Welcome! We are group of field ecologists that share an interest in understanding forest ecosystems. Specifically, we want to know how and why forests change. Robust, quantitative field studies form the core of our approach. Answering these questions is more than just an interesting academic puzzle. As a result of human enterprise (e.g., pollution, land transformations, biotic additions and losses), many forest ecosystems will experience fundamentally novel changes. In the face of this uncertainty, we need to understand the dynamics well enough to anticipate the likely direction and magnitude of responses.

In practice, we conduct field-based, context-dependent research that informs how real ecosystems respond to a changing environment. A major challenge is accounting for confounding influences when the experimental unit is large (e.g., the whole landscape) and the inferential reference is even larger (e.g., an entire region). Our response is to build robust analytical frameworks informed by careful and often extensive field measurements. We believe that our results must be relevant to resource managers and comprehensible to the public. 


Warm welcome to visiting student scholars!

Updated November 2014

This fall our lab group is happy to welcome visiting student researchers Andie Irons and Briana Becerra.

Bri, who is studying forest dynamics using canopy cover, is a junior at CSU Monterey Bay and recently completed an REU at Hubbard Brook. Andi is nearing completion of an MS at SUNY-ESF, where she works with lab alum John Stella. Her research examines changes to the Sacramento River’s riparian forests through time. Andi will soon join the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission as a biologist, focusing on plant and wildlife monitoring in the Tuolumne River watershed.

Extension Excellence


Updated October 2014

Congratulations to Stella Cousins who continues to shine as a scientist and communicator. She received an inaugural award in the Graduate Training in Cooperative Extension Program to support her work to bring the forest into the classroom. She also successfully competed for a grant from the Renewable Resources Extension Act to expand her smartphone microscope project. Stella’s work with Cooperative Extension and the Forestry Institute for Teachers was recently featured in ESPM’s departmental blog. Check out “Bringing Forests into Focus” at

More information on the Graduate Training in Cooperative Extension Program (a great opportunity for students) can be found at

Recent graduate student publications


Updated October 2014

Publications abound in the Battles lab this fall! Here are some recent research papers from graduate students:

  • From a diverse research team including Carrie Levine, this new paper evaluates uncertainty in hydrologic export of solutes in three watersheds: in the Northeast and Southeast US and in the Gomadansan Experimental Forest, Japan. LINK
  • Natalie van Doorn’s recent participation in a research team examining environmental chemistry using Scots pine has yielded two publications. The first, in Science of Total Environment, examines bioaccumulation of heavy metals from mine soils LINK. The second, in New Forests, uses Scots pine growth to assess productivity of reclaimed forest sites. LINK
  • And in new paper Simon Dufour, Maya Hayden and their collaborators ask, “Do abandoned channels host different plant species compared with the surrounding floodplain?” The study, now out in Ecohydrology, investigates vegetation community and disturbance dynamics along riparian forest gradients. LINK

Lab members share research progress at Cal-IPC and IUFRO

Updated October 2014

At the annual symposium of the California Invasive Plant Council in Chico, Joan Dudney presented her research on the lagged effects of rainfall on rangeland plant community composition. Results suggest that native plants may fare better in grazed grasslands under increasing drought conditions, but forage production is apt to suffer. Joan also earned an award for her talk - congrats to Joan!

At the joint meeting of the International Union of Forest Research Organizations and the Society of American Foresters in Salt Lake City, Stella Cousins gave a research presentation entitled “Improving estimates of carbon dynamics for snags in the Sierra Nevada range.” She also gave a lightning talk on ozone impacts in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, and enjoyed a bit of fall color, thanks to the aspens and maples in the Wasatch Range.

Presenting and representing at the 2014 Ecological Society of America meeting

Updated August 2014

Ecologists past, present, and future descended on Sacramento in August for the 99th meeting of the Ecological Society of America. We were glad to see colleagues from near and far, and also to share our work in progress with lots of talks.  Carrie Levine shared Stand demography as an indicator of ecological resilience in an old-growth mixed conifer forest (ABSTRACT HERE). Maya Hayden presented Pioneer riparian tree seedling establishment in floodplain refugia is driven by interspecific competition in addition to water availability (ABSTRACT). Meanwhile, on the other side of the convention center, Stella Cousins presented Trees in transition: the role of standing dead trees in forest carbon dynamics with many thanks to incomparable coauthor John Sanders (ABSTRACT). But that’s not all: Joan Dudney also gave a great poster on Precipitation effects on plant composition in California rangelands (ABSTRACT) and John shared his and Natalie’s research in Understanding neighborhood effects on growth and competition in a temperate forest (ABSTRACT). Well done, everyone!


  The Lab is located on the UC Berkeley Campus, in Hilgard Hall    VIEW INTERACTIVE MAP