Catherine Cardelus | Colgate University - Faculty Directory

Colgate Directory

Catherine Cardelus

Catherine Cardelus

Associate Professor of Biology
Biology, 205B Olin Hall
p 315-228-7460


BA, Barnard College, 1996; PhD, University of Connecticut, 2002

Teaching Experience

  • Catherine Cardelus and students in a pickup truckBiodiversity, Evolution and Ecology, Biology 211, Offered each semester
  • Ecosystem Ecology & Lab, Biology 329, Offered Fall Even Years
  • Global Change & You, CoreSP 128, Offered Fall Odd Years
  • Tropical Ecology with Extended Study to Costa Rica, Offered Spring
  • Research Tutorial, Investigations in Biodiversity, Community & Ecosystem Ecology, Biology 476


Plant community & ecosystem ecology; field ecology in both temperate and tropical regions


Church forest aerial view in Ethiopia
I am interested in one of ecology's fundamental questions: What are the patterns of biodiversity? As well as in one of today's most pressing questions: How will biodiversity respond to a changing environment? Most of my work has focused specifically on tropical forest canopies where I use multiple ecological approaches to better understand the factors that control species richness and distribution. I have conducted studies on microclimate, large scale regional and local floristic inventories, and species, community, ecosystem, and phylogenetic-level processes. I am also working in the temperate zone where I study the effects of liming on plant productivity and soil processes. Recently, I began working in Ethiopia in forest patches examining the effects of fragmentation on biodiversity, plant productivity, and soil processes.

See my personal website for more information
Click to hear about my research


  • Cardelús, C.L., M. Baimas-George, M.D. Lowman, & A. Wassie Eshete. (in submission). The nutrient status of church forests in northern Ethiopia: A preliminary assessment.
  • Cardelús, C.L., G. Middendorf, & M. Lowman. (in review.) The roles, responsibilities, and relationships of ecologists in the 21st century. Submission to Frontiers in Ecology & the Environment.
  • Watkins, J.E. Jr. & C.L. Cardelús. (accepted). Ferns in an angiosperm world: evolution of the canopy niche and darkening of the understory. International Journal of Plant Sciences.
  • Cardelús, C.L. (2012). Surveying Epiphytes in Forest Canopies. In Methods in Forest Canopy Research. Eds. M.D. Lowman & T. Schowalter. University of California Press.
  • Cardelús, C.L., M. Lowman, & A. Wassie Eshete. (2012). Uniting Church and Science for Conservation. Science. 335: 916-917. (News item)
  • Laurance, W.F., D.C. Useche, L.P. Shoo, S.K. Herzog, M. Kessler, F. Escobar, G. Brehm, J.C. Axmacher, I. C. Chen, L.A. Gámez, P. Hietz, K. Fiedler, T. Pyrcz, J. Wolf, C.L. Merkord, C.L. Cardelús, A.R. Marshall, C. Ah-Ping, G.H. APlet, M. del Coro Armizmendi, W. J. Baker, J. Barone, C.A. Bruhl, R.W. Bussmann, D. Cicuzza, G. Eilu, M.E. Favila, A. Hemp, C. Hemp, J. Homeier, R.B. Huey, J. Hurtado, J. Jankowski, G. Kattán, J. Kluge, T. Kromer, D. Lees, M. Lehnert, J.T. Longino, J. Lovett, P.H. Martin B.D. Patterson, R.G. Pearson, K.S. H. Peh, B. Richardson, M. Richardson, M. Samway, F. Senbeta, T.B. Smith, T. Utteridge, J.E. Watkins, Jr., R. Wilson, S.E. Williams, & C. Thomas. (2011). Global warming and the vulnerability of tropical biota. Biological Conservation. 144: 548-557.
  • Cardelús, C.L. & M.C. Mack. (2010). The nutrient status of epiphytic ferns, orchids and bromeliads and their host tree along an elevation gradient, Costa Rica. Plant Ecology. 207 (1): 25-37.
  • Cardelús, C.L. (2010). Litter decomposition in the canopy and on the forest floor of three tree species in a tropical rainforest, Costa Rica. Biotropica. 42 (3): 300-308.
  • Cardelús, C.L. & J.E. Watkins, Jr. (2009). Habitat differentiation of ferns in a lowland tropical rainforest. American Fern Journal. 99 (3): 162-175.
  • Cardelús, C.L., M.C. Mack, C.L.  Woods, J. DeMarco & K. Treseder. (2009). Nutrient cycling in canopy and forest floor soils in a lowland tropical wet forest, Costa Rica. Plant and Soil. 318 (1): 47-61.
  • Colwell, R.K., G. Brehm, C.L. Cardelús, A.C. Gilman & J.T. Longino (2008). Global warming, elevational range shifts, and lowland biotic attrition in the wet tropics. Science. 258-261. (Abstract)
  • Watkins, Jr., J.E., C.L. Cardelús & M.C. Mack (2008). Ants mediate nitrogen relations of an epiphytic fern. New Phytologist. 180 (1): 5-8.
  • Robertson, J.M., C.L. Cardelús, and M.I. Williams (2007). Arboreal oviposition site in the fossorial snake, Enulius sclateri. Herpetological Review. 38(4): 466-467.
  • Watkins, Jr. J.E., P. Rundel, & C.L. Cardelús. (2007) The influence of plant life form on carbon and nitrogen relationships in tropical rainforest ferns. Oecologia. 153 (2): 225-232.
  • Cardelús, C.L. (2007). Vascular epiphyte communities in the inner-crown of Hyeronima alchorneoides and Lecythis ampla at La Selva  Biological Station, Costa Rica. Biotropica. 39 (2): 171-176.
  • Watkins Jr., C.L. Cardelús, R.C. Colwell, & R. Moran. (2006). Species richness and distribution of ferns along an elevational gradient in Costa Rica. American Journal of Botany. 93 (1) 73-83.
  • Cardelús, C.L., R.C. Colwell, J.E. Watkins, Jr. (2006). Vascular epiphyte distribution patterns:  explaining the mid-elevation richness peak. Journal of Ecology. 94 (1): 144-146.
  • Cardelús, C.L. & R.L. Chazdon. (2005) Inner-crown microenvironments of two emergent Tree species in a lowland wet forest. Biotropica. 37: 238-244.


Grant, Fellowship & Awards 

2010-2012 NSF Research Initiation Grant: Experimental Study of Canopy Nutrient Limitation on Ecosystem Processes and Community Structure. $187,929

May 2010 Extended Study Funded for three week trip to Costa Rica associated with Tropical Ecology, BIO 332. $22,000.00.

March 2010 Picker Interdisciplinary Science Institute Grant: Conservation of Ethiopian Church Forests. $5,307.00 (Blog:

2009  Faculty Research Council, $1500 for travel to AAAS in Chicago to participate in a workshop: Career Boosters for Women and Minority Scientists.

2009  Faculty Development Council, $500, for AAAS workshop.

2008-09 NSF Research Starter Grant: Exploring the nutrient dynamics of herbaceous taxa from temperate and tropical regions, $50,000

2006-2008 Postdoctoral Research Fellowship, South East Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (SEAGEP-NSF), $50,000

2007 Travel Award, Ecological Society of America (ESA) and Women Evolving Biological Sciences (WEBS), $700

2003-2006 Minority Postdoctoral Research Fellowship, National Science Foundation, $160,000

2003, 2007 Postdoctoral Research Fellowship, Mellon Foundation, $48,000

2002 Dissertation Research Fellowship, University of Connecticut, $3,000

2001 Multicultural Fellowship, University of Connecticut, $7,500

2000 Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant, National Science Foundation, $5,000

2000 Research Grant, Organization for Tropical Studies, $3000

1998 Multicultural Summer Fellowship, University of Connecticut $3000

1998-2001 Graduate Student Research Fellowship, National Science Foundation, $55,000

1998 National Science Foundation Minority Graduate Student Research Fellowship (Awarded)

1997-1998 Multicultural Fellowship, University of Connecticut, $15,000


Distribution and abundance of vascular epiphytes in tropical wet forests: a multiscale approach. Adviser: Dr. Robin L. Chazdon