Molly A. Cavaleri

Molly A. Cavaleri
"The wonder is that we can see these trees and not wonder more."
—Ralph Waldo Emerson


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  • Interim Associate Dean & Professor
  • Director of Graduate Studies
  • PhD, Ecology, Colorado State University
  • MS, Forestry, University of Minnesota
  • BS, Molecular Biology with Certificate in Environmental Studies, University of Wisconsin

Uncovering the secrets of forest canopies

I have always liked to ask big questions, but invariably get caught up in the details of “how things work” at the smaller scale. Ecophysiology is the perfect discipline for this kind of thinking, as it involves a bottom-up framework of inquiry. I study how trees work using fine-scale physiology measurements, and then extrapolate what I learn to the ecosystem in order to answer those big ecological questions within the context of global change.

Global change ecology is an ever-expanding field that offers the opportunity for both exciting discovery and practical application. Understanding how plants interact with their environment is imperative if we want to understand how ecosystems are responding to climate change, land use change, and invasive species. I explore the movement of both CO2 and water through forests, as well as tree canopy structure as it relates to physiological function.

In both classroom teaching and laboratory mentoring, I strive to create a nurturing, unintimidating learning environment that fosters curiosity about science, facilitates critical thinking, and encourages students to actively participate in their own education. I enjoy teaching classes in tree physiology and forest ecophysiology, with emphasis on hands-on learning of practical skills such as field data collection and analysis.

To follow me on twitter: @MollyCavaleri

To learn more about my Tropical Responses to Altered Climate Experiment (TRACE) in Puerto Rico, please visit:

Links of Interest

Areas of Expertise

  • Forest canopy structure and function
  • Forest response to global change
  • Carbon and water cycling through forests
  • Tree ecophysiology
  • Stable isotope ecology
  • Invasive tree species