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Anna Aguilera

Anna Aguilera
Assistant Professor
Science Center, S210


Ph.D., Environmental Biology
University of Massachusetts, Boston

M.S. Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
University of Massachusetts, Amherst

B.A., Biology
Brown University, Providence, RI

Research Interests

My research focuses on issues of global change, specifically invasive species and climate change. Research in my lab includes outdoor field research, indoor growth chamber experiments, and computer modeling.  Projects in my lab include (but are not limited to):

  1. Exploring the ecosystem effects of invasive plant species
  2. Exploring how climate change may influence the spread of the invasive plant, Japanese knotweed
  3. Questions regarding the Daylighting of the Muddy River

1. Ecosystem effects of invasive species.
Invasive plant species alter ecosystems in a variety of ways. Their most obvious impact is to reduce plant diversity. However, they are simultaneously altering below ground chemistry, soil microbial diversity, and the community of above ground animals that depend on native plants for food and shelter.  Specifically, I look at how invasive plant species alter decomposition rates and nutrient availability in aquatic and terrestrial environments. In addition, my lab examines how invasive plant species influence both microbial and invertebrate community composition. Field work is primarily focused on the impact of the invasive plant Fallopia japonica (Japanese knotweed).  Microbial questions are done in collaboration with a research team at UMass Boston that is currently looking at the genetic basis for variation in soil microbial communities between accessions of both Arabidopsis and Lactuca (Lettuce).

2. Exploring how climate change may influence the spread of the invasive plant, Japanese knotweed: My work with Japanese knotweed also includes questions of how climate change will influence the adaptiveness of different reproductive strategies. Japanese knotweed reproduces primarily vegetatively (from both rhizomes and stem fragments) in it invasive ranges in the US and UK. However, it has been shown to also successfully set seed here in the United States. My work explores these different reproductive strategies and the relative success of each under what climate conditions.  In addition, I am working collaboratively with a team from Babson College (Wellesley, MA) to explore how light, climate, and herbivore pressure influence the growth and spread of Japanese knotweed.

3. Questions regarding the Daylighting of the Muddy River
I am also very excited about the upcoming Daylighting of the Muddy River. This project provides us with a very unique opportunity to following riparian succession in an urban environment.  As the daylighting continues my lab will be preforming "Rapid Stream Assessments," according to the EPA's standardized methods to see how stream quality changes with time. We will also be making a time series of maps tracking the spread of invasive plant species in the riparian buffer.  

Awards & Honors

  • National Science Foundation, Graduate Research Fellowship, 2006-2009
  • Fulbright Scholarship, 2002-2003

Selected Publications

Aguilera, Anna G., Adan Colon-Carmona, Rick Kesseli, Jeffrey S. Dukes. 2011. No accession-specific effect of rhizosphere soil communities on the growth and competition of Arabidopsis thaliana accessions. PLoS ONE.

Aguilera, Anna G. 2011. The influence of soil community density on plant-soil feedbacks: an important unknown in plant invasion. Ecological Modeling 222:3413-3420.

Heidrun Huber, Eric J von Wettberrg, Anna Aguilera, Johanna Schmitt. 2011. Testing mechanisms and context  dependence of costs of plastic shade avoidance responses in Impatiens capensis (Balsaminaceae). American Journal of Botany 98:1602-1612.

Aguilera, Anna G., Peter Alpert, Jeffrey S. Dukes, and Robin Harrington, 2010. Ecosystem impacts of the invasive plant, Fallopia japonica. Biological Invasions, 12:1243-1252.


Presentations and Lectures

  • "Economic and Ecological Impacts of Invasive Species," Invited talk. Babson College, Wellesley, MA. October, 2012.