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Current Graduate Students

Jake Blessing , M.S. Student, Natural Resources, 2011-

Jake Blessing

Jake interned on the western bluebird project at Hastings in 2010 after earning a B.S. from Williams College. His undergraduate research experience was in plant ecology and he is planning to study the costs and benefits of off-host oviposition and intraspecific oophagy in the milkweed leaf beetle, Labidomera clivicollis. Jakes interests combine behavioral ecology with plant-insect interactions and he is co-mentored by Anurag Agrawal in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.


During the course of working toward the Masters, Jake will gain experience teaching in the Introductory Biology Courses.

Esther Cline , Ph.D. Student, Neurobiology and Behavior, 2011 -

Esther Cline

Esther entered graduate school at Cornell in August 2011 after earning a B.S. in Biology from Davidson College. Her dissertation research will focus on cooperative breeding in Brown-headed Nuthatches. She is planning to conduct field experiments to test hypotheses about the causes of delayed dispersal and helping behavior as well as the fitness conseqeuences of variation in group size.


Esther entered Cornell with first year Graduate Fellowship.


James Goetz , Ph.D. Student, Natural Resources, 2009-

Jim Goetz

Before starting his PhD at Cornell, Jim conducted fieldwork on birds throughout North America and the Caribbean, and documented the unusual breeding ecology of Bicknell's Thrush for his Masters research at SUNY-ESF in Syracuse, NY. At the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Jim worked as a Curatorial Associate in the Macaulay Library of Animal Behavior. In the Lab's Conservation Science Program, Jim initiated research projects on two endangered species, the Black-capped Petrel and the Golden Swallow. Co-sponsored with Rich Stedman, a Natural Resources sociologist, Jim is now working in Haiti to explore the potential for payment for ecosystem services models to conserve biodiversity and to enhance livelihoods in areas with high poverty and weak governance.


Jim has taught in a number of courses spanning the ecological and human dimensions of natural resources and in 2011 received the outstanding teaching assistant award. He has cleverly funded his research through partnerships and relationships with governmental and nongovernmental organizations.


Donovan, T., Goetz J. 1999. Exploring Demographic and Environmental Stochasticity with Spreadsheets. Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America. Oct. 1999, pp. 235-239.

Goetz J., McFarland, K., Rimmer, C. 2003. Multiple Paternity and Multiple Male Feeders in Bicknell's Thrush, Catharus bicknelli. The Auk 120:1044–1053.

Hobson, K., McFarland, K., Wassenaar, L., Rimmer, C., Goetz, J. 2001. Linking Breeding and Wintering Grounds of Bicknell's Thrushes Using Stable Isotope Analyses of Feathers. The Auk 118: 16-23.

Rimmer, C.C., J.E. Goetz and K.P. McFarland. 1998. Bird Observations in threatened forest fragments of the Sierra de Neiba. El Pitirre 11(2):15-17.

Rimmer, C., McFarland, K., Ellison, W., Goetz, J. 2001. Bicknell’s Thrush (Catharus bicknelli). In The Birds of North America, No. 592 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA.

Rimmer, C.C., K.P. McFarland, and J.E. Goetz. 1999. Distribution, habitat use, and conservation status of Bicknell's Thrush in the Dominican Republic. El Pitirre 12: 114.

Goetz, J.E., J. H. Norris, and J.A. Wheeler. 2011. Conservation Action Plan for the Black-capped Petrel (Pterodroma hasitata). International Black-capped Petrel Conservation Group.

Rimmer, C., J. Goetz, E. Garrido Gomez, J. Brocca, P. Bayard, and J. Hilaire. 2010. Avifaunal surveys in La Visite National Park - Last vestiges of montane broadleaf forest in eastern Haiti. J. of Caribbean Ornith. 23:31-43.

Kristin Hook , Ph.D. Student, Neurobiology and Behavior, 2010-

Kristin Hook

Kristin entered the Ph.D. program in Neurobiology and Behavior (NBB) in the fall of 2010. She obtained a B.S. in Biology (Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior) and a B.A. in Plan II Honors from the University of Texas at Austin in 2007. Upon graduating, she spent three years teaching middle school science at a charter school in New York City through Teach for America. Her prior research experience includes investigating the presence of alloparental care in capuchin monkeys (CIEE-Monteverde), effects of enrichment on captive guenon monkey temperament (STARS-UCSD), sexually selected character differences in bufonids (UT-Austin), and molecular phylogenetics of anurans using a novel gene (UT-Austin Undergraduate Honors Thesis).

For her Ph.D. project, Kristin plans to study the pseudoscorpion Cheiridium museorum (Family: Cheiridiidae) to address why males aggregate their spermatophores. Common in arthropods, a spermatophore is a packet containing sperm that gets transferred from males to females during mating. This transfer can happen either directly or indirectly; if it is indirect (or dissociative), males lay their spermatophores on the ground, and receptive females independently approach and then pick them up. Because of the nature of this type of sperm transfer, males have direct access to rival spermatophores. Males have been observed not only to destroy rival spermatophores, but they may also deposit their own spermatophores immediately adjacent to others, which forms an aggregation that may function as a "spermatophore lek." Spermatophore leks in this species provide a unique opportunity to study pre-copulatory sperm competition, the evolution of male reproductive strategies, and the evolution of lekking behavior. Additionally, focusing on pseudoscorpions increases our understanding of the reproductive behaviors of a major order of arachnids whose remarkable variation in copulatory behavior and morphology is poorly understood. Kristin began preliminary field studies in England in summer 2011.


Kristin has been funded by the Student Research Grant in Animal Behavior (Cornell Department of NBB), Mario Einaudi Center International Research Travel Grant, Cornell Sigma Xi Student Research Grant, and Sigma Xi Grants-in-Aid of Research. She was also awarded the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship in 2011.

Taza Schaming , Ph.D. Student, Natural Resources, 2010-

Taza Schaming

Taza Schaming entered the M.S./Ph.D. program in the Department of Natural Resources at Cornell University in August 2007. In May 2010, Taza completed her M.S. degree on seasonal variation in the onset of incubation, clutch size, and hatching failure in House Wrens (Troglodytes aedon) in Ithaca, NY.

Taza is currently working toward a Ph.D. on the impact of whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis) mortality on Clark's Nutcracker (Nucifraga columbiana) demography and habitat use in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. In the past few years, Clark's Nutcrackers have virtually disappeared from Glacier National Park in northern Montana and the Cascade Mountains of Washington State. The likely cause of their declines is their mutualism with whitebark pine, which has suffered massive die-offs due to the recent mountain pine beetle epidemic and infections from blister rust, an invasive pathogen. Taza is studying a population of Clark's Nutcrackers in Bridger-Teton National Forest, where the birds are still relatively abundant. Tromping through snow at 9,000 feet, she is radio tracking and surveying birds to study movement, habitat use, and foraging and social behavior. Her ultimate goal is to design biologically informed management interventions to help ensure persistence of nutcrackers in order to maintain a healthy ecosystem. In the process, she will both determine the social system of this little known bird, and advance theoretical understanding of niche adaptation and mutualism stability.

This problem is more urgent than it first seems, because while the nutcrackers forage on multiple conifer species, the whitebark pines are completely reliant on nutcrackers to cache and plant their seeds. These high altitude pines are essential to protect because they play a critical role in the ecosystem, including helping to retain snow (and thus drinking water) on the upper slopes of the Rockies, and providing high fat, high-energy nuts on which many animal species, including the grizzly bear, depend. Taza is focusing on ornithology, but her enthusiasm extends to studying the interdependence of the ecology of the surrounding ecosystems. Through her research, Taza strives to contribute to a better understanding of the intersection between conservation, ornithology, behavioral ecology, and community ecology.


Taza was awarded the Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Fellowship for her first year in the M.S. program at Cornell, and the NASA Harriett G. Jenkins Pre-doctoral Fellowship for her first three years as a Ph.D. student. Her research has been generously supported by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Linda and Sam Kramer, Explorers Club Exploration Fund, Cornell Sigma Xi Grants-in-Aid of Research, National Sigma Xi Grants-in-Aid of Research, Charles Redd Center for Western Studies, The Mellon Foundation, Western Bird Banding Association, Athena Fund of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, American Philosophical Society Lewis and Clark Fund, The Garden Club of America, Wilson Ornithological Society, Fischer, and Havahart®.

Taza has also spent two semesters as a teaching assistant, for Environmental Ethics then Introduction to Field Biology, in the Department of Natural Resources.


LaBarbera, K., P. E. Llambías, E. R. A. Cramer, T. D. Schaming, and I. J. Lovette. 2010. Synchrony does not explain extrapair paternity rate variation in northern or southern house wrens. Behavioral Ecology 21(4):773-780.

Schaming, T. D. 2009. Cold, not warm temperatures influence onset of incubation and hatching failure in house wrens (Troglodytes aedon). Thesis in partial fulfillment of the M.S. degree at Cornell University.

For students seeking letters of recommendation: Instructions

Former postdocs:

Caglar Akcay, Lecturer, Department of Psychology, University of Washington, Seattle.

Elise Ferree, Visiting Assistant Professor of Biology, Claremont Colleges

Ben Zuckerberg, Assistant Professor, Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology, University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Former graduate students:

Rebecca Lohnes, Behavior and Training Manager, Lollypop Farms, Rochester, NY

Caitlin Stern, Postdoctoral Research Associate, University of North Carolina