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Mr. James Graves

Organization: Green Mountain College

Affiliations: Green Mountain College

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Dr. Jim Graves joined the faculty at Green Mountain College in fall 1996 when the first freshman class of Environmental Studies majors arrived. Following the establishment of Environmental Studies at Green Mountain, the science faculty launched the Biology major in 1999. Jim has enjoyed the challenges and rewards of building these programs with other faculty, and the pleasure of seeing the first graduates enter careers and graduate schools. He has focused on designing rigorous courses in general biology, ecology, and botany, with field-oriented labs. Working with other faculty and students, he has built the college’s inventory of field equipment, reorganized equipment storage, improved lab computing facilities, established a live plant collection, and expanded the college herbarium. Jim’s students participate in research and ecological applications through work experience, independent undergraduate research, self-designed research projects, and long-term field studies required as part of a lab course. Campus lands represent one of the college’s finest resources for field studies and other college programs. Jim works with students to inventory and map natural resources on campus, and plan appropriate land uses. Based on work by his Undergraduate Research Assistants, his Forest Ecology and Management class proposed and implemented a management plan for Garlic Mustard, an invasive species on campus. Simultaneously, students helped draft an invasive species policy for campus. As chair of the Land Use Committee on campus, Jim led efforts to integrate sound conservation biology with campus policy and planning through these student initiatives. The college adopted its Invasive Species Policy, and Natural Areas Policy in 2006, and today a student Natural Areas Crew monitors invasions and control efforts, writes plans, manages species, and plans restorations. On the landscaped portions of campus, Jim’s students in Botany complement natural areas management with Native Species Gardens to introduce students and visitors to the local flora and educate them about threats to natural ecosystems. Jim grew up in East Tennessee, and from an early age took to the woods and natural history in the species-rich forests near home. Among other important events in his youth, Jim’s decision to study plant ecology was inspired by a Field Biology trip in college to the diverse environments of the American Southwest, by two summers immersed in the biological diversity of the Great Smoky Mountains while working at a hiking lodge on Mount LeConte, and by his first job as a field technician at Uplands Research Lab in the Smokies, assisting a study of the origins and history of grassy balds. He completed his B.S. in Biology at Rhodes College, and developed his interest in plant-soil relations during his Master’s thesis study of differences in forest floor vegetation over marble and schist parent rock at the University of Georgia (with Carl Monk). For his dissertation at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (with Robert Peet and Peter White), Jim tested new theory to predict the relative abundance of herbaceous and woody plants in forest floors. At Green Mountain College, Jim’s basic research focus in plant ecology remains the influence of soil conditions on plant distribution. Recently, his applied interests have led him to study factors that alter plant succession in Riparian and Clay Plain soils, to test the efficacy of restoration planting methods, to study the response of vegetation to ice storm damage, and to investigate ecological applications in campus land management. His other interests are broad, and include the biochemistry of secondary plant compounds, effects of disturbance and species invasions on nutrient cycling, the coevolution of fruits and avian frugivores, relationships between plant morphology and the environment, plant geography, the influence of land use patterns on ecosystem processes, plant propagation, and understory restoration in forest communities. Back to top

List of Projects

Project Role Start End
Shaw Mountain Ice Storm Study 1998-2002Project Lead/Principal Investigator 1998-07-14 2002-07-15