Dr. Michaela Woods, PhD Defense Seminar

Michaela Woods Exit Seminar Introduction

Ryan W. McEwan, PhD


Welcome to the Exit Seminar portion of the PhD defense of Michaela Woods. Just to orient everyone to the process—first I will do a short introduction, then we will hear the Exit Seminar from Michaela, which is an overview of her PhD research, then we will have time for anyone in the room to ask questions.  Following that, the committee will convene for the defense portion of the process which will focus not only on the oral presentation you are about to hear, but also the written dissertation document itself, which Michaela has submitted for review.  Following the defense portion, we will gather outside in the atrium, I would estimate an hour or so after the conclusion of the oral presentation, just outside these doors and to the right, to celebrate the moment, or drown our collective sorrows….

I want to seriously thank everyone for being here today, and for all you have done to help make this day possible.  Granting a PhD is the highest award we make in academia, it is the ultimate achievement and literally places the individual in extremely rare company.  We who work at a University get use to being around “Doctors”—however, outside this Ivory Tower it is extremely rare- the best data I can find suggest <1% of people have a PhD.  So this is quite an honor and an important moment.  We want to thank the committee, the Department, and the University for supporting this process.

Impermanence is a fundamental challenge in life, and is a foundational challenge for leading a research lab at a University.  All the folks who join the lab are, in the end, just passing through, and, in fact, it is our job to accelerate and support that process.  It’s core to what we do.  Even so, there are times when it is very hard to navigate and I am here to tell you that Michaela Woods graduating and leaving the McEwan lab is going to be very hard to mitigate.  You see, Michaela has been an absolutely amazing graduate student here at UD and has served as the fulcrum for transformation inside my laboratory and a foundation for the science we have pursued over the last 4 years or so.

Michaela led a re-orientation of the overall research mission of the lab- transitioning to a new Ecological Restoration-based focus.  She picked up threads of projects and turned them scientific products, launched new projects, then wove those individual threads to create a new program.  She was incredibly productive in the laboratory, and, in fact, practically all of her dissertation has already been published…she has 4 chapters already published and those were submitted to the committee as journal reprints, a 5th chapter is effectively ready to go to review very soon…and…with all that work already completed, she additionally was the drivin force for developing a huge new project at the Great Miami Mitigation Bank, which you will hear about shortly.  That new project established a foundation for a successful grant submission to the Green Acres Foundation and has set the stage for two MS Thesis projects that are getting off the ground now.  In fact, this 6th chapter, has set the stage for what may be a decade or more of new science in the lab.  I want to point out that Michaela managed all of this work while having a baby, through a Global Pandemic, and now just about to have a 2nd child!  Beyond this 6-chapter masterpiece of a dissertation, Michaela has also spent time managing several side projects that generated peer-reviewed articles, including a global collaboration she is involved in that just generated a publication in Science that earned a journal cover!  I do not mean to hurt anyone’s feelings, but I do feel like it is fair to say that over the last 3 years Michaela has been one of the more productive scientists at the University of Dayton…not “graduate students” not “in biology”…I mean if you made a rank ordered list by productivity and put everyone, faculty, staff, engineers, UDRI, everyone at UD on that list…she would be near the very top!  One exciting feature of this remarkable productivity is that many of her publications include co-authors who are (or were) undergraduates here at UD, other graduate students and, very importantly, several of her papers have co-authors from our partners at the Five Rivers Metroparks- indicating a truly community co-created research program.  In recognition of these efforts, in 2021 Michaela was awarded the John, J. Comer Graduate Student Award for Ecological Research. 

I hasten to add that Michaela has also been an award-winning teacher in the Biology Department.  She has, specifically, been an innovator in developing curriculum around the use of the R programming language for code-based analysis of biological data.  In fact, Michaela has had a hugely positive influence in training students in my lab, but also in other labs and in our curriculum in general.  She helped develop an R module for our introductory biology labs, and so, through her effort, the hundreds of students who pass through that curriculum gets at least some training in coding.  She also has done a lot of training on more advanced concepts and even was instructor of record for an advanced data analysis course in our program.  One interesting contribution Michaela made in the realm of teaching was that, early on in her program, she got interested in online teaching.  In fact, she took a graduate level class in the UD Learning Teaching Center on online learning and was told by a faculty member “why are you wasting your time taking that class, we don’t teach online?” — she was told that only weeks before the COVID pandemic hit and literally everything had to go online!  Because Michaela had this training she helped develop an online version of our introductory lab in Biology, which then became the model for that lab when everything went online for a while immediately following COVID.  To recognize all of these efforts Michaela was awarded the Gerald Willis Award for Teaching Introductory Laboratories in 2020, and was also the inaugural winner of the Biology Innovation Award which Michaela also won in the year 2020.

In summary, it has been an unbelievable honor and privilege to have Michaela as a PhD student in the McEwan lab.  She has helped set an amazing standard and has been an irreplaceable member of our research team.  So, I bet you can tell why I am lamenting impermanence! Alas, we must move onward, and there is nothing to do but suffer the loss… but not yet!  We still have an hour or so left to bask in the glow, and so, I am pleased to step aside and welcome Michaela Woods!

Seeing the forest and the stream- Effects of Amur honeysuckle invasion on headwater streams

by Dr. Ryan McEwan

April 5, 2022

Amur honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii) is a shrub that was brought to the United States from Asia. This species was originally envisioned as a useful species for wildlife and, in fact, there was a soil conservation service breeding program to improve this species for use in projects in North America! Unfortunately, this species moved into natural areas aggressively and became one of the most important invasive species in eastern North America. Amur honeysuckle invasion into forests is a serious problem for land managers; however, we noticed that streams meander through many of these forests and we found that Amur honeysuckle is extremely successful along these headwater streams. Here we wanted to provide a synopsis of a decade of research in the McEwan Lab on the ecology of Amur honeysuckle invasion along headwater streams in southwestern Ohio.

Amur honeysuckle fundamentally changes the structure of forests along stream banks.

In areas around Dayton, Ohio, the honeysuckle will create a very dense invasion and sometimes arch over the stream and create almost a “cave” effect.

Here is a picture of a water engineer doing research on honeysuckle and you can see the arching canopy of honeysuckle spanning the stream above him. This invasion creates a dense physical structure which casts a lot of shade on the stream and we found that this structure may also be trapping materials like branches and trees and preventing woody materials, that are important habitat for aquatic organisms, from entering the stream (LINK). There are no native plants, at least in Ohio, that create a structure like this and so the system is changed due to the invasion of honeysuckle.

Here is a picture taken by Dr. Rae McNeish, who did a lot of research on honeysuckle (she is now a professor in California) that shows an Ohio stream in winter with the over-arching branches of honeysuckle creating a dense structure.

Amur honeysuckle contributes materials to streams that are toxic to some organisms.

The dense growth of honeysuckle over the stream is also associated with deposition of a LOT of materials into the stream. Flowers, fruits and leaves are deposited into the water. We discovered that these materials may be toxic to some plants (LINK) and that led us to wonder what is happening in the streams. After many experiments, we discovered that some of these materials are toxic to some aquatic organisms. For example, we put experimental leaf packs in the stream and checked what organisms colonize the leaves and found a unique collection of organisms colonize the honeysuckle leaf packs (LINK). We also put aquatic organisms in little experimental jars (“microcosms) with tea made from honeysuckle leaves and found that at higher concentrations of honeysuckle leaves, these organisms died (LINK). We also put little jars into the stream so that water could flow through, and then put organisms in the jars with honeysuckle fruits and flowers and found evidence of toxic effects (LINK). In an ironic twist, we also found that honeysuckle materials might encourage mosquito larvae (LINK)!?!

Here is a picture of honeysuckle fruit in the bottom of a stream, they may create toxic conditions for some aquatic organisms.

Here is a picture of a stream where, very late in the fall or early winter, honeysuckle has dropped its leaves. This is a lot of leaf material, and especially when the streams are running low and there are stagnant places, our evidence suggest this could create toxic conditions for some aquatic organisms.

Amur honeysuckle invasion changes the aquatic community in fundamental ways

When you put it all together, we have relatively strong evidence that honeysuckle influences the aquatic community in headwater streams, and specifically that more sensitive organisms are less successful where honeysuckle is growing in dense stands along the stream (LINK).

Here is what we think is happening overall. Amur honeysuckle is creating a unique structure on the stream banks and over the stream, and depositing a lot of unique (and potentially toxic) materials into the stream. These materials are really important to aquatic organisms and the composition of that community is changed by the ecological invasion of honeysuckle. This change in aquatic organisms has strong potential to change other aspects of the aquatic (and terrestrial!) food web.

One thing to be careful about – our evidence does not indicate that honeysuckle is a stronger effect than intense human disturbances. For example, our data do not support the idea that honeysuckle is having a worse effect than having a lot of paved areas next to the stream, or deposition from agricultural fields, or salt from roadways, or any number of other insults to nature brought about by human commerce! Please understand: our research really focused on how honeysuckle influenced streams so we were really careful to minimize variation in other aspects of the stream biology. We tried very hard to find streams that were similar in every other way except honeysuckle invasion. In that situation, we have good scientific evidence that honeysuckle invasion causes important changes to the aquatic biology.

Restoration efforts, even at smaller scales, seem to create a positive response in stream organisms

Some good news…in an experiment in which we removed honeysuckle from a stream, we found that even removal along a relatively short portion of a stream can made a difference! Honeysuckle removal created a measurable reaction in the aquatic organisms even when the removal occurred along a relatively short portion of a stream that still had honeysuckle upstream (LINK).

If you are thinking about doing honeysuckle removal to improve the stream in your local natural area, one thing we really want to emphasize is that honeysuckle prevents native plants from growing well. This means that under the honeysuckle what you often have is mud!

Here is a picture of a stream under a dense invasion of honeysuckle- even in the middle of summer it is a mud mess because honeysuckle has suppressed all the native plants.

If you remove honeysuckle and simply leave the stream bank exposed with no vegetation present there is a strong possibility of causing significant soil erosion into the stream. Therefore, we recommend that you think very carefully about what plants you want to have in place prior to ever starting any kind of honeysuckle removal effort. Ask yourself or your team: “What plants are going to be there to hold the niche once we remove the honeysuckle?” If you and/or your team cannot answer that question, then you might be better off not removing honeysuckle at all!

Figure out what plants you will use to hold the niche before you do any removal!

If you are wondering what plants you might want to replace honeysuckle, two really good choices in central Ohio are:

pawpaw (Asimina triloba) – LINK

spicebush (Lindera benzoin) – LINK

We also recommend contacting your local conservation service or metropark to inquire as to their recommendations for removal techniques and also replacement plants. In Ohio, the Ohio Invasive Plants Council has information about removal and replacement that might be a good place to start: LINK

Recorded Presentation

On March 25, 2022 as one of the keynote talks during the Ohio Rivers Symposium, I gave an overview of our research. A recording of the talk is here:



A list of publications from the McEwan Lab (papers, presentations, and other materials) focused on the effect of Amur honeysuckle on headwater streams can be found here:

McEwan Lab Honeysuckle Publication Archive.


An archive of all the data from our projects is found here:

McEwan Lab Honeysuckle Data Archive

A scientific review article about Amur honeysuckle

A link to download a comprehensive scientific review on the biology of Amur honeysuckle that our lab produced is found here:



work was funded by the National Science Foundation (DEB: 1352995).  An abstract of the grant is found here: (Project Abstract).


Funding was also provided by the University of Dayton Graduate School- through Graduate Student Summer Fellowships to multiple students, and through the University of Dayton Honors Program through funding of multiple undergraduates who worked in the lab through the years.

Funding was also provided by a Sigma Xi Grant-in-aid of Research (GIAR) to Rae McNeish.

Funding was also provided by the Ohio Invasive Plants Council research grant to Rae McNeish.


This work would not have been possible without wonderful partnerships with many local and regional land management agencies including Aullwood Audubon Center and Farm (Aullwood Reference Stream), the Miami County Park District (Charleston Fall Moderate Site!) and many other who allowed us to visit or work in their natural areas. We specifically want to offer our thanks to the Centerville-Washington Park District. Specifically, for allowing us to conduct research in Black Oak Park, where Dr. Rae McNeish conducted many studies.

We also are extremely grateful to the Five Rivers Metroparks who allowed us to conduct research in many of their parks over the years.

We look forward to continuing to partner with these, and other, agencies into the future!

We hope you found this research synopsis useful!

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Steward your Aspiration

Comments to New Faculty

August 16, 2021

Dr. Ryan McEwan, Professor of Biology and Schuellein Endowed Chair


Hi everyone,

So this is quite surreal for me… the last time I spoke to a large room of people, in person, was March 9, 2020.  On March 10, President Spina sent an email suspending classes, and since then it has been a long, strange, and difficult experience here at UD.  Wherever you come from, I would venture to guess that this has likely been a hellacious year and a half for you as well.  Regardless of what comes next, at least we made it to this moment- New Faculty arriving on campus and the start of a new academic year.

We are here together now- > Let’s take a deep breath.

I urge you to allow yourself the peace of knowing that you, professionally speaking, are in a relatively safe harbor.  UD will likely face challenges over upcoming weeks, and I imagine that you have other stressors; however, I urge you to allow yourself some satisfaction that your professional journey has allowed you to land a place that can be a platform of opportunity.  This, in and of itself, is a wonderful outcome for your professional journey.  Please allow yourself a sense of victory.

My name is Ryan McEwan and I am Professor, Coordinator of the Environmental Biology Program, and Schuellein Endowed Chair in the Biology Department.  As the winner of the Faculty Service award, I am honored to be given this opportunity to speak with you about my experiences, and share my perspective. 

The main idea that I want you to take away from these remarks is this:

Each of you carries within you a fountain of creative energy– which I will call aspiration– that has allowed you to be astonishingly successful in your area of expertise. This unique, creative, energy is the single most important resource at the University of Dayton.  Your first and most important task as a faculty member at UD is to Steward Your Aspiration in the presence of the many complex demands that will be placed on you as a faculty member. 

During this upcoming semester, I urge you to remember that your email signature does not read “Assistant Professor of Answering Niggling Emails” or “Lecturer in Working Through Persnickety Administrative Processes Where the Person Who Use to Do It Has Retired and the Online System Has Inexplicably Changed.”  If you fail to Steward your Creative Energy you can easily wind up feeling this way, and find yourself exhausted from the rigmarole. Bob Marley has a lyric: “Every day the bucket goes to the well, one day the bottom will drop out.”  The buckets are the niggling emails, and what will drop out is the very spirit that allowed you to land the position in the first place. 

So, I say again, Stewarding your Aspiration is your first and most sacred responsibility.

Here are some idea that may help you accomplish this:

First, emphasize your own physical and mental health. “Wellness” is an increasingly important topic at UD; however, this conversation is usually focused on caring for our students and much less emphasis has been placed on wellbeing of faculty.  I encourage you to engage in whatever campus wellness initiatives you may learn about and, beyond that, I urge you to prioritize activities that make you happy and well: Physical activities, recreation, hobbies, family, etc. This will be extremely challenging in the tumult of the semester (watch out for late October and early November!); however, I urge you to be forceful about continuing happiness-generating activities throughout the year.

Second, I encourage you to guard the time needed to continue to express your expertise.  If you are a cellist: Have you played your cello today?  This week? This Month?  Do you know where your cello is at this point?  You need to understand that by default, and in the absence of resistance, the “system” would have Yo-Yo Ma (who is a famous cellist) spend his life as a faculty member answering emails, sitting through meetings, working through trainings, and navigating fiddly forms, with no cello playing at all.  This system will have you pulled away from your area of expertise, or have you so drained that your fountain of creative energy-> the most important resource at UD<- is totally depleted. I encourage you to resist this by setting up and ferociously guarding blocks of time during which you can express your unique expertise.

Third, I encourage you to create personal connections at the University of Dayton.  We are a small enough university that there is opportunity for you to forge personal relationships with folks from departments outside your area of expertise. I have found that reaching out to folks for a “no agenda” lunch, or coffee, is a key mechanism of success and happiness at UD.  There is an idea at UD called “the Marianist Charism”.  When I first came to UD, I thought that was a geological formation!  It is not a landform, and instead I take it to mean a kind of empathetic approach to community- an openheartedness in engagement with others.  I believe if you approach engagement with colleagues at UD from this perspective you will find yourself enmeshed in a supportive community, and that will help you sustain your fountain of aspiration.

Finally, with regards to service, I encourage you to say “no” early and often. And approach Service intentionally, not as a distraction from the other areas of your career, namely, Research and Teaching, but instead as mutualistic with those activities.  I would encourage you to intentionally pursue service opportunities that will have positive effects on other areas of your life.  As an example, when I first came to UD, I joined what was then called the SEE committee, which was focused on sustainability education at UD. This committee did some wonderful service work, that is still unfolding more than a decade later. Also, through this committee, I met many individuals who became friends and mentors. One fellow I met, named Bob Brecha, became a friend and mentor and we wrote a peer-reviewed scientific journal article together that is still one of my favorite papers (and was part of my tenure portfolio).  I also met a wonderful person named Leslie King, who helped build a program at UD called the River Stewards. Because of my relationship with Leslie I was able to take ecological labs I was teaching on kayaking trips, resulting in transformational student experiences in my teaching.

In summary, I believe if you are intentional, you can find ways to engage in service that replenishes, rather than evaporates your creative energy, and advances, rather than detracts, from other aspects of your career.

Bob Marley has another lyric “In the abundance of water, the fool is thirsty.”  That fountain of aspiration, the most important resource at this university, offers you abundance and I think you can protect it:

(a) prioritize your mental health and wellness

(b) make time to express your expertise

(c) create community through open-hearted connections with campus colleagues

(d) intentionally pursue service that creates mutualist connection with other components of your work life.

In closing, thank you for the opportunity to share a little bit with you, good luck, and please feel free to reach out to me if you want to meet sometime- with or without an agenda- I am easy to find at UD!

Inclusivity is a McEwan Lab Imperative

Commitment to Inclusivity and our Lab Community.

Inclusivity is an imperative in the McEwan Lab.

In the McEwan Lab we view inclusivity as the basic notion that everyone in the lab is treated with fundamental respect and included in all appropriate lab activities and communication.

The McEwan Lab abides by and strongly supports the University of Dayton Nondiscrimination policy:  LINK.  Further, we strongly affirm the University of Dayton’s equity efforts and formally proclaim:

The McEwan Lab does not discriminate on the basis of age, race, color, creed, religion, ancestry, national or ethnic origin, sex/gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, disability, genetic information, military status, veteran status, familial status or any other protected category under applicable local, state or federal law, ordinance or regulation.

McEwan Lab Online Anonymous Reporting Form.

If something happens to you, or you witness something happen, that you feel is a violation of the inclusivity imperative, then you should report this to Dr. McEwan.  If you feel worried that negative statements might cause problems for you, then you can simply type up a description of the problem and leave it as an anonymous note in Dr. McEwan’s mailbox, or submit your observation to the online inclusion form [LINK]. This may include something that happened in the lab, in the field, at UD, at a professional meeting or in any other setting. You can use the form in any way that you wish, to communicate any issue that you wish, but I am particularly eager to hear from you if things have happened where you feel that the lab community has been, or is being, harmed or if there is some violation of inclusivity.  The form is completely anonymous and no effort will be made to seek the identify of the submitter.




Resolving Conflict.

One important aspect of inclusivity in the McEwan lab is a commitment to the lab community during times of conflict. Occasional disagreement is a normal part of a large, interacting, group and we must all acknowledge that potential exists for miscommunication and hurt feelings. Although we seek a “horizontal” structure, there are power imbalances in the lab that must be acknowledged and addressed.

One important thing that you can do to ensure the work environment remains hospitable and safe for everyone is to address any conflict that arises promptly with the individual in question.  If there is some reason that you cannot address the issue immediately or if you feel unable to deal directly with the individual in question, then bring your issue to one of the graduate students or Dr. McEwan or submit an outline of the conflict to the online form.

Demeaning and Harmful Speech.

In the McEwan Lab we view will seek to practice “non-violent communication” at all times.  Insults or other forms of verbal aggression are banned from the workspace of the lab and from the field environments where lab members are working.  While we do not want to limit your opportunity for creativity, listening to music, or humor, we urge caution if others may overheard language that they find offensive.

Gossiping & Exclusion.

Lab members should never have to worry that others are talking about them “behind their back” or gossiping about them in a negative way.  It is unacceptable for you to engage in these behaviors.  For example, if you feel slighted by something a grad student says, or you feel one of the other students in the lab is being, e.g., “lazy,” you should not form a group chat with other lab members to discuss how “awful” that person is through text messages.  This is harmful behavior that is unacceptable in any professional environment. You must not engage in such things, if you see it happening you should tell folks doing it to “stop” and tell Dr. McEwan either in person or anonymously using the online form.

Harassment, Discrimination and Assault.

Any activity in the lab that violates the anti-harassment policies of the University of Dayton will be addressed promptly through the formal equity compliance process:  LINK.  In particular, we are vigilantly opposed to sexist, misogynistic, racist, homophobic and transphobic behavior and language and will seek to create an open, inclusive, space for the sharing of ideas and professional growth of lab members.

Sexual harassment and assault are prevalent on college campuses and we want members of the McEwan Lab to be safe.  We will not tolerate such behavior in the Lab and will work to rid the campus of the University of Dayton of this behavior.  Members of the lab are encouraged to participate in Green Dot training and we will seek to have a formal lab meeting devoted to this training when possible.

Dr. McEwan & McEwan Lab Grad Students are Mandatory Reporters 

If something happens to you and you wish to talk about it to Dr. McEwan or a graduate student in the lab, it is important that you understand that while your privacy is important, we cannot promise to keep what you share confidential if what you share indicates a violation of your rights or the law.  If you are comfortable speaking with us we will take what you say seriously.  We will pursue the appropriate processes carefully and thoughtfully. There are many different offices and venues for addressing a wide range of issues and we will help you navigate to the appropriate person. There are people on campus (Doctors, Counselors, Clergy) who are NOT mandatory reporters who I can direct you to.  But, it is important that you know that if what you share with me indicates a violation of your rights I literally cannot meet your request for privacy.

 LINK to more information on Mandatory Reporting.

Including Everyone in Field Trips

Field work is an important part of ecological research and providing opportunities for field work is an important goal of the lab which is synergistic with the need for students, especially undergraduates, to step up when the opportunity arises.  Therefore, please follow this field inclusivity directive:

For those leading a research trip in the field:

(a) check to see if you have open seats in the vehicle.  Whether or not you NEED a larger group is *irrelevant* – stop thinking that way and start asking the question: do I have open seats?

(b) if open seats, then make an announcement to the lab that you are going in the field with an open invitation to join.

(c) do not use some subset list you created. I disdain subset lists in general and I have absolute proof that they can lead to exclusivity. They perpetuate a problem we are trying to solve. Let’s all assume that the #McE-Lab list is the One True List, help me make sure everyone is on that one, then and just stop making your own list unless they have a very, specific purpose. In practice, what this means is that you send a “reply all” email to a recent email that I have sent the lab and then just change the subject and delete the text.   Then you have the list you want.

For everyone who is a lab member:

(a) being part of the lab includes a commitment to help others in the field. It is part of La decima in the document that I have you read before you join the lab. You must work up the initiative to take the opportunities that you see appearing before you this semester.  People going in the field cannot work around the whole group’s schedule so you just have to jump when the chance appears.  Stop making excuses at to why you cannot attend and start prioritizing this aspect of your professional development.

For undergrad project leaders or graduate students:

(a) if you are an undergraduate and have a project- MAKE the time to pay-it-forward to the next generation and others in the lab by talking to them about what you are doing.  Step outside your comfort zone and start meaningfully and intentionally sharing what you know and what you are working on.


Clearly there are times when pressing or urgent matters make leaving to go in the field a sudden thing, or when timeline is so essential that you really cannot “afford” to take folks in the field who would be extra.  **It certainly can make things less efficient.**  There may be other extenuating circumstances!  Etc. So I understand there are times when this will not work, but, we are going to make that the exception, not the rule.

Check yourself:

If you are driving into the field and you look over and there are empty seats then you made a mistake unless:

(a) you announced and no one joined.
(b) you are in a confounded hurry like no other

Well being

updated January 2020

One of the central missions of the McEwan lab is to:

Create opportunities and guide students in the pursuit of their professional vision in the realm of scientific research, application and outreach.

Toward this end, the lab is committed to providing a healthy framework for student engagement. The pursuit of science can become an overwhelming experience and can create, or interact with, unhealthy patterns in the lives of students in the lab.  Destructive tendencies can flourish in the academic setting and it is our goal, as a lab community, to pursue science while also supporting the overall health and well-being of lab members.

Mental and physical health concerns.

If you are not feeling well, either physically or mentally, take the time off you need to seek out help and take care of yourself.  There are many resources at the University of Dayton that you can use and you should always feel free to take time off from the lab, miss a meeting, or otherwise disengage if you are ill or otherwise need to take care of yourself.  Please communicate with Dr. McEwan and other community members you might be working with if you cannot attend a lab activity where others are counting on your presence, or if you will be out for an extended period of time.

Personal emergencies.

You may be a member of the McEwan lab for an extended period and during this time it is possible that a life-altering situation or emergency will arise.  We have seen many different things arise in the lives of community members and it is critical that you take the time you need if such a situation arises in your own life.  Please communicate with Dr. McEwan if something happens that will require you to miss a lot of time in the lab.


Scientists can be both ambitious and obsessive.  The pursuit of scientific knowledge is intoxicating at times and students can easily fall into a routine of working far more than is healthy.  If you are the kind of person who tends to push beyond your limits you can become a Growing Tree Academic and wind up personally destroyed in the pursuit of giving yourself to your project and to Science.  Many of our projects are bottomless, meaning that we can keep working forever and still have more to do.  This can lead to working far more hours that are healthy.  Thus, learning to set limits is an important goal.  For some, managing this comes naturally, while for others it can be extremely complicated.

I want to also note that what is an unhealthy level of work and commitment for some may be perfectly healthy for others.  Rarely are painters or musicians criticized for working obsessively, nor do we criticize the star athlete for working tirelessly on her craft – similarly, it is important that we are also accepting of the fact that for some people, Ecology is truly a labor of love and working “constantly” can be part of a healthy and happy life. If someone says “I don’t want to go to the Avengers movie because I am working on these figures” that does not mean they have a work-life balance issue, they might actually enjoy figure making more than the Avengers.  We encourage each person to find the balance that keeps them inspired, avoids burn-out, and keeps their project on track.

Work hours.

Science is a “product” driven enterprise.  The goal is the accumulation of knowledge and communication of that knowledge to the scientific community and the public.  Scientists approach the notion of work hours from a variety of different perspectives.  Some find success in setting up a “normal” 8-5 Monday through Friday work week, and come to campus during those hours and work, then do not work on the weekends.  Others work better from off campus at times and do not have as consistent hours. I have known successful scientists who wake up at 5:00 am every night and are super productive, and I have known successful scientists who did their best work between 10:00 pm and 2:00 am.

Dr. McEwan is normally on campus a lot during the semesters, but isn’t always in his office.  He also works from home a lot as he has found that focus is sometimes easier there away from distractions. Dr. McEwan works at least some most days, including weekends and holidays, also works at night often, but also will simply not come to campus some days and takes a lot of time for family when needed. That Dr. McEwan works on weekends does not indicate that you need to do so!  Your goal ultimately is to fine the working pattern that helps you be maximally productive and happy – nothing else really matters.

Email hours.

Email is the primary mode of communication in academia, science and in the McEwan Lab.  As a lab member you will be added to a list and there will be periodic communication over that list.   You must read your email to stay informed.  Further, you may also be involved in projects where Dr. McEwan is involved and those projects will likely prompt email communication.  Dr. McEwan may send emails at odd hours.  Late at night, early in the morning, during holidays, on weekends.  You should not take emails sent at odd times or days as an indication that you need to reply immediately.  You can manage emails in a professional fashion and should not answer emails during times where you normally would be on holiday or sleeping, etc.  Students are responsible for being responsible about when to read and reply to emails in a way that is healthy and productive for them as individuals.

Lab and field safety.

The Department of Biology has lab safety training that you should participate in if you are going to be working in the lab.  Let Dr. McEwan know so that can be scheduled.

Field trip safety is also an important concern for McEwan Lab members. Here are some safety rules:

  • Transportation into the field is normally via the Department of Biology field vehicle (truck). Communicate with Dr. McEwan for safety rules and access.  Driver training is required.
  • Do not go into the field alone. You should always have at least one person with you.
  • Generally speaking if you are going into the field for terrestrial sampling you should wear tough closed toe shoes (boots), preferably water proof (think Gortex) and long pants.
    In the summer, pants preferably would be light, loose, and tough – ripstop nylon or something similar (think Army surplus!!).  Additionally, I personally like to wear light long-sleeved shirts.  Something that does not stick to you and that you can roll up or down sleeves. The main idea is to delete from your brain the thought of walking on lawns and trails, and insert the idea that your job as an environmental professional will often mean going perpendicular to the trail directly through briars, nettles, poison ivy, with swarms of biting flies, mosquitoes, etc.  If you have on shorts and sandals you will be sad and distracted and in pain, and therefore not able to do your job.
  • Sunscreen, sun hats, insect repellant are often needed in a field situation. Protect yourself.

Commitment to Community & Inclusivity

Please read the stand-alone post on Inclusivity and use the online form to report issues that threaten our community.


(a) Ensuring that lab activities do not adversely impact the well-being of lab members is a critically important task and something we all take seriously and work on as a community.

(b) Undergraduate students often experience stressful times and mental health is a serious concern.  Many new studies indicate that stress and mental health are also serious concerns for graduate students.  In the McEwan Lab we will work to create an environment of support around mental health challenges.  Respect for work-life balance is fundamental to the McEwan Lab philosophy (LINK).

(c) Working in a research lab can be fun and the quest for scientific knowledge can be truly exhilarating.  Although we all experience pressure related to our lives as academics, we in the McEwan Lab seek to pursue answers to important scientific questions in a way that is mutually supportive and ultimately joyful.

(d) Students in the lab who experience challenges to their wellness are encouraged to seek out help.  Many resources exist at the University of Dayton which can be found by following this LINK.

Outside Reading

McEwan’s Mental Health LifeHack Lecture


Data collection, management and sharing

Updated September 2019


Data collection practices

(a) If you are leading a project you must keep a field notebook in which you outline your observations and activities.  These are available in the McEwan lab.

data collection needs to be clean, legible to others, in pencil, on waterproof paper, with dates and data collector information on each sheet.  Data collected on paper in this fashion is timeless and superior to digital methods.

(c) When possible there should be uniformity in data collection system.  Preferably have the same person collect the same data in the same way for the whole project and deviate from that only if needed and with caution.

(d) QA/QC your data entry.  Errors are quite common in data collection and data entry.  You need to practice regular QA/QC.  Best is a quick scan of each sheet in the field (or lab) as the sheet is completed to see if anything absurd is written down (oak tree with 8900 cm DBH).  During data entry is a good time to catch mistakes. Then after data entry, depending on the number of sheets, it is useful to go back and re-check the entry.  Minimally, a random 10% sample of the data sheets and re-check with the entered data is needed.  If mistakes are found, then another random 10% sample (without replacement) is needed.


Precautions against the loss of data

Computers are only vaguely reliable instruments. 

You are required to assume that your computer, or the one you are using, will fail unexpectedly.

Examples of **unacceptable** reasons for losing data:

(a) my hard drive crashed!  (of course it did!)

(b) I was really busy getting ready for “x” so I didn’t back up the data

(c) there is only one computer with a microscope camera/software package/etc and so I saved everything there and didn’t back it up.


McEwan lab data management practices & data sharing

Here are some rules for working in the McEwan lab:

(a) Data ownership.

At the time of graduation, or the ending of any particular project, all data and other information associated with the project must be transferred to Dr. McEwan for curation, storage, publication or sharing.

Students may be entitled to authorship on subsequent publications; however, that is determined on an individual basis depending on the efforts of the students within the context of the overall project.

As Principle Investigator in the lab, and the person responsible to the University of Dayton, funding agencies, etc, Dr. McEwan is the ultimate owner of all data collected in the lab and reserves the right to make datasets publicly available and move forward with publishing or other uses pursuant to the code of ethics surrounding scientific information put forward by the Ecological Society of America.

(b) Everyone will use Excel to enter data and create CSV files and all analysis must be done in R.

(c) We will share data sets across the lab

(d) We will create data products (data sets) that are shared publicly

(e) Everyone will help out with analysis- share in a collaborative fashion

(f) Analysis of data sets will often be open to peers, and, in some instances, will take place live in front of the lab group.  This might feel scary at times if it is your data set, but this is the way we are moving forward


(a) Every new project in the lab should begin with the creation of a folder that is shared.  Dr. McEwan will create that folder and share it with the participants in the project.  If you are involved in a project and do not have a folder, let Dr. McEwan know via email or in person and he will create the folder.  All activities related to the project must take place within this shared folder.  The shared folder should have a logical sub-folder structure and can include “Literature”  “Analysis,” “Writing,” “Scripts,”  etc.

(b) Data products.  The first priority for any project, once data have been collected is to create data products for the project they are working on.  These data products will be shared in the Project Folder and consist of a written description of the methods,  data entered into the appropriate format for sharing and analysis in R, and explanatory text in the form of meta-data.

Features of a required data product

–  a journal-quality description of methods.  This may need to include images, etc.

–  a Final CSV folder that contains the perfectly cleaned and organized R-ready files

–  metadata for the CSV files

(c)  Projects will advance forward, following the completion of the data products, following normal processes including exploratory data analysis, final analyses and writing.  This could include writing a Thesis, a paper for publication, or preparing various presentations including posters and presentations.

(d) Once analyses are completed, the final, curated, annotated, scripts must be shared with Dr. McEwan.  These scripts may serve as the basis for future analyses.  To determine if you have met this lab requirement – Can a reasonably competent person, familiar with your project, reproduce your graphics and analyses in < 1 hr?


McEwan lab data archive

The McEwan lab seeks to publicly share all data collected in the lab through eCommons and the University of Dayton library. The idea is to store curated data set on the site in such a way that they are publicly available and have a citable DOI.  We will seek to publish the final, cleaned, csv files prior to publication and cite the data in the manuscripts we submit to journals.  This is a permanent archive freely available to all collaborators, agencies and other stakeholders.  Dr. McEwan will contact you about storing your data sets in the archive if appropriate.

LINK: https://ecommons.udayton.edu/mcewanlab/



Managing Literature

Managing and Citing Scientific Literature

Updated June 2021

“A few months in the laboratory can save a few hours in the library.”  Frank Westheimer



Reading and managing scientific literature is one of the most important skills you need to develop.  Scientific literature is the foundation upon which all future work must be built.   Climbing to the top of the mountain of literature is a must for PhD students.  For Master’s students and undergraduates, you must engage the literature.  Reading the literature is a skill, and if you do not develop a commitment to developing that skill then that quality of your science will suffer.  In the McEwan lab all project leaders are required to commit to reading the literature and using that literature to bolster your science.


We use Mendeley as the literature management software in the McEwan Lab.  There is a lab account that you can sign into.  It has a web-based application and a downloadable desktop application including a plug-in.  I use the plug-in for some literature work on manuscripts, but the more important thing is that it serves as a repository.  LINK

The Salty Seven

Every project leader in the lab should find seven peer-reviewed scientific articles that apply to their project.  Use Google Scholar or Web of Science.  Then save PDFs of these articles and place them into a folder that you create in Mendeley.  These articles are then the basis for your work going forward.  Read them carefully.  Look at the figures.  Look at the literature they are citing.  Look at how they are “framing” the project in terms of ideas and concepts.  These papers can serve as a model for your project. What techniques to use, how to analyze data and how to frame up the science in the broader scientific conversation.


Creating a well-organized literature cited page in your manuscript.

 Proper citation of literature is a fundamental task of writing a manuscript for a Thesis, Dissertation or scientific publication.  In the McEwan lab we use Mendeley to manage literature and this does have a function to automatically create a literature cited page!  This makes things much easier.  However, the Mendeley library itself has errors that are propagated into the Literature Cited page.  Later in the process, you will need to de-couple from Mendeley and finalize your references, which will require you to be sure that the citations are complete and formatted consistently.  Journal copyeditors have some responsibility in getting your format correct once your article is accepted and prior to publication; however, it is important that the manuscript be edited carefully prior to submission.  If a reviewer turns to the references and finds something missing, or a very messy formatting situation, they may take a negative view of the work. You do not want this though popping up in a reviewer’s mind: “If the authors are sloppy and irresponsible with their references, maybe they are sloppy and irresponsible with the data collection too….hmmmm.” 

 Here are some McEwan Lab Best Practices to checking your references.

(a) Choose a format and stick with it.

 You need for your Reference Cited page to be consistent.  This means you need to select a format and then use the identical format for all citations.  If you have a journal that you are targeting from early on you can use that journal’s “Instruction to Authors” to figure out your format.  Mendeley might have something that matches precisely that format, or you can actually create your own format within Mendeley.  Alternatively, you can chose a Mendeley format that is close to the final format you need and edit from there.  Ultimately, your goal is consistency.      

(b) Make sure all the literature cited in the manuscript appears as an entry in the Literature Cited pages, and that all literature listed in the Literature Cited pages are also referenced in the manuscript.

The reference program you are using (eg, Mendeley) should help you with this, but still mistakes happen and especially if you are working with multiple co-authors you are almost guaranteed to end up with a mis-match between literature cited and Literature Cited.  My recommendation is to literally print out the manuscript, and the Literature Cite page and go through one-by-one with a marker and check off each manuscript citation.  There really is no substitute for this kind of screening process. Then if you find a reference in the text that is not in the Literature Cited you can fill it in, and if you find Literature Cited that is not in the text you can add it, or delete.

(c) Edit for consistent formatting

As you are working on your manuscript and approaching the later stages in the editing process it is good to begin scanning your Literature Cited for formatting mistakes.  There will often be many mistakes of consistency.  Here are some things to look for:


Author names and initials

You want these to be consistent.  Below are three different ways to list the author names and initials, fix this if you find it!

Borth, EB, Custer KW and McEwan RW (2018) Lethal effects of leaf leachate from the non-native invasive shrub Amur honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii) on a model aquatic organism (Hyalella azteca). Ecoscience 25: 189–197.

Borth, E.B., K.W. Custer & R.W. McEwan (2018) Lethal effects of leaf leachate from the non-native invasive shrub Amur honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii) on a model aquatic organism (Hyalella azteca). Ecoscience 25: 189–197.

Borth, E.B., Custer K.W., McEwan R.W. (2018) Lethal effects of leaf leachate from the non-native invasive shrub Amur honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii) on a model aquatic organism (Hyalella azteca). Ecoscience 25: 189–197.



You want to be consistent in the way the date is displayed.  Each citation must be the same.  Below are three different ways to display date, this is no good.

Borth, EB, Custer KW and McEwan RW.  2018. Lethal effects of leaf leachate from the non-native invasive shrub Amur honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii) on a model aquatic organism (Hyalella azteca). Ecoscience 25: 189–197.

Borth, E.B., K.W. Custer & R.W. McEwan (2018) Lethal effects of leaf leachate from the non-native invasive shrub Amur honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii) on a model aquatic organism (Hyalella azteca). Ecoscience 25: 189–197.

Borth, E.B., Custer K.W., McEwan R.W. Lethal effects of leaf leachate from the non-native invasive shrub Amur honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii) on a model aquatic organism (Hyalella azteca). (2018). Ecoscience 25: 189–197.


Article title

Make sure the title is consistent and watch out for capitalization in particular.  For example, these are inconsistent.  This is bad.  Make all of your references the same.

Borth, E.B., K.W. Custer & R.W. McEwan (2018) Lethal effects of leaf leachate from the non-native invasive shrub Amur honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii) on a model aquatic organism (Hyalella azteca). Ecoscience 25: 189–197.

Borth, E.B., K.W. Custer & R.W. McEwan (2018) Lethal Effects of Leaf Leachate From the Non-native Invasive Shrub Amur Honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii) on a Model Aquatic Organism (Hyalella Azteca). Ecoscience 25: 189–197.

Borth, E.B., K.W. Custer & R.W. McEwan (2018) Lethal effects of leaf leachate from the non-native invasive shrub Amur honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii) on a model aquatic organism (Hyalella azteca). Ecoscience 25: 189–197.


Latin names are in italics

 See below.  The bottom one is incorrect.

Borth, E.B., K.W. Custer & R.W. McEwan (2018) Lethal effects of leaf leachate from the non-native invasive shrub Amur honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii) on a model aquatic organism (Hyalella azteca). Ecoscience 25: 189–197.

Borth, E.B., K.W. Custer & R.W. McEwan (2018) Lethal effects of leaf leachate from the non-native invasive shrub Amur honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii) on a model aquatic organism (Hyalella azteca). Ecoscience 25: 189–197.


There should not be random stuff at the end of a citation

Let the Journal decide if they want to DOI at the end.  We just put the proper citation.  Don’t have stuff, like below in the top example in maroon, hanging out at the end.

Gregory, SV, Swanson, FJ, Mckee, WA, Kenneth, W, Swanson, J, Cummins, KW (1991). An Ecosystem Perspective of Riparian Zones Focus on links between land and water. BioScience, 41(8), 540–551. URL : http://www.jstor.org/stable/


Miller KE, Gorchov DL (2004). The invasive shrub, Lonicera maackii, reduces growth and fecundity of perennial forest herbs. Oecologia 139: 359-375.


All​ journal names should be treated identically and spelled out

You should not have some abbreviated, others not, not some italics, others not.  Three below are three different articles where the journal title has been treated differently each time.  Just spell out the title.  

Tank, JL, Rosi-Marshall EJ, Griffiths NA, Entrekin SA, Stephen ML (2010). A review of allochthonous organic matter dynamics and metabolism in streams. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 29: 118-146.

Vannote RL, Minshall GW, Cummins KW, Sedell JR, Cushing CE (1980). The river continuum concept. Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 37: 130-137.

Voshell Jr., J. R. 2002. A Guide to common Freshwater Invertebrates of North America.

Wallace, JB (1996). The Role of Macroinvertebrates in Stream Ecosystem Function. Annual Review of Entomology, 41(1), 115–139


Be consistent in whether you have “and”  “&” or “nothing” at the end of your author list. 

Below we have these treated three different ways.  It has to be the same.

Lenth, R., Singmann, H., & Love, J. (2018). Emmeans: Estimated marginal means, aka least-squares means. R package version1(1).

Lieurance D, Cipollini D (2012). Damage levels from arthropod herbivores on Lonicera maackii suggest enemy release in its introduced range. Biological Invasions, 14(4), 863–873.

Likens FH, Bormann, R. S. Pierce and W. A. Reiners, G. E. (1978). Recovery of a deforested ecosystem. Science 199: 492–496.

Welcome to the 2019 Ecological Society of America Annual Meeting- Louisville

June 1, 2019

Dear Colleagues,

As a native Kentuckian, and Program Chair of the 2019 Ecological Society of America Annual Meeting, I want to welcome you to the Commonwealth of Kentucky and the city of Louisville.  This city lies at geographic and cultural intersections that create a rich backdrop for what is a truly amazing program.  Louisville is situated in the Outer Bluegrass physiographic region and was founded at the Falls of the Ohio River. The human history of the region stretches back at least 11,000 years and includes a sequence of Native American civilizations.  These peoples founded rich and complex cultures and, at the time of earliest contact with Europeans (~1660s), those reported living near the Falls included Honniasontkeronons, Chiouanons, Outagame, Iskoussogos and Touguenhas.  Contact with Europeans began a period of chaos and bloodshed for Native American peoples due to European-origin diseases and Euro-American military conquest.  The city of Louisville was formally founded in 1778 making it one of the earliest Euro-American cities east of the Appalachian Mountains.  Since its founding, Louisville has been an important and unique hub for commerce and culture in the region.  Celebrating the 20th year since passing its fairness ordinance, and with a perfect score from the Human Rights Campaign, I hope that you find Louisville intriguing, welcoming, and fun.

This year’s theme is Bridging Communities and Ecosystems: Inclusion as an Ecological Imperative.  Expanding inclusivity is an urgent objective of the Ecological Society of America.  It is imperative that we provide a supportive framework for advancing individuals who bring the diversities of perspectives needed to address the complex challenges facing the science of ecology.  The Society has invested in a series of initiatives that seek to create opportunities and diversify both the membership and meeting.  These efforts include the SEEDs program, the Extending the Tent initiative, and a variety of other efforts.  The Program Committee and ESA Governing Board are both dedicated to increasing inclusion at the Annual Meeting and to broadening participation in the Society and we will enforce our meeting Code of Conduct.  At this year’s meeting, we have an excellent set of workshops and special sessions, many of which provide state-of-the-art training on issues related to inclusion.  I hope you will attend some of these sessions.  Finally, this year’s meeting is being held in conjunction with the United States Society for Ecological Economics (USSEE) which I hope provides exciting opportunities for bridging science and application and for the establishment of fresh dialog and new collaborations.

I am particularly proud of the slate of Plenary presentations at this year’s meeting.  The Opening Plenary will be on Sunday night by Karen M. Warkentin from Boston University whose talk will be titled All the variations matter: bridging disciplines and communities to study diversity in life history and sexual behavior.  The Scientific Plenary on Monday morning will be Resilience, recovery and the ecology of change by Katharine Suding from the University of Colorado, Boulder.  The New Phytologist Trust Keynote Speaker is Diane Pataki from the University of Utah whose presentation is The Ecology of Cultivated Landscapes: Theoretical, Methodological, and Ethical Considerations.  The Recent Advances Lecture for 2019 will be on Thursday by Robin Kimmerer from SUNY-ESF whose talk will be titled P-values and cultural values: Creating symbiosis among indigenous and western knowledges to advance ecological justice.  One exciting benefit of having our meeting in conjunction with USSEE is the addition to the program of a unique plenary which will be given by Daniel Childers from Arizona State University on Tuesday morning titled Informed interdisciplinary social-ecological approaches in an era of convergence science? Taken together, I believe these presentations offer an expansive perspective on a range of topics and advance the meeting theme in an excellent way.

Local Host, Sarah Emery, from the University of Louisville has done an excellent job organizing field trips.  At the meeting, we will have a variety of evening socials and gatherings to facilitate networking.  In addition, I hope you will find time to relax with colleagues and make new friends while you are visiting Louisville.  The convention center is located in the cultural and culinary epicenter of the city.  You will find yourself in walking distance to a wide variety of dining options.  If time permits I hope you will avail yourself of some of the many nearby attractions unique to Louisville including the Mohammad Ali Center, the Louisville Slugger museum, the Belle of Louisville Steamboat and the many opportunities to learn about the bourbon heritage of the region.  The waterfront redevelopment is a popular spot and includes the opportunity to walk across the Ohio on a pedestrian bridge. If you want to venture a little further away from the Convention Center, I encourage you to check out one of the lovely Fredrick Law Olmstead parks or the JB Speed Art Museum.

This is the 20th anniversary of my first ESA meeting and I eagerly look forward to seeing many old friends in Louisville and to the opportunity to meet and learn from folks who are coming to ESA for the first time.  Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns and I would be particularly grateful if you would stop me at the meeting and share your thoughts.  The Society wants to know what you are thinking and I am happy to field any ideas you may have.

Best wishes and see you in Louisville,

Ryan McEwan, 2019 Program Chair

ryan.mcewan@udayton.edu : @mcewanlab