Current Lab Personnel


Chris J. Peterson, Professor (at UGA since 1994) 
B.A. 1985, Biology & Environmental Science, Taylor University, Upland, IN
Ph.D. 1992, Ecology, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ
Postdoc 1992-1994, Ecology, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ
Fulbright Fellow 2004, Dept. of Forest Ecology, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
Personal:  Chris enjoys pontificating about politics, occasionally riding a motorcycle, and reading apocalyptic novels (the best is still Lucifer’s Hammer, by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle).  He is married to the former Sandy VanBrocklin, who is Human Resources manager for UGA Facilities Management Division.  The rest of Chris’s family includes stepdaughter Tiffany (currently an undergraduate at Univ. of Hawaii, and majoring in art), and 5-yr old twins Katherine & Jeffrey.  The Petersons are members of First Presbyterian Church of Athens.



Uma Nagendra, PhD student (at UGA since 2011) 
B.A. 2009, Biology & Comparative Literature, Swarthmore College

Research: Uma’s research focuses on the impacts of wind disturbances on plant-soil interactions. She is using a combination of greenhouse and field experiments to investigate plant-soil relationships in both intact and wind-damaged southern Appalachian forests. Mature trees foster communities of pathogens, mutualists, and decomposers that may overall promote or inhibit same-species seedlings. The canopy openness and tree mortality due to tornado damage changes the biotic and abiotic conditions of the forest soil—causing drier, hotter surface soils and loss of fine roots. The resultant changes to the soil microbial community may have important effects on regenerating seedlings. Alterations to the soil community after wind disturbance may change the self-promotion or self-inhibition seen in intact forests.
Uma hopes this research will contribute to our knowledge of plant-soil feedbacks by adding a field-based non-equilibrium view. As strong disturbances become more frequent, it becomes more important for us to examine how ecological processes respond to abrupt environmental changes.

Personal:  Uma has been interested in the science of natural disasters since Hurricane Katrina hit her hometown of New Orleans. Since then, she has worked in disturbed environments in South Carolina, Puerto Rico, and Alaska. She is also invested in improving science outreach and communication.  She enjoys finding creative ways to demonstrate complicated ecological concepts—preferably if it involves running around outside or drawing pictures.  When not crawling over downed trees in North Georgia, Uma enjoys aerial circus arts and all kinds of dancing.



Callie Oldfield, PhD student (at UGA since 2016)
B.A. 2015, Biology, University of the South (Sewanee)

Callie's research focuses on carbon cycling in wind disturbances. She will determine at what point a disturbance switches from representing a carbon source to becoming a carbon sink. This research will provide valuable information for global carbon modeling, particularly as wind disturbances are predicted to increase in the future.

In addition to her research, she enjoys volunteering to teach science at local Athens-Clarke county schools, working as Managing Editor for science for the Classic Journal, and playing with her cats.


Undergraduate workers:

Annika Jonker, Padraic Thompson, Ji Hoon Choi, Devangkumar Patel, and Hayden Casey.