Research and Mentoring

Research Description

(Link to Doctoral Dissertation)

As an ecologist, I seek to understand the interactions that shape our natural world. My primary interests consider ecological communities and the many factors that lead to their dynamic structure, particularly within U.S. forests. Much of my research to date has utilized invasive exotic species, which establish in and exert quantifiable impacts upon communities where they are introduced. These species, and the communities they invade, provide for natural experiments of change in our environment. My research has examined the many biotic and abiotic factors associated with successful establishment and invasion within U.S. forests.

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Invasive species allow research on many questions associated with U.S. forests.


I have mentored multiple undergraduate researchers from several institutions through my research efforts, both in implementing their own research projects with my guidance and in analyzing data from my own research. I design my research efforts with additional projects in mind and actively collaborate with and instruct my undergraduate researchers. I have successfully sought out underrepresented students to work on my projects and have written letters of recommendation for many of my students, several of whom have found success in careers related to our work together.

“As a research mentor this past summer, Dennis Tarasi was irreplaceable in his ability to relay field concepts such as identification and survey methodology of the Carolina Vegetation Survey. Additionally, his easy going and personable nature made me feel comfortable asking any questions I had while in the field and throughout my thesis work. He helped in any way he could, like providing additional data and guiding me through any research dilemmas. Overall, Dennis is an indispensable educator, advisor, and colleague.” -Victoria Millsap, Davidson College

Students who have submitted senior or honors theses under my mentorship:

Noah Hoogestraat, St. Ambrose University (Ongoing)

Alyssa Keene, St. Ambrose University (Ongoing)

Jacklyn McClain, Sant Mary-of-the-Woods College (2017-18)

Amanda Phillips, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (2016-17)

Victoria Millsap, Davidson College (2014-15)

I have mentored students from 5 other institutions as research technicians (non-thesis) in various projects, including students from:

St. Ambrose University, University of Northern Iowa, Metropolitan State University, UNC-Chapel Hill and UNC-Charlotte

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Several of my mentored assistants from 2014 (above) and 2015 (below).

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