Skip Navigation

People

Myla F. J. Aronson headshot.

Dr. Myla FJ Aronson
Director

Dr. Myla Aronson is an ecologist whose interests focus on the conservation, restoration, and maintenance of biodiversity in human dominated landscapes. She received her B.S. in Natural Resources from Cornell University and a M.S. and Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolution from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. She is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Natural Resources at Rutgers University and the Director of the Hutcheson Memorial Forest. She co-directs, with Charles Nilon at the University of Missouri-Columbia, UrBioNet: A Global Network for Urban Biodiversity Research and Practice. Dr. Aronson's research focuses on the patterns and ecological, environmental, and social drivers of biodiversity in urban landscapes, in particular to understand community assembly and evolutionary ecology in cities and suburbs at local, regional, and global scales. She also studies best-management practices and planning for biodiversity in cities. Dr. Aronson has used the results from her research to direct decisions for restoration and management of degraded habitats, such as wetlands and woodlands in New York, New Jersey, Minnesota, and Iowa. Finally, she has taught at the undergraduate and graduate levels at Rutgers University, Luther College, and Hofstra University.

Joseph Paulin headshot.

Joseph B. Paulin
Land Manager

Joseph B Paulin is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Graduate Program in Ecology & Evolution at Rutgers University. His research focuses on the human dimensions of conservation science, policy and wildlife management. Joe has worked with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, Rutgers Cooperative Extension, the State University of New York Research Foundation, and Conservation International and Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust as a Peace Corps Volunteer. He has lived and worked with communities on conservation projects in the remote marine and forest protected areas of American Samoa, Hawaiʻi, Madagascar and the Philippines to the urban, agricultural, public and private lands of New Jersey. He has hands-on research experience with the American black bear, Nile crocodile, and Madagascar big-head turtle.

Max R. Piana headshot.

Max R. Piana
Past Land Manager and Research Scientist

Max Piana is an urban ecologist and restoration ecologist who works at the interface of science and design. As a PhD student in the Ecology & Evolution program at Rutgers University, Max's research focuses on plant community dynamics in urban ecosystems that range in human impact, as well as the potential design and management management strategies for these urban natural areas. From remnant forest fragments to green infrastructure, he is interested in the ecological function and successional trajectories of these systems, and how we may facilitate and sustain their ecological and social services over time. As land manager at the HMF Center, Max oversees stewardship activities and provides ground support and supervision for all research activities. In addition to work at the HMF Center, Max is a member of the Center for Urban Restoration Ecology and a Center for Resilient Landscapes Fellow.

Steven Handel headshot.

Dr. Steven N. Handel
Past Director

Steven Handel studies the potential to restore native plant communities, adding sustainable ecological services, biodiversity, and amenities to the landscape. He has explored pollination, seed dispersal, population growth, ecological genetics, and most recently, problems of urban and heavily degraded lands. Working with both biologists and landscape designers, he is improving our understanding of restoration protocols and applying this knowledge to public projects and to environmental initiatives. As Director of the HMF Center Dr. Handel has overseen the construction of a deer conservation fence and implementation of multiple long-term research initiatives aimed at tracking plant community responses to land-use and environmental change.

He is currently Distinguished Professor of Ecology and Evolution at Rutgers University. Previously, he was a biology professor and director of the Marsh Botanic Garden at Yale University. He is also Director of the Center for Urban Restoration Ecology, an initiative of Rutgers, dedicated to teaching graduate students and professionals, and conducting research on rebuilding and improving urban native habitats. In 2006, he also was awarded an appointment as Adjunct Professor of Ecology at the Univ. of California, Irvine. He was Visiting Professor of Ecology at Stockholm Univ., Sweden, in 2009, and at Harvard Univ.'s Graduate School of Design in 2012.