Noelle G. Beckman, Ph.D.

SESYNC Postdoctoral Fellow

I'm interested in how interactions of a plant with its local environment influence patterns at larger temporal, spatial, and organizational scales and the consequences of disrupting these interactions under global change. Empirical studies I conduct aid the development and evaluation of theoretical models to scale from these local, spatial interactions among individuals to patterns at larger spatiotemporal scales at the population, community, and ecosystem-level, while models guide the development of experiments to test hypotheses.


  • 2010

    Ph.D. Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior
    Minor Statistics
    University of Minnesota-Twin Cities

  • 2005

    Tropical Biology: An Ecological Approach (2005-01)
    Organization for Tropical Studies

  • 2002

    B.S. Biology
    Washington and Lee University


I spent most of my youth exploring the forests of the Appalachian mountains. My sophomore year in high school, I spent a summer taking a course in Field Wildlife Biology through Summer Ventures in Science and Math at UNC-Charlotte; we spent most of our time in Chimney Rock Park, NC. In the last few summers of high school, I worked for David Danley of the USDA Forest Service. I spent many summer days on the Blue Ridge Parkway collecting seeds of native grasses and flowers. With David as a mentor, I began to become more intimately acquainted with the flora of the Appalachian forests.

Chinese praying mantids eating pollen

I first became interested in ecological research my sophomore year at Washington & Lee University (2000). Under the direction and support of Dr. Hurd, I initiated my first research project testing whether praying mantids ate pollen, and if so, what benefits mantids obtained in survival, weight gain, and fecundity. This work led to my Honors Thesis entitled, "Pollen feeding and its effect on a generalist predator, the Chinese praying manitd Tenodera sinensis" and a publication in Environmental Entomology. In the midst of my praying mantid madness, I also began to work on various projects led by Dr. Marsh investigating the effects of roads and streams on the behavior and movement of red-backed salamanders (see Publications ).

Bower of a satin bowerbird

My junior year (2001) of college I took Ornithology with Dr. Cabe. I gave bird walks at Boxerwood Gardens during college and taught Ornithology at Nature Camp the summer following graduation. Following Nature Camp, I hopped on a plane to Australia to work on Dr. Borgia’s project on sexual selection in Bowerbirds. I spent many hours observing bowerbirds as well as any wildlife that walked, hopped, flew or slithered by. I continued working with salamanders the following summer, but would sneak away several early mornings to accompany the Junco Lab at Mountain Lake.

NGB in Ecuador

In between studying salamanders, I was also a lab manager at the University of Washington in Dr. Tewksbury’s lab, which was testing several hypotheses determining the function of secondary metabolites in fruits and their importance in mediating interactions between plants and seed dispersers, seed predators and fruit pathogens.

In between these intellectual ventures in ornithology, sexual selection, evolutionary and community ecology, I also was becoming passionate about tropical landscapes. My introduction to the tropics was a six-week Botany course: four weeks in Lexington, VA and two weeks in La Selva, Costa Rica (2000). I met Lou Jost in Ecuador two years later, when I returned to the Neotropics as a student of biodiversity. With Lou as my mentor, I backpacked through the Llagnates in Ecuador, becoming acquainted with the flora while collecting Teagueia orchids.

These early experiences in the temperate zone and in the tropics aroused my fascination in biodiversity and my interest in the following questions: What are the mechanisms that maintain species coexistence? How do these mechanisms vary along latitudinal, elevational, and precipitation gradients? What role do animals and pathogens play in a plant’s lifetime and how do these interactions affect coexistence? This led me to pursue a doctorate at the University of Minnesota with Drs. Helene Muller-Landau and Claudia Neuhauser as my co-advisors. My dissertation investigated the effects of vertebrates, insects, and pathogens on patterns of early plant recruitment in tropical forests.


Music. I have played cello for many years, have sporadically played the violin, and am learning clawhammer on the banjo. I was a cellist in the Asheville Youth Orchestra and the Jubilee Summer Orchestra in North Carolina, the University-Shenandoah Symphony Orchestra in Virginia, the University of Panama Orchestra in Panama City, Panama, the Lincoln Civic Orchestra in Lincoln, Nebraska, and the Metropolitan Chamber Orchestra in Columbus, Ohio. I was a cellist in the production of The Elephant Man at Washington and Lee University and performed cello recitals throughout high school and college. I also had a radio show with WLUR during college at Washington and Lee University.

Improv. While a graduate student in MN, I took a Level 1 Everyday Improv class at the Brave New Workshop and loved it. I participated in Level 1 & 2 Improv classes at Backline Improv Theatre in Omaha, NE and an Intro to Long-Form Improvisation at Make a Scence Improv in Columbus, Ohio. I'm currently taking classes at Washington Improv Theather. I've taken Improv Workshops with Tara Defrancisco (iO Chicago, Second City, and ComedySportz), Megan Grano (iO West, Second City, Annoyance Theatre), and at the Annoyance Theatre in Chicago. In Columbus, I performed with the groups Jane Dear; Game, Set, Match at Strongwater; See You Thursday at Wild Goose Creative; and the Revelators, a Harold house team at First Beat Theater. With See You Thursday, we performed at the Chicago Improv Festival in 2013. I primarily focus on long-form improv and sometimes venture into musical and short-form improvisation.

Soccer. I was an avid soccer player, but keep injuring my knees. At Washington and Lee University, I played on the Women’s Varsity soccer team until I tore my second ACL. This prompted me to whole-heartedly pursue biology, and I became a better violin player for a short period of time while I was in a leg brace.

Literature. Currently reading: "The Cloudspotter's Guide: The Science, History, and Culture of Clouds" by Gavin Pretor-Pinney

Natalie Beckman Drawing by Natalie Beckman