Quilt Lawns

Welcoming nature into your own backyard

Ryan McEwan, PhD

The American Lawn Boondoggle

The American Lawn is a boondoggle. Lawns take up a huge amount of space in the United States, covering an area approximately the size of Texas. This is a larger area than any irrigated crop! Lawn maintenance is associated with massive combustion of fossil fuels and atmospheric pollution. Maintaining lawns requires burning millions of gallons of gasoline, and contributes up to 242 million tons of atmospheric pollution each year, contributing to climate change.

Applications of pesticide to lawns is extreme. By some estimates, across the United States, 67 million pounds of pesticide are applied annually. These chemicals include herbicides and insecticides, each of which are highly problematic from a sustainability perspective. Herbicides used in lawn “care” are chemicals designed to kill all plant species except the European turf grass (often fescue and bluegrass). The application of these chemicals destroys plant biodiversity in the lawn leaving behind only the European turf grass, and some commonly applied herbicides may have human health effects.

Insecticides that are applied to lawns are also highly problematic. Often lawn “treatments” include chemicals that indiscriminately kill insects, those that might cause the lawn to “look bad” but also other insects. There is good evidence that we are in the midst of an insect extinction crisis nationally, and globally, that includes the loss of pollinators that play a critical role in human food systems. Part of the explanation for this loss is indiscriminate use of insecticides like those used to maintain lawn. Fireflies populations are also known to be declining and and the causes of this loss include the use of pesticides. Some lawn chemicals used in the US are banned in other countries, and are not just damaging to plants and insects, they are also dangerous to humans.

Many homeowners choose to apply fertilizer to their lawns, and runoff from this treatment can cause serious issues downstream. Two nutrients that are often applied to lawns are nitrogen and phosphorus and these compounds can run-off from the lawns, go down grates in the street and end up in waterways. When lawn fertilizers arrive in large waterbodies they can drive algal blooms that have serious impacts on human society. Applications of fertilizer are expensive as well, around $200 for each treatment, and if a homeowner decides to apply it on their own, its easy to make mistakes in both the application and storage of these chemicals.

How can we escape the American Lawn Boondoggle?

The Quilt Lawn

My proposal for escaping the Great American Lawn Boondoggle is The Quilt Lawn: A biodiverse, never sprayed, seldomly mown, lawn where a grass is interspersed with naturally occurring, short statured flowering plants. The quilt lawn is similar in concept to a clover lawn, or tapestry lawn, with some important unique features. Specifically, the quilt lawn relies on a cool season grass “background” that is interspersed with naturally occurring flowering plants. The grass background will already be present in virtually all yards. This is the grass that has been established by the lawn service or homeowner and will include grasses that create a turf such as fescue and bluegrass. These grasses are important, especially in fall, winter, and early spring when the flowering plants are still dormant. There is no need to kill these grasses to create a quilt lawn, and there is no need, in most cases, for adding special seed to the lawn. The overall approach is summarized in this video:

How do you create a Quilt Lawn?

Step one: Free your mind! The American Lawn Boondoggle relies on a beauty standard that is based on English aristocratic values from the 1800s. The first step toward a Quilt Lawn approach is to “let yourself off the hook” for maintaining this highly un-natural, manicured, monoculture. If you can free your mind, and begin to think of caring for your “little slice of heaven” as an act of sustainability and caring, rather than chasing a “perfect look,” you are ready to create a quilt lawn.

Step two: You can do more for the environment simply by doing less. Stop spraying. Stop spraying insecticide. Stop spraying fertilizer. Call up the “lawn care” company and cancel your annual “treatment.” Pest control applications are quite expensive, and simply by refraining from application of these chemicals, homeowners can save hundreds of dollars a year and have a hugely positive effect on sustainability.

Step three: Mow less often. You can do more for the environment simply by doing less. Scientific evidence indicates that less frequent mowing is better for biodiversity. Mowing once every three weeks can significantly increase lawn biodiversity. This can save the homeowner money, on average around $100 for each mowing event. If the homeowner mows their own lawn, intentionally reducing mowing frequently can give that individual a lot of extra time – the average homeowner spends nearly 400 hours mowing over the course of their life!

Step four: Spontaneous biodiversity. In the American Midwest, once a homeowner stops spraying poisons, the biodiversity of their lawn will naturally increase. The poisons that lawn “care” companies spray are specifically designed to kill all plants except European turf grass. Many plants exist in the flora that can live in a short statured sunny habitat like a lawn, even one that is being mowed regularly. These include flowering plants like clovers (Trifolium), mints (e.g., Prunella), wild strawberry (Fragaria), sorrel (Oxalis) and, of course, dandelions (Taraxacum…ps. dandelions are good for the environment and are a highly nutritious food!). As these species begin to appear in your lawn it will get more diverse, and like all ecosystems, as your lawn gets more diverse, it will become more resistant to stressors! These plants will flower at different times in different colors providing opportunities for pollinators, and making your quilt lawn increasingly beautiful.

Step five: Enjoy! Creating a quilt lawn should be an enjoyable experience. If you feel uncomfortable about how your neighbors might feel, you can only pursue the quilt lawn idea in the rear of your home. If you get excited and want to go further you can over-seed your current lawn with a diverse seed mix. For example, in the cool spring weather you can add seeds, such as the bee lawn mix from Ohio Prairie Nursery, to bare patches that form.

One exciting thing about a quilt lawn is that you can welcome nature into your lawn, while still maintaining much of the basic look and function of a conventional lawn. It should be mown as needed to maintain the height and look you find appealing. A quilt lawn can be a place where you play cornhole or your kids can kick a soccer ball. Ultimately, by transitioning from a turf grass monoculture to a quilt lawn, you can save money, save time, have fun, while have a significant positive effect on the environment.

Quilt Lawn Resources

How to get started in the Miami Valley

Ohio Prairie Nursery – Lawn alternative seed mixes

Backyard Wildlife – Ohio Department of Natural Resources

Garden for Wildlife – National Wildlife Federation


“Weeds” can be helpful to humans

How to stand up to your HOA for a more sustainable lawn

Fertilizers can pollute groundwater

Positive effects of dandelions

She ripped up her manicured lawn

Lawn maintenance and climate change

Beyond blades of grass

Grass lawns are an ecological disaster

Sustainable lawn care techniques

Alys Fowler on laid-back gardening

Creeping thyme as a lawn plant

Lawn alternatives

Pesticides as a factor in Parkinson’s Disease

Tampa Bay bans fertilizers

Organizations that Support Alternative Approaches to Lawns

Garden for Wildlife

Backyard Ecology


Bringing Nature Home – Doug Tallamy

Lawns into Meadows – Owen Wormser

Invasion biology of Callery pear (Pyrus calleryana)

Callery pear (Pyrus calleryana) is a highly problematic invasive tree in eastern North America. Understanding the ecology of Callery pear invasion has been a goal in the McEwan Lab for the past several years. Here we want to provide a synopsis of some of this work.

Here is an overview article we published on this species:


How to avoid Glitchy Computer Meltdowns when giving a professional presentation.

Dr. Ryan McEwan

Giving a presentation in front of a group of people is a normal part of professional life.  These presentations are nearly always accompanied by slides and projected on to a screen.  As you grow as a professional you want to make sure that you don’t have a computer glitch meltdown right before your talk is supposed to start.  “Uhhh sorry, the slides are messed up” is not something you want to be saying.  Strategizing against these fails is a part of professional development.  Here are some ideas on how to avoid this unfortunate situation.

Work from correct assumptions:

1. You cannot assume that the projector/podium computer will have a cable to connect to your own laptop.  “Every podium has an HDMI cable right?” – -> WRONG!  You must plan for the eventuality that you will need to transfer the talk from your computer onto the podium computer.

2. You cannot assume you will have access to a reliable network (eg, wifi).  You probably will, but it is not guaranteed.  It also means that you cannot rely on “emailing yourself the file” or pulling it off of a your drive over a network.  There might not be a network, or you might have one that is unreliable and start to meltdown if you try to pull in a large file. 

3. You must assume that the projector/podium computer is running Windows, and potentially an older version.   

Tips for resiliency against computer freakout:

1. Develop your talk on Powerpoint, or at least download it into Powerpoint after it is developed (for eg, on Google Slides).  Powerpoint is still the standard platform for presentations and does not require a network, or Chrome, to run properly.

2. Make your Powerpoint file as simple as possible.  I personally do not use animations (you can use “insert duplicate slides” to accomplish much the same thing and it’s a lot more stable), and I do not embed videos.  I also try to use “snips” instead of importing images in some cases to try and make the file size smaller.  If you really want videos and snazzy animations, you really need to focus on the following tips to make sure it is going to actually work on the computer you have to present from!   

3. Download the talk to the computer and run it from there.  I download from a network or a flash drive onto the podium computer desktop and have it saved there.  Then open it from the desktop and give the talk.  This is much more stable than if you run the talk from a network (eg, via Google Slides), or a flash drive.

4. Work with your host ahead of time to have the talk already loaded.  Send the talk to the host using a drive link or otherwise transfer it.  Ask them to please download it onto the computer desktop prior to the talk. If the talk is waiting there on the desktop of the computer you are presenting from, then you are safe.

5. Show up to the room/podium 30 minutes ahead of time and load the talk onto the desktop and then run through the slides projected on the screen to be sure that everything is “ok.”

6. Always have your talk on a “flash drive.”  Although old technology, flash drives are extremely reliable.  I actually bring my talk on 2 flash drives every time I give an invited talk, even if I have a good idea that I can use my laptop or access a network.

7. Consider a PDF format.  In Powerpoint or Google slides you can save (or print) your slides to PDF and then run the presentation from an Adobe platform using “full screen mode.”  This eliminates any slide formatting issues and creates an extremely robust version and practically all computers have at least Adobe reader.

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.