Catherine Cardelús

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Catherine Cardelús

Associate Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies; Gretchen Hoadley Burke '81 Endowed Chair in Regional Studies

In the Cardelús lab we study human impacts on forests - pollution, deforestation, acid rain, deer overabundance. We study locally, regionally, and internationally. We have 4 long-term projects: 1. the conservation of sacred church forests in northern Ethiopia; 2. the impacts and management of overabundant white-tailed deer in Hamilton, NY; 3. the impact of mitigative liming on ecosystem processes in Adirondack State Park, NY; and 4. the effects of predicted increases in nutrient deposition on epiphyte community structure and ecosystem function in the tropical rainforest canopy, Costa Rica. While disparate in location and ecosystem-type, these studies share a scientific framework examining the impacts of human disturbance on community and ecosystem processes. Our work in Ethiopia and in Hamilton, NY, also examines the human-impacts of disturbance and the feedbacks between human communities and forests.

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


Biodiversity, Evolution and Ecology & Lab, BIOL181, Offered each semester
Ecology & Lab, BIOL203
Tropical Ecology with Extended Study to Costa Rica BIOL332
Ecosystem Ecology & Lab, BIOL329
Conservation Biology, BIOL330
Research Tutorial, Investigations in Biodiversity, Community & Ecosystem Ecology, BIOL476

Environmental Studies

Biodiversity & Biogeography of Australia, taught at the University of Wollongong, Australia, ENST309
Community-based Environmental Issues, ENST390
Conservation Biology & Practice, ENST389


Global Change & You, CoreSP 128/FSEM124 

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

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 in Costa Rica
Article about my research in the Colgate Scene

*denotes student

In Review

Cardelús, C.L., Bitew*, K. Jensen*, A.M., C.L. Woods, M.C. Baez*, M. Montufar*, K. Bazany*, B.A. Tsegay, P.R. Scull, W. Peck. (review). Soil nutrient dynamics in sacred church forest fragments in northern Ethiopia. Forest Ecology and Management. 

Baez*, M., M. James*, K. Hankowsky*, I. Helfant, P. Scull, C.L. Cardelús. (in review). Development, Implementation and Maintenance of a Deer Management Program in Hamilton, New York. Wildlife Society Bulletin. 


Cardelús, C.L., C.L. Woods, A. Bitew Mekonnen, S. Dexter*, P. Scull, B. Tsegay Abraha. (2019). Disturbance impacts the integrity of sacred church forests, Ethiopia. PlosONE. 14, 3: e0212430. DOI News Article


Woods, C. L., S. J. DeWalt, C. L. Cardelús, K. E. Harms, J. B. Yavitt, and S. J. Wright. (2018). Fertilization influences the nutrient acquisition strategy of a hemiepiphytic aroid in a lowland tropical forest understory. Plant and Soil. DOI

Tsegay, Berhanu Abraha, A.T. Tsadik Weldeyes, C.L. Cardelús. Traditional use of botanicals in reducing post harvest loss at crop stacking stage in Ethiopia: A case of Farta district. Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge. 17, 3: 534-541. PDF


Cardelús, C.L., P. Scull, A. Wassie, C.L. Woods, P. Klepeis, E. Kent, & I. Orlowska. (2017). Shadow conservation and the persistence of sacred forests in northern Ethiopia. Biotropica. 49, 5: 725-733. DOI

Woods, C.L., C.L. Cardelús, P. Scull, A. Wassie, M. Baez*, P. Klepeis. (2017). Stone walls and sacred forest conservation in Ethiopia. Biological Conservation. 26 209-221. DOI

Scull, P. C.L. Cardelús, P. Klepeis, C.L. Woods, A. Frankl, J. Nyssen. (2017). The resilience of Ethiopian church forests evidenced from a diachronic analysis using 1930’s aerial photographs. Land Degradation and Development. 28: 450-458. PDF  DOI


Klepeis, P., I. Orlowska, E. Kent, C.L. Cardelús, P. Scull, A. Wassie & C.L. Woods. (2016). Ethiopia church forests: a hybrid model of protection. Human Ecology. 44: 715-730. PDF DOI


Woods, C.L., S.J. Dewalt, & C.L. Cardelús. (2015). Microhabitat associations of vascular epiphytes in a wet tropical forest canopy. Journal of Ecology. 103: 421-430. DOI


Oberbillig, D., Randle, D.C., Middendorf, G., & C.L. Cardelús. (2014) Outdoor Learning in Formal Ecological Education – Looking to the Future. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 27: 419-420.  DOI


Cardelús, C.L., & G. Middendorf. (2013) Ecological literacy: the educational foundation for informed public decision making. Frontiers in Ecology & the Environment 11: 330-331. DOI

Cardelús, C.L., M. Baimas-George*, M.D. Lowman, & A. Wassie Eshete. (2013). Carbon Sequestration in Ethiopia. Edited volume: Treetops at Risk: Challenges of Global Canopy Ecology and Conservation. DOI  

McCay, T.S., C.L. Cardelús, & M. Neatrour. (2013). Rate of litter decay and litter macroinvertebrates in limed and unlimed forests of the Adirondack Mountains, USA. Forest Ecology and Management 304:254-260.  DOI

Cardelús, C.L., P. Scull, J. Hair*, M. Baimas-George*, M.D. Lowman, & A. Wassie Eshete. (2013). A preliminary assessment of Ethiopian sacred groves at the landscape and ecosystem scales. Diversity 5 (2): 320-334. DOI


Watkins, J.E. Jr. & C.L. Cardelús. (2012)Ferns in an angiosperm world: cretaceous radiation into the epiphytic niche and diversification on the forest floor. International Journal of Plant Sciences. 173, 6: 695-710. DOI

Beck, C., K. Klemow, J. Paulson, A. Bernstein, M. Lam, G. Middendorf, J. Reynolds, K. Belanger, C. Cardelús, C.Cid. (2012). Add Ecology to the Pre-Medical Curriculum. Science 335: 1301. DOI

Cardelús, C.L., M. Lowman, & A. Wassie Eshete. (2012). Uniting Church and Science for Conservation. Science. 335: 916-917. PDF DOI


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. PDF DOI


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. PDF DOI

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. PDF DOI


Cardelús, C.L. & J.E. Watkins, Jr. (2009). Habitat differentiation of ferns in a lowland tropical rainforest. American Fern Journal 99 (3): 162-175. PDF DOI

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. PDF DOI


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. PDF DOI

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. PDF DOI


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. PDF 

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. PDF DOI

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. Full text DOI


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. PDF DOI

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. PDF DOI


Cardelús, C.L. & R.L. Chazdon. (2005) Inner-crown microenvironments of two emergent Tree species in a lowland wet forest.  Biotropica 37: 238-244. PDF DOI

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.


2019-2021 The Upstate Institute, Colgate University: Team-Taught Course Development Grant for Conservation Biology: Science & Practice. The intent of this team-teaching RFP is to seek novel, innovative team-teaching proposals that benefit both the faculty and students involved in the team-taught course.

2017-2019 The Upstate Institute & Sustainability Council, Colgate University: The Impact of White-Tailed Deer on Colgate Forests: Richness. PI Cardelús; Co-PI’s: Fuller, McCay, Scull, Watkins, $18,000.

2015-2018 NSF RUI-CNH Small Grant: Shadow Conservation: What are the Mechanisms of Religious Management for Forest Persistence. PI Cardelús; Co-PI’s: P. Scull, P. Klepeis, E. Kent, A. Wassie Eshete, I. Orlowska, C. Woods. $500,000

2014-2019 MRI: Acquisition of a TXRF spectrometer for Research in Chemistry, Biology, and Geology. PI Rowlett; Co-PI’s: C. Cardelús, R. Fuller, R. April. $102,740

2014-2015 PI on Collaborative Research Proposal: Colgate Picker Interdisciplinary Science Institute: What socio-ecological processes create strong stewardship of church forests of northern Ethiopia. $100,000. Co-PI’s: P. Scull, P. Klepeis, E. Kent, A. Wassie Eshete, I. Orlowska, C. Woods.

2014-2015 Sponsored Research Support Fund. Colgate Research Council, $15,133

2014-2015 Research Council Major Grant, Colgate University: Experimental study of nutrient addition and water exclusion on canopy ecosystem processes and epiphyte community structure. $7,825

2013-2014 PI on Collaborative Research Proposal: Colgate Picker Interdisciplinary Science Institute: Does religious management supersede the socio-ecological drivers of forest change in sacred groves of northern Ethiopia? $90,000. Co-PI’s: P. Scull, P. Klepeis, E. Kent, A. Wassie Eshete, M. Lowman.

2013-2014 Research Council Major Grant, Colgate University: Experimental Study of Nutrient Addition and Water Exclusion on Canopy Processes and Epiphyte Community Structure. $7500

2012-13 The Upstate Institute, Colgate University: Above and Belowground Responses to Acid Rain Mitigation in Adirondack State Park. $5000

2010-13 NSF: Research Initiation Grant: Experimental Study of Canopy Nutrient Limitation on Ecosystem Processes and Community Structure. $187,629

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

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

2000-2001 NSF Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant, $5000 

2000 Organization for Tropical Studies Research Grant, $3000

1998 Organization for Tropical Studies, Post-course Grant, $600


2006-2008         Postdoctoral Research Fellowship, South East Alliance for Graduate 
Education and the Professoriate (SEAGEP-NSF), $50,000
2003-2006 Minority Postdoctoral Research Fellowship, NSF, $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
1998 Multicultural Summer Fellowship, University of Connecticut, $3000
1998-2001 NSF Graduate Student Research Fellowship, $55,000
1998 NSF Minority Graduate Student Research Fellowship (Awarded) 
1997-1998 Multicultural Fellowship, University of Connecticut, $15,000
1996 The Grace Potter Rice Fellowship, Columbia University, $4,000
1996 Summer Fellowship, Barnard College, $500 

Awards & Honors

2010, 2013 Extended Study Funded for three week trip to Costa Rica Associated with my (Funded 2019) course: Tropical Ecology, BIOL 332. ~$22,000
2007 Travel Award, Ecological Society of America (ESA) and Women 
Evolving Biological Sciences (WEBS), $700 
2002 Bamford Award, University of Connecticut, $500 
2002 Travel Award, University of Connecticut, $1,200 
2000 Biodiversity Award, University of Connecticut, $500 
1999 Edgar T. Wherry Award, American Fern Society & BSA, $500 
1999 Pilot Study Award, Organization for Tropical Studies, $1500
1998 Bamford Award: Summer, University of Connecticut, $500
1996 Hermann Botanical Prize, Barnard College, $500 
1996 Cum Laude, Barnard College 
1994-1996 Dean’s List, Barnard College 

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