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Dr. Rachel Collins


Department: Biology
Office: 214 Life Science




B.S., Wildlife and Fisheries Managment, North Carolina State University
M.S., Department of Zoology, Miami University
Ph.D., Program in Ecology and Evolution in the Biology Department, University of Pittsburgh


Research & Teaching Interests

As a community ecologist, I am interested in how organisms in forests interact with each other and with the environment to affect ecosystem function (e.g., species diversity, productivity, invasibility, and other dynamics). I am especially interested in species diversity.  Many factors contribute to the number of species in an area and the number of species in an area impact ecosystem functions. You may have noticed that there seems to be some circularity in my description.  Although in academic writing, one might try to avoid circular arguments, understanding this circular nature of species diversity is key to understanding natural systems.  And it is this interplay of the causes and consequences of species diversity that I am most interested in exploring in my research lab and classes. 

Recent Publications

Collins, R.J., C. A. Copenheaver, J.N. Barney, and P.J. Radtke. 2020. Using Invasional Meltdown Theory to Understand Patterns of Invasive Richness and Abundance in Forests of the Northeastern USA.  Natural Areas Journal.40: 336-344

Wise, M and R. Collins. 2020.  Using algal microcosms in introductory biology lab I: The influence of nutrient levels on the biodiversity of an ecological community.  Bioscene. 46(2): 30-39

Wise, M and R. Collins.  2020.  Using algal microcosms in introductory biology lab.II: The influence of biodiversity on ecosystem productivity.  Bioscene. 46(2): 40-49.

Collins, R. and C. Copenheaver.  2019.  Lessons learned from the loss of American chestnut.  Virginia Forests. Spring 2019.  Pages 16-18.

Collins, R.J., C.A. Copenheaver, M.E. Kester, E.J. Barker, and K.G. DeBose.  2018.  American chestnut: Re-examining the historical attributes of a lost tree.  Journal of Forestry. 113: 68-75

Collins, Rachel, Jerald Dosch, Kristine HopfenspergerKaren Kuers, Erin Lindquist, Charles McClaugherty, and Tim Menzel 2016.  EREN PFPP Species Composition Curriculum Module with Data.  QUBES.


Available as a Media resource for the following topics


plant and animal ecology

restoration ecology

invasive species

how ecosystems work

Roanoke College Environment Center



Willing to speak to professional, social or civic groups on

Value of biodiversity

How ecosystems work

Smooth coneflower (Echinacea laevigata) conservation

Invasive species ecology and management

Roanoke College Environment Center restoration projects and environmental literacy