Associate Professor of Ecology
Biology and Environmental Studies Program
Community ecology, phenology and climate changeMy doctoral work was conducted under the advisement of Dr. Daniel Janzen at the University of Pennsylvania. My research focused on the protective coloration of caterpillars from visually-orienting predators in forest and old field habitats. This work also examined caterpillar mimicry complexes involving the monarch caterpillar (Danaus plexippus) and the field-testing of predator-free space on common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca). At present, my interests are focused on the role of citizen scientists in ecological inquiry and conservation biology specifically relating to studies of phenology/climate change as a model for inquiry learning by students.
I teach courses in ecology and conservation biology and have launched the Brandeis Campus Phenology Project (Fall 2014). The phenology project offers an opportunity to engage students in original inquiry outside of the lecture hall and model the application of citizen science research in answering large-scale ecological questions. Phenology is the study of the timing of natural events; regional and global studies of phenology have documented the earlier timing of many phenological events today compared to the past as these events relate to climate change. Our work at Brandeis feeds directly into research coordinated through the National Phenology Network.
- Williams E, Stitcher S, Hitchcock C, Polgar C, Primack R. 2014. " Phenological advancement of Lycaenid butterflies in Massachusetts." Journal of the Lepidopterists’ Society. 68: 167-174.
- Polgar C, Primack R, Williams E, Stitcher S, Hitchcock C. 2013. "Climate effects on the flight period of Lycaenid butterflies in Massachusetts." Biological Conservation. 160: 25-31.
- 2014 recipient of the Rev. John R. Trzaska, S.J. Award, which is given annually to the faculty member who expanded the horizons, skills and value systems of students by providing support and guidance outside of the classroom (Boston College — Leadership Awards) (view video).