About us

The FoSTER project is located within the beautiful Cuyahoga Valley National Park and is a collaborative restoration effort between several ecological research labs at Kent State University and the U.S. National Park Service.


Dr. Chris Blackwood

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We study ecology with a focus on organisms and processes that occur in soil, where much of the diversity on Earth is hidden right beneath our feet.  Our work addresses two big sets of questions:

  • Life in the soil is fascinating – fungi, bacteria, and tiny invertebrate animals grow by the billions per handful, while roots of different plants comingle and interact with the resident microbes in search of nutrients and water.  What governs the assembly of species into communities?  How do plant-microbe-soil interactions affect conservation of plant diversity?  What role does human management play in community assembly?
  • The combined biological activity in soil is responsible for an array of critical ecosystem processes (nutrient cycling, carbon storage, and release of greenhouse gases).  How are these processes affected by plant and microbial communities, soil properties, and human ecosystem management?


Dr. Christie Bahlai

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In the Bahlai lab, we’re interested in how we measure restoration, and we’re looking at this using the lens of insect communities, with the help of citizen scientist volunteers. Led by PhD student Cheyan Pace, we’re developing several projects:

  • Spot the Ladybug A citizen science effort to understand the patterns in diversity in this group of insects at our restored sites in the park
  • The Great CVNP Beetle Blitz! We will conduct exhaustive sampling of beetle communities in restored and adjacent intact forest sites, to understand how diversity and function change during restoration
  • The Biodiversity Park Health Map Using records contributed by citizen scientists to iNaturalist, we will use diversity patterns to map the ecosystem services and functions and target future restoration efforts



Dr. Anne Jefferson

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The Watershed Hydrology Lab focuses on watershed hydrology and geomorphology in human-altered landscapes. Current projects focus on stormwater management, urban streams, abandoned mine lands, and spatial heterogeneity in water sources. Much of my research is field-based, but my group also makes use of stable isotope analyses, geographic information systems (GIS), and hydrologic modeling. Many recent projects have involved water quality and aquatic ecology components, typically collaborative in nature. Checkout one of our most recent MS Theses by Catherine Terese Ruhm.



Chris Davis

Visit CVNP’s website

Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP) is an American national park along the Cuyahoga River between Cleveland and Akron in Northeast Ohio USA. CVNP is unique in its location at the proximity of two large urban areas. The 32,572-acre park is managed by the National Park Service, in addition to areas independently managed as private parks or public metroparks.