Garden Ecology Lab

We are a diverse group of individuals, with expertise in urban ecology, entomology, horticulture, landscape design and maintenance, and horticultural therapy.  We are united by a common interest in discovering and disseminating ways to harness the power of gardens to improve environmental and human health.


Our lab hosts undergraduate student, graduate student, and (occasionally) post-doctoral research affiliates who are studying insect-plant interactions or plant and insect community ecology. We would love to collaborate with individuals who bring expertise in landscape ecology, soil ecology, landscape architecture/design, plant/insect population dynamics, and other associated disciplines that can broaden our perspective and expand our work in new directions.

Prospective students and post-doctoral researchers are invited to get to know our work, prior to applying.  I accept students and post-docs (when funding is available) who have an interest in any of our core areas of expertise.  I do not anticipate accepting new graduate students until at least the Fall of 2024.

Funding generally limits our group to hosting 2-3 graduate students at a time. We are grateful to the Garden Ecology League for support of graduate student researchers. Graduate students in the lab have also received funding support from the Department of Horticulture Arco-Swallow Fellowship. We host undergraduate researchers through the Oregon State University URSA Program. The OSU Art-Science Fellowship program has also partially funded work in the lab.

Our lab receives close to 100 graduate school queries, each year. We do not respond to generic emails that fail to express why you are specifically interested in working in the Garden Ecology Lab, and what types of projects you would be interested in working on. You can learn more about how to craft a compelling inquiry letter by reading this blog post from Jacquelyn Gill.


Gail Langellotto (Principle Investigator):  An entomologist by training, Gail coordinates the statewide Master Gardener program.  Her research and extension interests are focused on developing a better understanding of how to design and manage gardens and parks within urban/suburban landscapes to maximize ecosystem services such as pollination, pest control and human health and well-being.  Starting in 2017, she hopes to work closely with Master Gardeners in home and community gardens, to begin documenting garden biodiversity in Oregon.

Lillie Case is an undergraduate student pursuing an Honor’s Bachelor of Science in Botany, with a concentration in Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation and minors in English and Spanish. They’ve helped with several of the lab’s projects, including Mallory’s undergraduate thesis, Jen’s graduate work, and the Native Plant Connection project. Lillie participated in an NSF-funded REU last summer at the California Academy of Sciences working on morphometrics of Castilleja calyces and will be writing their thesis on historical and predictive ranges of native Oregon wildflowers.

Signe Danler, a lifelong gardener and plant nerd, brought her passion for plants to OSU and earned a Masters of Agriculture degree in 2014. Her wide-ranging interests were fulfilled by coursework in Horticulture, Urban Forestry, Environmental Science, and Soil Science. Her particular area of focus is urban horticulture and applying ecological principles to landscape design and maintenance. She is now teaching sustainable gardening as instructor of the online OSU Extension Master Gardener course, and designing ecologically sensitive gardens as a landscape designer.

Jen Hayes is a PhD candidate in Horticulture (with a concentration in Entomology). Jen is a Vermonter who is passionate about pollinators; she fell in love with native bees as an undergraduate in the Ricketts Lab at the University of Vermont. Since her first exposure to bee research, she has had the opportunity work on pollinator studies in Vermont, Ecuador, North Dakota, and Oregon. She is interested in how human-developed landscapes, such as farms and gardens, can achieve dual goals of pollinator conservation and plant productivity.

Kailey Legier, beetle enthusiast, is an undergraduate student pursuing a double degree in Soil Science and Sustainability. While she is originally from Washington, her love of insects brought her to OSU. When she isn’t pursuing her research project on small garden system insect biodiversity, she is gardening with other students at the Reciprocity Garden, a queer and BIPOC focused community garden on campus where students grow culturally relevant plants, fight food insecurity, and hold small community events.

LeAnn Locher designs science communications for and from the OSU Extension Master Gardener program, Garden Ecology Lab, and Food Hero. Her focus connects the science of OSU to the general gardening public, developing gardening content for the web and social media. In addition, she supports Master Gardener program development, recruitment and communications. Prior to joining OSU in 2020, she ran her own consulting business providing communication strategy, creative design and branding for non-profits and institutions. As a professional gardening communicator, she has published in major national gardening publications, and for five years, wrote a gardening column in a statewide LGBTQ newspaper. She gardens in her North Portland garden and has been a Master Gardener volunteer since 2009.

Gwynne Mhuireach: Dr. Gwynne Mhuireach is an associate of our lab group, and the leader of the Agriculture in the Built environment project. She has a multi-disciplinary background, with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology, a Masters in Architecture, and a PhD in Landscape Architecture. With this unique perspective, Gwynne studies relationships between nature contact, environmental microbial communities, and human well-being. Her broader goal is to design healthier and more equitable cities, neighborhoods, and homes.

Mykl Nelson: Mykl received his Master’s of Horticulture in June 2018, as part of his overall plan to create a sustainable community of alternative learning and living. His work focused on urban garden soils. He is now creating new courses in Urban Agriculture for eCampus. He is interested in community gardening, how private growers overcome their hurdles, and fostering the abundance possible if we all networked together to create our own food.

Anna Perry: is an undergraduate student pursuing dobule degrees in Soil Science and Sustainability, as well as a minor in Horticulture with a certificate in Urban Agriculture. She is interested in complex socio-ecological systems that are gardens and managed landscapes. She is also interested in food systems, especially their intersection with landscapes and the built environment.

Past Lab Members

Aaron Anderson graduated with a Ph.D. in Horticulture in 2022. His dissertation focused on understanding insect association with native plants in garden systems. After dabbling in entomology, restoration ecology, and biological control, he became interested in studying urban systems. Aaron is fascinated by native beneficial insect conservation, especially in understanding how such species use urban green spaces as habitat to in turn inform how we manage these areas. He currently works as a Pesticide Program Specialist with the Xerces Society. Aaron was a 2021 AAAS Mass Media Fellow, where he reported on everything from heat waves to tech business news, and wrote long form stories on the tensions between growers and conservation biologists around endangered species. 

Nicole Bell graduated with a M.S. in Horticulture and a minor in Entomology. Her journey with bees began with an undergraduate research, scholarship, and arts (URSA) fellowship studying pollen used by blue orchard mason bees in forest ecosystems. She spent the rest of her undergraduate years working in OSU’s Honeybee Lab and as a graduate student, she transitioned her focus towards wild bees in urban gardens. She is interested in science communication, and hopes to continue educating diverse groups about pollinators. Upon graduation, she accepted a position with UMass, Amherst, focused on pollinator outreach and education.

  • Portland Bee Guide: this booklet is a companion to the online, iNaturalist Guide (above). It contains natural history details for 67 species that were collected from Portland area gardens during a 3-year study (2017-2019). 
  • iNaturalist Guide to Summer Garden Bees of Portland: this online guide provides an overview of bees found in Portland-area gardens.
  • Bell, N.*, Ascher, J.S., Hayes, J.M.*, Mead, M.** & Langellotto, G. A. (2023). Assessing three decades of urban garden bee studies. Frontiers in Sustainable Cities – Urban Greening. 5. doi: 10.3389/frsc.2023.1102360 

Lauren Bennett received a Masters of Natural Resources in 2019. A longtime lover of gardening, Lauren studied public perception of native pollinator species, to better understand drivers, barriers and other factors that restrict or support pollination services and increase habitat connectivity across urban landscapes.

Svea Bruslind is an undergraduate student pursuing a degree in Zoology with minors in Photography and Chemistry. A born and raised Oregonian, Svea has spent most of her life outside exploring the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Svea is currently assisting with a research project concerned with simulating bee vision using multispectral photography. Svea is interested in integrating photography into the scientific sphere and using it as a tool to explore the world.

Angelee Calder: graduated with a degree in Agricultural Science. While at OSU, she was also a part of the OSU STEM Leaders Program. Angelee assisted with general lab and field work. 

Lucas Costner was an undergraduate student pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Horticulture with a focus on Ecological Landscapes and Urban Forestry. Motivated by the belief that improving human habitat also means working with and blurring the line between the built and natural worlds, he is primarily interested in the interrelations between ecology, sustainability, and horticulture in urban environments. Lucas was integral to the early establishment and success of Aaron’s Ph.D. project on insect associations with native wildflowers of the Pacific Northwest.

Mallory Mead graduated in 2023 with degree in Sustainable Horticulture with a minor in Entomology. She worked with Jen on the nativar study, Gail on the Native Plant Connection project, and completed a thesis project on leaf-cutting bees’ activity on Clarkia amoena and its cultivars. She is spending the summer after graduation working with native plants for the US National Park Service.

Isabella Messer graduated with a B.S. in Horticulture, and worked in our lab for nearly four years. She completed an independent research thesis on parasitoids in garden systems, and played an integral role in the 3-year study of garden bees in Portland. 

Mericos Rhodes: Mericos Rhodes was born in Seattle in 1991. His dad owned and operated a retail nursery outside the city while he was young, and passed a love for plants and animals to Mericos. After studying philosophy in college, Mericos started working on organic farms, eventually co-founding Spon full Farm in Thorp, Washington, before moving down to Oregon State University. Mericos started his masters project in our lab group, but has since transferred to a group that focuses more on the non-fiction writing aspects of his project. 

Max Simon worked in our lab for two terms, supporting various projects. He has a strong interest in honey bee keeping, and a passion for teaching, and is currently working on a non-thesis Master's project, developing 3-D models of insects that can be used for education and outreach. You can see a 3-D rhagionid fly that he has developed, as an example of his work.

Tyler Spofford: was an undergraduate lab and field technician. He graduated with a degree in BioResource Research with the Sustainable Ecosystems option and a minor in Soil Science. He was born in Portland, OR and was raised with a deep respect for nature and his Japanese culture. His BioResource Research project focused on studying the economic costs (versus dollar value harvest) of container-grown tomatoes. While working with the lab, Tyler supported Jen’s project on pollinator preference for native plants and cultivars, and Cara’s project on pollinator association with butterfly bush cultivars, Tyler was also a TA for the Organic Soil Management class, a cultural mentor for MANNRs and SACNAS, and one of the 2021 REUU Grant recipients.

Cara Still: graduated with a Master’s in Horticulture in 2023. She studied how breeding for sterility in butterfly bush (Buddleja) effects pollinator attraction, nutrition, and invasiveness. Currently, she is working as a Faculty Research Assistant for the Ornamental Plant Breeding lab at OSU.

Robert Yarnall was pursuing his Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies in our lab, for a short time, before switching to a sociology program. We were sad to lose Robert, but glad to see that his interests in social justice and horticulture were being served by the sociology department.

Photo Name & Position Interests Contact Information
Anderson, Aaron

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Bell, Nicole

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Danler, Signe
Senior Instructor I

I support the OSU Extension Master Gardener Program by teaching and managing the online Extension MG training course. I use my experience and training in home horticulture, ecological...

Office: 541-737-5441
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Hayes, Jen

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Langellotto, Gail

The ecology of urban and suburban landscapes remains relatively unexplored - although such habitats have great potential to positively contribute to the conservation of pollinators, parasitoids...

Office: 541-737-5175
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Sara Monk
Monk, Sara
Info Technology Consultant
  • Web site development and training
  • Manage payment gateway for units selling products
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Nelson, Mykl
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Rhodes, Mericos

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Simon, Max

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Still, Cara
Instructor and Faculty Research Assistant

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