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Bard College Biology Professor Awarded National Science Foundation Grant to Study Impact of Landscape Fragmentation on Plant-Pathogen Interactions and Plant Diversity

Mark Primoff
Cathy Collins
ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y.–– Bard College Assistant Professor of Biology Cathy Collins has been awarded a $371,652 National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to study “how landscape fragmentation interferes with plant-pathogen interactions that maintain local plant diversity.” Plant diseases are often thought of as backyard nuisances or crop destroyers, but they can also play beneficial roles in unmanaged ecosystems by maintaining plant diversity. Each plant species has its own unique cohort of specialist pathogens. By slowing the growth or increasing the mortality of plants they infect, these pathogens prevent any single plant species from dominating an area. Many ecosystems are being broken up into smaller fragments due to land-use changes such as suburban sprawl. Habitat edges and small habitat patches experience environmental extremes such as higher temperatures, more light, and lower soil moisture. These conditions, in turn, influence plant disease. Collins’s research, which includes work with Bard students, will explore if and how conditions in fragments change the way plants interact with their pathogens and the resulting impacts on local plant diversity. The project, which is in collaboration with Sarah Lawrence College biology professor Michelle Hersh, received a total of $600,000 from NSF.
Cathy Collins is assistant professor of biology at Bard. Her research explores how anthropogenic changes such as nutrient deposition and fragmentation influence biodiversity, and how we can use this information to restore diversity and function to plant communities in degraded habitats. Her research has been published in Ecology, Ecography, Forest Ecology and Management, Science Advances, Oecologia, PLoS ONE, Biological Conservation, and Journal of Ecology, among others. Collins’s honors include a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates grant, which allowed her to conduct studies in South Gondar, Ethiopia; research and travel grants from Colby College and the University of Kansas; and a Thomas J. Watson Foundation Fellowship (Australia). She has a B.A. from Pitzer College, M.S. from the University of Arizona, and Ph.D. from the University of Kansas.
About Bard College
Founded in 1860, Bard College is a four-year residential college of the liberal arts and sciences located 90 miles north of New York City on the east bank of the Hudson River. It offers bachelor of arts, bachelor of science, and bachelor of music degrees, with concentrations in more than 40 academic programs; graduate degrees in 11 programs; and numerous dual-degree programs nationally and internationally. Building on a 157-year history as a competitive and innovative undergraduate institution, Bard College’s mission has expanded across the country and around the world to meet broader student needs. The undergraduate program at our main campus in the Hudson River Valley of upstate New York retains a reputation for scholarly excellence and civic engagement. Bard is committed to enriching culture, public life, and democratic discourse by training tomorrow’s thought leaders. In 2016, Bard acquired the Montgomery Place estate, bringing the size of the campus to nearly 1,000 acres. For more information, visit

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This event was last updated on 03-29-2017