Research Overview

How does genetic diversity influence biological invasions?

Many genetic traits make it possible for non-native plants to invade new environments. Knowledge of where invasive genotypes originate, how they are distributed, and how genetic diversity helps or hinders invasive species will lead to better understanding and management of biological invasions.

How do soil microbial communities influence the recovery of degraded tropical landscapes?

Soil microbes play critically important roles in ecosystem processes and the maintenance of forest diversity. Ongoing projects focus on variability in community structure of bacteria, archaea, and fungi across space and habitats using metagenomic and rRNA surveys. We work in natural forests, plantations, and agricultural landscapes to assess how land use change influences soil microbial communities and how these communities influence forest successional processes.

How can DNA inform biodiversity conservation?

Analysis of DNA provides genetic, geographic and sometimes historical answers to biological questions. We work with a variety of tissues and environmental samples to tell complex stories about the distribution of species, their spread, and evolutionary histories. Using a variety of genetic and genomic techniques we explore a wide range of topics, such as genetic diversity in endangered species, the geographic origins of invaders, the influence of climate on genetic diversity, and the evolution of disease spreading parasites.


2002 Ph.D. Yale University, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

1996 M.F.S. Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies

1992 B.A. Wellesley College, Biological Sciences

Selected Publications

Saltonstall, K., A.M. Lambert, and N. Rice.  2016.  What Happens in Vegas, Better Stay in Vegas: Phragmites australis Hybrids in the Las Vegas Wash.  Biological Invasions 2463-2474 DOI 10.1007/s10530-016-1167-5

Aiello, A, K. Saltonstall, and V. Young.  2016.  Brachyplatys vahlii, an introduced bug from Asia: first report in the Western Hemisphere (Hemiptera: Plataspidae: Brachyplatidinae).  BioInvasions Records 5: 7-12.  DOI:

Sellers,A,J. K. Saltonstall, and T.M. Davidson.  2015. The introduced alga Kappaphycus alvarezii in abandoned cultivation sites in Bocas del Toro, Panama.  Bioinvasions Records 4(1): 1-7. doi:

Kelehear,, C., K. Saltonstall, and M.E. Torchin. 2014. An introduced pentastomid parasite (Raillietiella frenata) infects native cane toads (Rhinella marina) in Panama.  Parasitology DOI:

Bonnett, G.D., J.N.S. Kushner, and K. Saltonstall.  2014.  The reproductive biology of Saccharum spontaneum L.: implications for management of this invasive weed in Panama.  NeoBiota 20: 61–79. doi: 10.3897/neobiota.20.6163

Saltonstall, K. H.E. Castilloand B. Blossey.  2014.  Confirmed field hybridization of native and introduced Phragmites australis (Poaceae) in North America. American Journal of Botany 101(1): 1–5.  doi:10.3732/ajb.1300298

Saltonstall, K. and Bonnett, G.D.  2012.  Fire promotes growth and reproduction of Saccharum spontaneum (L.) in Panama.  Biological Invasions 14: 2479-2488.  doi: 10.007/s10530-012-0245-6

Saltonstall, K., P.M. Peterson, and R. Soreng.  2004.  Recognition of Phragmites australis subsp. americanus (Poaceae: Arundinoideae) in North America: evidence from morphological and genetic analyses.  Sida 21(2): 683-692.

Saltonstall, K.  2002. Cryptic invasion of a non-native genotype of the common reed, Phragmites australis, into North America.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 99(4): 2445-2449.  www.pnas.org_cgi_doi_10.1073_pnas.032477999

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