Angelica Patterson


Research Interests

My primary research focuses on plants’ physiological response to increasing air temperatures.  Most of my work is conducted in the Hudson Highlands Region of New York State, where proximate causes of climate change, such as insect outbreaks, severe droughts, and environmental disturbances such as forest clearings have resulted in the mortality of dominant tree species (oaks), impacting long-term biomass, carbon dynamics, and carbon storage capacity in northeastern forests.  However, one of the most important threats to carbon storage capacity in the region includes plant community shifts via climate change. 

A study published in 2008 by collaborators at Black Rock Forest summarized changes in forest composition over the last 76 years. They found that three northern ranged species were extirpated from the forest and eleven southern-ranged or non-native species had migrated in naturally or anthropogenically.  My goal is to understand the physiological mechanisms that may be driving species replacement as trees migrate to climatically suitable habitat.

Academic Background

I earned my B.S. in natural resources from Cornell University in 2003 where I studied plant-virus interactions with Dr. Alison “Sunny” Power in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.  Upon graduation, I interned with Dr. Nathaniel Holland from Rice University on the ecological and evolutionary relationship of desert cacti and moths.  In my early career, I began work as a research assistant and program manager at Barnard College from 2004-2011.  My involvement in Hilary Callahan’s Lab at Barnard allowed me to partake in research pertaining to plant trait plasticity and evolution.  During my years as a research assistant, I studied flowering time shifts in Arabidopsis thaliana under varying climate regimes.  I also examined the influence of mycorrhizal fungi colonization on root morphological traits in a greenhouse and field study.  Prior to beginning my PhD degree, Columbia alumna Nancy Falxa-Raymond and I completed a project on the effects of oak removal on nitrogen reductase activity in Black Birch, a plant-level physiological process that reduces soil nitrogen to amino acids and then proteins and nucleic acids.