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Jennings Woods

Jennings Woods


Jennings Woods is a 74 acre property that was purchased by the university in 1966 and is maintained for research and education.  Its vibrant forest is an extraordinary example of the diversity and complexity of natural landscapes in Northeast Ohio.  Tree species typical of Midwestern, Northeastern, and Appalachian forests overlap in this region.  This is coupled with a complex geologic history dominated by the last glaciation and subsequent action of the West Branch of the Mahoning River.

The result is a forest stand with a number of interacting habitats, from upland forest dotted with vernal pools, to thick, swampy bottomland forest, to riparian forest alternating between steep banks and sandy dunes arrayed along 600 m of fourth-order river.  It is rich in many invertebrate, vertebrate and plant species due to the varied habitats.  Jennings Woods has been used for many graduate student thesis and dissertation projects, and is a popular field site for many undergraduate and graduate classes.

One hundred forty six permanent sampling locations were installed in 2007 to capture spatial variation within habitat types and across habitat boundaries.  This sampling array creates a data-rich environment for subsequent studies, including information on vegetation, itterfall, and soil properties, as well as soil and atmosphere moisture and temperature.

Ecologists at Kent State ask questions of importance in determining how natural systems function and benefit society. For example:

  • How is biodiversity of plants, animals, and microbes maintained?
  • What is the contribution of our forests to atmospheric gases of importance in global climate change?
  • How do forests function in regulating water quality?
Funding for research at Jennings Woods has been provided by National Science Foundation and Department of Energy. 

Papers Published (28 listed)

Feinstein, L.M., C.B. Blackwood. 2012. Taxa-area relationship and neutral dynamics influence the diversity of fungal communities on senesced tree leaves. Environmental Microbiology 14:1488-1499.

Wu, L., L.M. Feinstein, O. Valverde-Barrantes, M.W. Kershner, L.G. Leff, C.B. Blackwood. 2011. Placing the effects of leaf litter diversity on saprotrophic microorganisms in the context of leaf type and habitat. Microbial Ecology 61:399-409.
Hovatter, S.R., C. Dejelo, A.L. Case, C.B. Blackwood. 2011. Metacommunity organization of soil microorganisms depends on habitat type defined by presence of Lobelia siphilitica plants. Ecology 92:57-65.
Wu, L., C.B. Blackwood, L.G. Leff. 2009. Effect of single-species and mixed-species leaf leachate on bacterial communities in biofilms. Hydrobiologia 636:65-76.
Clark, J.M. and M.W. Kershner. 2008. Grain size and sorting effects on size-dependent responses by lotic crayfish to high flows.  Hydrobiologia 610:55-66.
jennings_winterDas, M. T. Royer, and L. G. Leff.  2008. Fungal communities on decaying leaves in streams: a comparison of two leaf species. Mycological Progress, 7:267-275.
Caruso, C.M. and A.L. Case. 2007. Sex ratio variation in gynodioecious Lobelia siphilitica: effects of population size and geographic location. J. Evolutionary Biology 20:1396-1405.
Das, M., T. V. Royer, and L. G. Leff. 2007 Fungal, bacterial and actinomycete diversity on leaves decomposing in a stream, Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 73:756-767.
Montemarano, J.J., M.W. Kershner, and L.G. Leff.  2007.  Crayfish effects on fine particulate organic matter quality and quantity.  Fundamental and Applied Limnology (formerly Archiv fur Hydrobiologie) 168(3):223-229.
Rubin, M. and L. G. Leff. 2007. Nutrients and other abiotic factors affecting bacterial communities in an Ohio river (USA). Microbial Ecology, 54: 374-383.
Santmire, J. A. and L. G. Leff. 2007. The effect of sediment grain size on bacterial communities in streams, Journal of the North American Benthological Society, 26:600-609.
Santmire, J. A. and L. G. Leff. 2007. The influence of stream sediment particle size on bacterial abundance and community composition, Aquatic Ecology, 41:153-160.
Clark, J.M. and M.W. Kershner.  2006.  Size-dependent effects of visible implant elastomer marking on crayfish (Orconectes obscurus) growth, mortality and tag retention. Crustaceana 79(3):275-284.
Olapade, O and L. G. Leff. 2006. Influence of dissolved organic matter and inorganic nutrients on biofilm bacterial community on artificial substrates in a Northeastern Ohio stream (USA). Canadian Journal of Microbiology, 52:540-549.
Olapade O., Amanda Brothers, Mark Crissman, Xueqing Gao, and L. G. Leff. 2006. Comparison of Planktonic Microbial Communities among nine North American Streams, Archiv fur Hydrobiologie, 165:221-239.
Santmire, J. A. and L. G. Leff. 2006. Temporal changes in the bacterial assemblage of a Northeast Ohio stream: a comparison of community and population-level responses, Archiv fur Hydrobiologie, 166:491-503.
Gao, X., O. Olapade and L. G. Leff. 2005. A comparison of benthic bacterial community composition among nine streams. Aquatic Microbial Ecology, 40:51-60.
Olapade, O. and L. Leff.  2005. Response of stream bacterial populations in biofilms to dissolved organic matter and inorganic nutrients: a seasonal comparison, Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 71:2278-2287.
Olapade, O., Xueqing, G. and L. Leff.  2005. Abundance of three bacterial populations in selected streams, Microbial Ecology, 49:461-467.
Baker, P and L. Leff   2004. Seasonal patterns of abundance of viruses and bacteria in a northeast Ohio (USA) stream.  Archiv fur Hydrobiologie, 161:225-233.
Gao. X., Ola A. Olapade, Mark W. Kershner, Laura G. Leff. 2004. Algal-bacterial co-variation in streams: A cross-stream comparison. Archiv fur Hydrobiologie,159: 253-261
McNamara, C. and L. Leff. 2004. Bacterial Community Composition in Biofilms
on Decomposing Leaves in a Northeast Ohio Stream, Journal of the North American Benthological Society, 23:677-685.
McNamara, C. and L. Leff. 2004. Response of biofilm bacteria to dissolved organic matter from decomposing maple leaves, Microbial Ecology, 48:324-330.
Olapade, O. and L. Leff.  2004. Seasonal dynamics of bacterial assemblages in epilithic biofilms in a Northeastern Ohio stream, Journal of the North American Benthological Society, 23:686-700
McNamara, C. J., M. J. Lemke, and L. G. Leff.  2003.  Underestimation of bacterial numbers in starvation-survival mode using the nucleic acid stain DAPI.  Archiv fur Hydrobiologie, 157:309-319.
Leff, L. G., A. A. Leff, and M. J. Lemke.  1998.  Seasonal changes in planktonic bacterial assemblages of two Ohio streams.  Freshwater Biology, 39:129-134.
Lemke, M. J., C. Wickstrom, and L. G. Leff. 1997.  A preliminary study of the distribution of viruses and bacteria in lotic habitats.  Archiv fur Hydrobiologie, 141:67-74.
McNamara, C.J., M. J. Lemke, and L. G. Leff. 1997. Characterization of hydrophobic stream bacteria based on adhesion to n-Octane.  Ohio Journal of Science, 97:59-61.

Current Projects and PIs

Understanding Geographic Variation in Sex Ratio in a Gynodioecious Plant 
A. Case (Kent State), C. Caruso (U. Guelph)
Funding: NSF DEB grant (Population and Evolutionary Processes) (2009-2012)

Tracking down cheaters: molecular analysis of carbon consumption by organisms that do not contribute to extracellular enzyme pools
C. Blackwood (Kent State), L. Leff (Kent State), X. Mou (Kent State)
Funding: DOE Office of Biological and Environmental Research (2010-2013)

Bioblitz: Concordance as a guide to inter-guild community assembly in the ecological interaction milieu
C. Blackwood (Kent State), M. Kershner (Kent State), K. Smemo (Holden Arboretum)

Greenhouse gas emissions from vernal pools
D. Bade (Kent State), C. Blackwood (Kent State), K. Smemo (Holden Arboretum)

Graduate Students theses and dissertations (current)

Justin J. Montemarano (PhD)
Joseph Taura (PhD)
Oscar Valverde-Barrantes (PhD)

Graduate Students theses and dissertations (completed) (7 listed)

Jennifer Clark, Ph.D. Dissertation, 2009: Abiotic and biotic factors affecting size-dependent crayfish (Orconectes obscurus) distribution, density, and survival
Mitali Das, Ph.D. Dissertation, 2006: Microbial community structure and interactions in leaf litter in a stream
Larry M. Feinstein, Ph.D. Dissertation, 2012: Microbial Functional Activity and Diversity Patterns at Multiple Spatial Scales 

Jason Hopkins, M.S. Thesis, 2006: Jennings Woods : a species list for, community map of, and key to the vascular flora of this natural study area
Stephanie Hovatter, M.S. Thesis, 2008: The Effects of Abiotic and Biotic Soil Characteristics on Population Size Variation in Lobelia siphilitica (Lobeliaceae)
Chris McNamara, Ph.D. Dissertation, 2001: The influence of dissolved organic carbon from maple leaves on bacterial populations in biofilms on the leaf surface
Ola Olapade, Ph.D. Dissertation, 2004: Response of stream bacterial populations in biofilms to dissolved organic matter and inorganic nutrients : an examination of seasonal patterns
Julie Proell, M.S. Thesis, 2009: Population sex ratio and size affect pollination, reproductive success, and seed germination in gynodioecious Lobelia siphilitica: evidence using experimental populations and microsatellite genotypes
Melissa Barlett, Ph.D. Dissertation, 2007: The effects of nutrient type and stoichiometry on bacterial community composition in streams and wetlands

Judy Santmire, Ph.D. Dissertation, 2005: Bacterial communities in a Northeast Ohio stream effects of substrate size, environmental features and temporal changes

Undergraduate Individual Investigations (19 total)

Seth Brown – 2008 (Blackwood)
Eduardo Campana – 2010 (Blackwood)
Cheryl Chintella – 2009 (Kershner)
Emma Corrigan – 2010 (Kershner)
Alex Czayka – 2008 (Kershner)
Tim Daniels – 2008 (A. Leff)
Ashley Downey – 2006 (Kershner)
Mark DuFour – 2005 (Kershner)
Peter Euclide – 2010 (Kershner)
Meghan Fernandes – 2009 (Blackwood)
Ashley Golphin – 2008 (A. Leff)
Alex Gradisher – 2009 (Blackwood)
Bess Heidenreich – 2009  (Blackwood)
Dean Horton – 2010 (Blackwood)
Denise Jackson – 2005 (A. Leff)
Scott Kelsey – 2011 (Kershner)
Sarah Kitson – 2012 (Kershner)
Bobby Marquardt – 2009 (Blackwood)
Erin McNutt – 2008 (Kershner)
Yejide Olaniyan – 2007 (Kershner)
Annie Pearson – 2006 (A. Leff)
Kaitlin Proppe' – 2009 (Kershner)
Louise Tilenni – 2007 (Case)
Mike Toth (Kershner)
Allison Wilcox - 2007 (A. Leff)
Scott Vernon – 2010 (Blackwood)

Course field trips (~220 student trips per year)

Vert zoology
Spring - 32 students/yr
Summer - 16 students/yr
Ichthyology - 12 students/2yrs
Local Flora – 30 students/yr
Invertebrate zoology – 40-65 students/yr
Entomology – 15-20 students/2yrs
Wetland Ecology – 20 students/2yrs
Ecology – 45 students in F2008
Aquatic Ecology – 10 students in F2008, 5 students in F2007


High School projects

Michael Baker and Larry Beaver (Louisville High School) – 2008 (Blackwood)
Methanogenesis in vernal pools