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Stinson, Kristina

Assistant Professor

217 Holdsworth Hall

Tel: +1 (413) 577-3304

Lab Website 

Google Scholar profile

Primary interests

My research is driven by theoretical questions in the discipline of plant ecology and evolution, with a focus on plant species’ responses to biophysical stress and climate variation.  I am interested in how physiological and genetic differences among plant populations can drive species’ geographic distributions.  Research projects in my lab address environmental issues in forest and alpine ecosystems through a combination of field work and experiments.  The unifying goals of this work are: 1) to advance fundamental research in experimental plant biology and ecology; and 2) to provide scientific guidance for restoration, management, and species conservation.

Current Projects

  • Forests, fungi and the future – Mediating biological invasion in a global change context: Most plant species in Northeastern deciduous forest ecosystems depend on symbioses with mycorrhizal fungi, which colonize and substantially extend their root systems. Species in the Brassciaceae (mustard) family are generally non-mycorrhizal, but introduced mustard species are becoming increasingly common in this region.  The invasive plant, Alliaria petiolata is known to suppress tree seedling growth via suppression of mycorrhizae.  A major focus of my research program is the effects of global change on the effects of invasive plant species on soil fungi and plant-fungal interactions.   One goal of this project is to understand how native plant and soil microbial communities reassemble following disruption by garlic mustard, given additional abiotic stressors such as increasing soil temperatures and nitrogen deposition.  Another goal is to determine management strategies for garlic mustard that are most likely to promote restoration of fungal-plant interactions under a range of future environmental scenarios.
  • Ecology and impacts of invasive mustards in alpine ecosystemsPlant communities of sub-alpine and alpine meadows are mainly comprised of perennial forbs and grasses that rely on mycorrhizae. While native Brassicaceae are generally sparse or restricted to certain micro-habitats, exotic mustards are becoming more predominant (e.g., Thlaspi arvense and Barbarea vulgaris) and are rapidly spreading in this region. The impacts of mustard phytochemistry on plant-soil interactions may differ across altitudinal gradients, and thus in response to changing temperatures and snow-pack. I am studying the ecology and impacts of invasive mustards at the Rocky Mountain Biological Lab (RMBL). RMBL is an independent high altitude field station with excellent resources for research, outstanding opportunities for students, and an international cadre of leading scientists. I plan to mentor at least two undergraduates on this project each summer for the next three years.
  • Mapping ragweed hotspots in New England Changes in the timing of biological events are among the most frequently observed plant responses to climate changes, resulting in distinct shifts in the timing and duration of leaf-out, growth, and flowering of many species. When populations of a given species are differentially adapted to distinct habitats, changes in climate, temperature, and other conditions may affect reproduction in unexpected ways that can have broad ecological implications. Pollen produced by the widespread Ambrosia artemisiifolia L. (common ragweed) is one of the leading cause of hay-fever allergies in North America. Ragweed pollen production and growth increase under elevated levels of atmospheric CO­2, but these effects are not consistent across all genotypes or populations. Landscape-level change in ragweed distribution is therefore spatially variable.  This research links field and experimental datasets on flowering time, duration of pollen season, and pollen output to regional models of ragweed distribution and related allergy “hotspots.” This work will help regional and urban planners to predict where and when allergenic pollen may be most problematic, and thus relates global change ecology to issues of human health.
  • Effects of climate on physiology and distribution of Acer speciesMaple trees (the genus Acer) are a widespread and important forest component across northeastern North America. Understanding how climate warming affects these dominant trees is an emerging area of research in my lab. In a recent paper co-authored by undergraduate Natalie Gonzalez, we showed that newly germinated  A. rubrum (red maple) seedlings extend both spring and autumn phenology with 5˚C warming, resulting in a longer period of carbon uptake and subsequent biomass production.  We are currently investigating ecotypic variation in maple seedling phenology, root mycorrhizal colonization, and leaf pathogen infection risk, to provide additional insight into potential maple range shifts. In collaboration with Toni-Lyn Morelli and postdoc Joshua Rapp, another major project addresses responses of Sugar Maple (A. saccharum) to climate change, and is funded by the Northeast Climate Science Center (NE CSC).  Together in collaboration with an international team of interdisciplinary scientists, this project examines phenology and  phytochemical composition of maple sap along a latitudinal gradient, from the southern range limit in Virginia to the northern range limit in Quebec. This project will inform predictions about maple syrup quality and production under future climate conditions, and under different management strategies. The outreach group, ACERnet shares knowledge of climate impacts on maple to syrup producers and gauge their perceptions and adaptations to climate change.

Courses Taught

NRC 212

EnvSci 214


Recent Publications

Stinson, K. A., Albertine, J. M., Hancock, L. M. S., Seidler, T. G., Rogers, C. A. (2016)  Northern ragweed ecotypes flower earlier and longer in response to elevated CO2: What are you sneezing at? Oecologia 182: 587. doi:10.1007/s00442-016-3670-x.

Wheeler, J.A., Gonzalez, N.M., and Stinson, K.A. (2016) Red hot maples: Acer rubrum phenology, growth and biomass allocation under climate warming. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 10.1139/cjfr-2016-0288.

Albertine, J. M., Manning, W. J., DaCosta, M., Stinson, K. A., Muilenberg, M. L., & Rogers, C. A. (2014). Projected carbon dioxide to increase grass pollen and allergen exposure despite higher ozone levels. PLoS One, 9(11), e111712.

Stinson, K.A., and Seidler, T.G. (2014) Physiological constraints on the spread of Alliaria petiolata populations in Massachusetts. Ecosphere 5:art96.

K. Barto, P. Antunes, K. Stinson, J. Klironomos, D. Cipollini. (2011) Diversity of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi in forests with and without established garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) invasions.  Oecologia.

Stinson, K., Brophy, C., and Connolly (2011).  Catching up on global change: CO2 reverses genotypic dominance in common ragweed Ecosphere 2(4) 46.

Other Publications


Page updated: March 7, 2017