. Lkhagva, A. Sharkuu, B. Boldgiv, B.R. Helliker, B.B. Casper, & P.S. Petraitis (2013) Plant response to climate change varies with topography, interactions with neighbours and ecotype. Ecology 94: 444-453

Liancourt, P., L.A. Spence, B. Boldgiv, A. Lkhagva, B.R. Helliker, B. B. Casper, & P.S. Petraitis (2012) Vulnerability of the northern Mongolian steppe to climate change: insights from flower production and phenology. Ecology 93: 815-824

Casper, B.B., R. Goldman, A. Lkhagva, B.R. Helliker, A.F. Plante, L.A. Spence, P. Liancourt, B. Boldgiv, & P.S. Petraitis (2012) Legumes mitigate ecological consequences of a topographic gradient in a northern Mongolian steppe. Oecologia 169: 85-94

Spence, L.A., I.A. Dickie, & D.A. Coomes (2011) Arbuscular mycorrhizal inoculum potential: a mechanism promoting positive diversity-invasibility relationships? Mycorrhiza 21: 309-314

Spence, L.A., J.V. Ross, R.B. Allen, S.K. Wiser, and D.A. Coomes (2011) Disturbance affects short-term facilitation, but not long-term saturation, of exotic plant invasion in New Zealand forest. Proc. Royal Soc B. 278: 1457-1466

Other publications and media (non-peer reviewed)

Studying climate change through tree rings – video from University of Pennsylvania (2011)

Fox, L. A. (2011) Scientist at Work Blog, New York Times

Spence, L. A. (2009) Wild Deer POSTnote 325, Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (http://www.parliament.uk/documents/post/postpn325.pdf)

Spence, L. A. (2009) Exotic plant invasion in New Zealand forest understorey over 34 years: the roles of natural disturbance events, species richness, and mycorrhizal fungi.  PhD Thesis, Department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge, UK

Spence, L. A. & T. Pearson (2004) Back to purple: conserving and restoring The Stiperstones. English Nature Internal Report

Invited seminars and conference presentations

Spence, L. A., J.V. Ross, R.B. Allen, S.K. Wiser & D.A. Coomes.  Patterns and Process of Plant Invasion: Hieracium invasion into New Zealand forest understorey. Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology, University of Delaware, DE, USA.; 2012

Spence, L.A.  Deer management in the United Kingdom. Department of Biology, University of Pennsylvania, PA, USA; 2012

Dickie, I.A., J. Diaz & L.A. Spence. Belowground interactions in plant invasions. Santiago, Chile; 2011

Spence, L.A., I.A. Dickie & D.A. Coomes.  Mycorrhizal fungi as determinants of plant invasion: case study in New Zealand mountain beech forest? Department of Biology, West Chester University, PA, USA; 2011

Spence, L.A., J.V. Ross, R.B. Allen, S.K. Wiser & D.A. Coomes. The value of long-term ecological monitoring: Insights into closed-canopy forest invasion in New Zealand Department of Biology, University of Pennsylvania, PA, USA; 2010

Spence, L.A., R. B. Allen & D. A. Coomes. Natural disturbance facilitates understorey invasion in Nothofagus forest in New Zealand. British Ecological Society Annual Meeting, Imperial College London, UK (Talk won the Anne Keymer Prize), 2008

Spence, L. A., R. B. Allen, S. K. Wiser & D. A. Coomes. Patterns and predictors of plant invasion in New Zealand Nothofagus forest. Postgraduate Ecology Forum, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland; 2008