Deborah Goldberg

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Deborah Goldberg

Elzada U. Clover Collegiate Professor
Associate Chair for Research and Facilities

Office Location(s): 2003 / 1056 Kraus Natural Science Building
Phone: 734.763.1732
Fax: 734.763.0544
View Curriculum Vitae

  • Fields of Study
    • Community ecology and plant ecology
  • About

    Academic background

    Deborah Goldberg received her B.A. from Barnard College in 1975 and her Ph.D. from the University of Arizona in 1980, was a postdoctoral fellow at the Kellogg Biological Station of Michigan State University from 1980-1983, and has been on the faculty at the University of Michigan since 1983. She is currently professor and chair of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and served as the interim director of the University Herbarium in 2002-3. She has also held appointments as a visiting faculty member at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the University of New Mexico, and the Blaustein Institute for Desert Research at Ben Gurion University in Israel. She has served or is serving on the editorial boards of Ecology and Ecological Monographs, the American Naturalist, American Midland Naturalist, Journal of Vegetation Science, Conservation Ecology, and Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics, as well as the Advisory Council of the International Association of Vegetation Science and the Science Advisory Board of the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis.

    Research interests

    My research investigates the processes that underlie patterns in plant community dynamics, structure, and function, combining experiments in the field, mesocosms, and greenhouse, field surveys at scales from centimeters to kilometers, and modeling to integrate results across approaches and scales. In many cases, we use invasive species as model systems to investigate basic questions in community and ecosystem ecology. Current projects include studying the relative importance of different pathways by which plants interact, with emphasis on “nontrophic” mechanisms that integrate ecosystem processes and community dynamics. We are finding that such mechanisms are very important in some communities and they can considerably modify expectations from classic community theory based solely on coupled consumer-resource interactions. A second important focus is the role of clonality in understanding plant communities. Almost all persistent herbaceous plant communities (grasslands, wetlands, tundra) are dominated by clonal organisms, yet clonality has been studied largely from the point of view of individual plants (e.g., foraging behavior) rather than population and community dynamics. Using wetland vegetation as model systems, we are using both mesocosm experiments and highly-parameterized simulation models of real communities to test hypotheses about the attributes of clonal plants that lead to success. A final set of projects involve mining large data sets from our own data or the literature to investigate questions about the relative roles of neutral and niche processes in community dynamics and how these processes can be combined and integrated.


    I currently teach Community Ecology (EEB 497) together with Earl Werner. This course requires a previous class in ecology and explores both theoretical and empirical work in community ecology. Classes are divided into about half lectures and half student-led discussion of the primary literature. Grades are based on discussion participation and biweekly critical essays on lecture material and readings.

    I also teach a 300-level course on research skills in ecology and evolutionary biology. This course is aimed at undergraduates in the EEB concentration and will seek to prepare them to conduct independent research, which is a requirement of the concentration, although others are welcome. Topics include development of hypotheses, designing observations and experiments and statistical analyses to test those hypotheses, proposal writing, and presentation skills.

    I also organize a weekly Plant Ecology Discussion Group (known as PEDG or "pedagogue") for graduate and undergraduate students interested in all aspects of plant ecology. The group enjoys frequent forays into microbial ecology and theoretical community ecology as well.

  • Education
    • Ph.D., Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona, 1980
  • Research Areas of Interest
    • Community ecology and plant ecology
  • Graduate students
    • Serge Farinas and John Guittar
  • Postdoctoral fellows
    • Joseph Martina, Ai Wen, Kenneth Elgersma