The Minor Lab

UIC University of Illinois at Chicago




Current Lab Members

Elsa Anderson, PhD Student

Andrew Dribin, PhD Student (Honorary lab member)

Maryam Gharehaghaji, PhD Student

David Lowenstein, PhD student

Emily Minor, Associate Professor

Alexandra Silva, MS Student

Alexis Smith, PhD Student

Lab Alumni

Amy Belaire, Natural Resources Manager & Coordinator of Education and Research, Wild Basin Creative Research Center

Amélie Davis, Assistant Professor, Miami University

Kevin Matteson, Assistant Director of Masters Programs for Project Dragonfly, Miami University

Click here for some lab photographs

Elsa Anderson, PhD Student

Elsa joined the lab in 2014 on a University Fellowship in the department of Biological Sciences. She earned her Bachelor’s degree at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2007 with a major in animal sciences and a minor in Spanish language.  After working with inner-city youth in restoration and environmental education programs through the Student Conservation Association, she pursued a Master’s degree at DePaul University evaluating nest site use and selection of Red-headed Woodpeckers in and around Chicago.  Her current research is evaluating habitat availability and use in vacant lots in urban areas, and examining the ecological and social implications and potentials of these spaces.

Andrew Dribin, PhD Student
Andrew is a doctoral student in the Department of Art History studying contemporary architecture and its relation to the environment (and vice versa). His research and intellectual agenda is to expand the discipline of architecture—for him, everything is architecture—and he looks to landscape ecology to help explore the broader implications of our emerging scientific understanding of the environment. Primarily using the Chicago area as a laboratory, his research interests span from the history of Henry Cowles’ Dune complex to the inner workings of Chicago’s Deep Tunnel sewer system to control its wastewater. He occasionally contributes to Mas Studio, a collaborative architecture and urban design firm:

Maryam Gharehaghaji, PhD student
Maryam received her bachelors degree in Environmental Science/ Engineering from Isfahan University of Technology in 2008. She received her Masters in Environmental Science/ Engineering from University of Tehran in 2011. She did a study on bird distribution in a deciduous forest and its relation with landscape factors.  She joined the lab in 2013. She is interested in landscape ecology, landscape genetics and urban ecology. She is now studying the relation between oak population distance  and  their genetic structure. In her future research she would like to study the effect of urban ecosystem on wildlife, especially birds. 

David Lowenstein, PhD student

David's interests lie in entomology and ecology. Specifically, he has researched integrated pest management and wild pollinators. He completed a bachelors in biology at CUNY-Lehman College and a Masters in entomology at the University of Wisconsin. For his doctoral work, he will document the variation in pollinator communities across Chicago neighborhoods and the implications of this land on wildflower and crop fruit and seed set. He hopes to continue work in urban ecology and share the economic and environmental importance of insects with urban dwellers.

David's website:

Emily Minor, Associate Professor
Emily completed her PhD in Ecology at Duke University in 2006. She was awarded a postdoctoral fellowship from the National Parks Ecological Research program (NPER) and did her postdoctoral work at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) Appalachian Lab. She came to UIC in 2008 as an assistant professor with a joint appointment in Biological Sciences and the Institute for Environmental Science and Policy. Her interest and expertise lie in understanding species distributions in urban and fragmented environments but lately her research has also been moving toward measuring and maximizing ecosystem services in urban areas. Click here for Emily's CV.

Alex Silva, MS Student
Alex completed her bachelor’s degree in animal science at Cornell University, after which she spent two summers leading National Geographic Student Expeditions trips throughout Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands. Between trips, she has worked and volunteered for environmental advocacy and education organizations in Chicago. Alex is now working towards her master’s degree in Ecology and Evolution. Her research will focus on bee pollination in Chicago’s urban landscape and evaluating the related ecosystem services. While at UIC, she will also be pursuing a secondary education teaching certificate, focused on biology and environmental science.

Alexis Smith, PhD Student
Alexis had spent many years feeling that humans are a hopeless case, and that the Earth would be better off without them. A few years ago, she started to see part of what was so special about humans, and decided they deserved another chance. She thought that maybe humans could clean up their mess and get back to providing ecosystem services like all the more sensible species. At the very least, maybe humans could stop impeding these other species and the ecosystem services they provide. In 2011, Alexis went back to Florida State University for a second bachelor's degree (Biological Sciences, Ecology and Evolution track), which helped answer some questions but led to many more questions, which she hopes to explore at UIC. She loves living in Chicago because it offers so many wild spaces within a big city, but Florida will always be home. Her favorite species include bison, red-shouldered hawks, box turtles, tuliptree silk moths, mockernut hickories, Carolina chickadees, and (recently, reluctantly) humans.