Ongoing projects in the McEwan Lab generally focus on one of two main branches:

(a) Ecological restoration in anthropogenic landscapes

(b) Causes and consequences of long term forest dynamics

Ecological Restoration in Anthropogenic Landscapes

The United Nations has declared 2022-2032 the Decade on Ecological Restoration and in the McEwan lab we are executing a variety of projects that aim to support ecological restoration in the Miami Valley of Ohio, which is our geographic home.  These projects are generally focused on facilitating succession of native forests in anthropogenic landscapes that are in a state of reaction to significant human disturbance such as industrial agriculture. This work includes addressing ecological invasions that may limit success of native species and is increasingly focused on soil conditions that may limit the success of native trees.

Ongoing research projects include:

(1) Invasion ecology of Callery pear (Pyrus calleryana


Pyrus calleryana has become one of the more problematic invasive species in eastern North America.  In the lab we are exploring (a) the profile of traits that enable this species to become invasive, (b) the effects this species has on ecosystems and (c) methods to control the species and restore ecosystems that have been invaded.


Woods, M.J., G.K. Attea and *R.W. McEwan. 2021. Resprouting of the woody plant Pyrus calleryana influences soil ecology during invasion of grasslands in the American Midwest. Applied Soil Ecology 166: 103989. LINK.

(2) Facilitating forest succession in post-agricultural fields.

In the American Midwest industrial agriculture is a dominant land use.  When agricultural lands are abandoned, the ecological process of old-field succession is initiated that should, in theory, shift those systems toward native forest conditions.  In the modern landscape, abandoned old-fields often become sites of ecological invasion and the success of native trees can be highly limited.  In the McEwan Lab we are engaged in a variety of projects that seek to develop techniques for ecological restoration of post-agricultural lands in the Miami Valley. 


Woods, M.J., G.K. Attea and R.W. McEwan. 2021. Resprouting of the woody plant Pyrus calleryana influences soil ecology during invasion of grasslands in the American Midwest. Applied Soil Ecology 166: 103989. LINK.

Cobb, M., M.J. Woods and R.W. McEwan. 2020. Assessing seed handling processes to facilitate a community-engaged approach to regional forest restoration. Forests 11, 474.

Woods, M.J., M. Cobb, K. Hickle and R.W. McEwan.  2019. Assessing the efficacy of seedling planting as a forest restoration technique in temperate hardwood forests impacted by invasive species. Forests 10: 699.

Causes and consequences of long term forest dynamics


The McEwan Lab has engaged in a constellation of research activities that revolve around the idea of understanding the causes and consequences of long-term forest dynamics.  Most of this work has focused on temperate forests of eastern North America; however, the lab also has projects in tropical (Taiwan) and arctic (Siberia) forests.

Two deciduous forest sites where we have focused significant attention are Lilley Cornett Woods and Drew Woods (see below “past projects” for more information).

Ongoing research projects include:

(1) Forest Dynamics in Hueston Woods preserve.


We are sampling forest composition in the Hueston Woods State Nature Preserve (LINK) to assess long term dynamics in a large permanent plot that was originally established in 1981 and was the subject of extensive research by Dr. John Vankat from Miami University.  Dr. Vankat transferred leadership of the project to the McEwan Lab and we are presently working on archiving the data and resampling to assess forest dynamics.  This project is supported in part by the Hanley Sustainability Institute at the University of Dayton via a Graduate Assistantship to McEwan Lab MS student Grace Attea.

(2) Fire, gap dynamics and oak forest regeneration in southwestern Ohio.


In collaboration with Dr. Todd Hutchinson at the USFS Delaware station, we are using tree-ring analysis of oak cross sections to assess dynamics in oak forests in relationship to historical wildfires and gap dynamics.  This project is being led by Peter Butterfield, a BPM student in the McEwan Lab.

This work was supported in part by a grant to the McEwan Lab from the US Forest Service.


(3) Fire and ecosystem dynamics in the Siberian Arctic

Dr. McEwan is co-PI on a grant from the National Science Foundation (OPP:1708309) to study fire and ecosystem dynamics in the Siberian arctic.  The dominant woody plant in this systems is larch (Larix cajanderi) which has a strong effect on carbon storage.  The project focuses on regeneration dynamics of this species in relationship to fire, which is a significant ecosystem disturbance that is increasing in severity through time.

Two MS theses have been generated by the project so far:

Sarah J. Frankenberg. 2020. Fire, Forest, Ice, and Fungi: Exploring The Mesh Of Relationships Driving Seedling Regeneration In The Siberian Arctic. LINK.

Eric B. Borth. 2019. Drivers of larch regeneration in Siberia. LINK.

Collaborators on the project include:

Dr. Heather Alexander, Auburn Univeristy (PI): LINK

Dr. Jennie DeMarco, Western State Colorado University (Co-PI): LINK

Dr. Jeremy Lichstein, University of Florida (Co-PI): LINK

Dr. Michael Loranty, Colgate University (Co-PI): LINK

Dr. Michelle Mack, Northern Arizona University (Co-PI): LINK


Project Images:  LINK


Abstract for the Project

Past Projects

Invasion Ecology of Amur honeysuckle


Overview page is found here:  LINK


Conservation biology and habitat management in Bill Yeck Park, Ohio

Dr. McEwan is PI on a grant from the Centerville-Washington Township Park District to develop a habitat management plant for a fascinating property in southwestern Ohio.  Bill Yeck Park is approximately 200 acres and contains a wide variety of habitats including meadow, marsh, wetland, riparian forest and upland forest.  The goal of the project is to identify habitats of particular  interest and provide information towards developing a long-term management plan that will address invasive species, aquatic habitats, and conservation within the context of multi-use management.


Project Images: LINK


Link to the Park District Website:  LINK


The Urban Watershed Collaborative: Experiential and cross-cultural learning and river biology in urban Dayton, Ohio

Dr. McEwan is PI on a grant from the City of Dayton (Ohio) to establish a measurement protocol for the effects of urban stormflow on the biology of freshwater rivers within the city.  This is an exciting project that aligns our scientific activity directly with objectives of the city in which we are located.  In this project we have established a training platform for students and created a long-term partnership between the lab and the city.  The summer of 2018 will mark the 4th year of the partnership which now includes Leslie King from the University of Dayton Rivers Institute and a new collaborator from UD Civil Engineering- Denise Taylor.


Project Images: LINK


Biodiversity, carbon storage, and typhoon impacts in subtropical forests of Taiwan

The lab is engaged in a long-term collaborative project to explore the ecology of subtropical forests in Taiwan.  Dr. McEwan was PI on a grant through the Smithsonian Institute Center for Tropical Forest Science which helped launch this collaboration.  The overall goal is to understand how biodiversity and ecosystem function are related in the high diversity subtropical broadleaved forests of Taiwan.  Two great things about research in Taiwan are (a) the infrastructure for research is outstanding, and (b) some of the forests are heavily typhoon impacted, which acts as an interesting “ecological filter” on which species can persist.  This project is part of a long-term, ongoing, collaboration with Dr. Jyh-min Chiang at Tunghai University in Taiwan.


Project Images: 2010 | 2014



Long-term Dynamics of Old-Growth Eastern Deciduous Forests of North America 

Long-term Dynamics of Lilley Cornett Woods


Project Images:

Coarse woody debris survey (Jessica Davis):  LINK

Vegetation survey (Julia Chapman): LINK


Website for Lilley Cornett Woods:  LINK

Lilley Cornett Woods McEwan Lab Data Archive:  LINK

Bibliography of McEwan Lab Lilley Cornett Woods publications:  LINK

Long-term Dynamics of Drew Woods

Project Images: LINK


Drew Woods McEwan Lab Data Archive:  LINK

Bibliography of McEwan Lab Drew Woods publications:

Chapman, J.I., A.L. Myers, A. J. Burky and *R.W. McEwan. 2015. Edge effects, invasion, and the spatial pattern of herb-layer biodiversity in an old-growth deciduous forest fragment. Natural Areas Journal 35: 439-451.

Goins, S.M., J.I. Chapman and *R.W. McEwan. 2013. Dynamics and disturbance in an old-growth forest remnant in western Ohio. Natural Areas Journal. 33: 384-394.