• About ME

    I am a recent PhD graduate in tropical forest ecology with a broad interest in how the availability of limiting resources shapes the structure and function of forest ecosystems. I am particularly curious about how soil nutrient availability will influence the responses of tropical forests to global change scenarios, including rising temperatures, nitrogen deposition, and forest resilience to degradation.


    Insight is an intensive seven week training program in data science for recent PhD grads. For my Insight project, I am consulting for ezhome, a Bay Area gardening company, to predict the probability of customers adopting on demand gardening service based on characteristics of their home and web behavior. See the slides of my consultation presentation, or a blog post for more detail.


  • Wood WOrk: Uncovering FUnCTIONAL Diveristy in Tropical Wood

    Tropical forests store over 60% of global plant biomass, the majority of which is found in the woody stems of large trees. Consequently, estimates of tropical forest standing biomass and carbon turnover are extremely sensitive to variation in physical and chemical characteristics of wood in tropical tree species. My dissertation research shows that tree species vary dramatically in nutrient content and decay status and many woody traits co-vary with soil fertility across tropical forest landscapes. Below I highlight three discoveries from this work which clearly demonstrates that not all stems are created equal.

    My cousin Rob Heineman boring  a tree at Fortuna Forest Reserve

    Wood nutrient content varies enormously among tree species and forest sites in Panama

    Collaborators: Jim DallingBen Turner

    Key Findings:

    • We measured concentrations of soil-derived elements (Ca, K, Mg, N, & P) in the wood of 106 tree species in 10 forest sites contrasting in soil fertility
    • Wood P and cation concentrations ranged 40-fold across tree species.
    • Forest mean wood nutrients correlated with soil nutrient availability for P, Ca, K, and Mg.

    Read our paper in New Phytologist

    Photo credit: Dr. Ian Baillie

    Heart rot reduces aboveground biomass estimates in Bornean rainforests

    Collaborators: Sabrina Russo & Ian Baillie

    Key Findings:

    • We analyzed data from a logging inventory conducted in the 1970s which evaluated the volume of heart rot in Bornean trees harvested for timber
    • 10% of stem volume was in some stage of decay, although common tree taxa varied significantly in incidence of heart rot.
    • The frequency and severity of heart rot decreased significantly with soil nutrient availability across landscapes.

    Read our paper in Biogeosciences

    Tropical saplings use phosphorus from wood storage reserves in response to experimental stress

    Collaborators: Jim Dalling

    Key Findings:

    •  We performed a field-based sapling defoliation experiment to determine if tree wood nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) stores could be remobilized when trees are forced to create new leaves.
    • Saplings on low fertility soils depleted wood P reserves by 20% on average to facilitate leaf replacement
    • Tropical stems use mobile P reserves to mitigate nutrient limitation

    See our poster presented at American Geophysical Union 2015

  • Toward a better Understanding of Tropical MONtane Forests

    Tropical montane forests contain over half of the species in the tropics despite occupying only 10% of the land area. Land-use change and rising global temperatures are increasing the altitude of the cloud formation tropical mountains, which has led to widespread migrations and extinctions in species adapted to cloud immersion. Since 2014, I have been involved with CloudNET research network, an organization funded by NSF to encourage synthetic study of cloud-affected tropical forests. Through CloudNET, I have co-authored a review paper about nutrient limitation in tropical forests and led a meta-analysis to determine the importance of cloud inputs on tropical forest composition and structure.

    Meta Analysis: Do fog precipitation inputs influence the distribution of trees on tropical mountains? 

    Collaborators: Z. Cater Berry, Han Tseng, Rebecca Ostertag, Patrick Martin

    Objectives: Difficulty in quantifying variation in fog moisture inputs among sites has prevented ecologists from assessing the role fog inputs likely play in the formation of these ecosystems. Due to advancements in remote sensing based models such as WaterWorld, global hydrological maps now provide reliable estimates of fog inputs at the one-hectare scale. Our objective is to evaluate if model-derived fog metrics predict differences among forests sites in species composition and forest structure aside from what can be predicted by elevation alone.


    Highlighted Skill: I helped organize the collection of tropical montane plot data from 300 forest plots from over 20 tropical mountain ranges. I am in the process of combining these diverse data assets into a database and data portal that can be used by the tropical forest community.


    We will present this study at Ecological Society of America Meeting in Fort Lauderdale in August 2016!


    Literature Review: The role of soil nutrients in the tropical montane forest syndrome.

    Collaborators: Jim Dalling, Rebecca Ostertag, Grizelle Gonzalez

    Synthesis: Tropical montane forests (TMF) are associated with a widely observed suite of characteristics encompassing forest structure, plant traits and biogeochemistry. With respect to nutrient relations, montane forests are characterized by slow decomposition of organic matter, high investment in below-ground biomass and poor litter quality, relative to tropical lowland forests. However, within TMF there is considerable variation in substrate age, parent material,

    disturbance and species composition. We emphasize that many TMFs are likely to be co-limited by multiple nutrients, and that feedback among soil properties, species traits, and microbial communities drive forest productivity and soil carbon storage.


    Highlighted Skill: I contributed a literature review of multiple nutrient limitation in montane forests including a synthesis of tropical forest nutrient addition experiments.


    Read our paper in Journal of Tropical Ecology.


  • R Programming VIGNETTES

    R is a statistical software package that I use for data processing and analysis

    Determining tree species distributions with rgbif

    The world of trees at your finger tips

    The Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) is a free database of plant occurrence records from herbaria and biological studies for over 1,000,000 species. This information can be used to determine the distributions of tree species over climatic and geographic gradients. The GBIF dataset can be accessed through an R package called rgbif.


    I used rgbif to determine the elevational ranges of the tree species present at my lower montane field sites. Here is my vignette.

    Spatial analysis in R

    Almost all ecological processes are adherent to Tobler's first rule of geography: "Everything is related, but nearer things are more related than distant things."


    Through spatial analysis classes I have learned a variety of spatial analysis skills that have been applied to my research. Here is my spatial analysis vignette

  • Making FUN Maps

    Tools for reluctant cartographers

    Using MapBox to make attractive maps of research sites

    Making maps for a study location can be frustrating because many base maps are covered with irrelevant labels, shapes, and attributes. MapBox Studio is a useful tool that allows you to add data from your site directly to a variety of customizable and attractive high resolution basemaps. Try it on the MapBox tutorial here. Or check out the tutorial I made for my lab group (coming soon).

    Creating interactive maps through Leaflet

    Making maps can be difficult if different scales are interesting to different people. Interactive maps allow user to view the map at the scale most relevant to them. Leaflet mapping package can be integrated with Shiny, an interactive app platform, to build interactive maps in R (see tutorial).


    Click on the map on the left to be redirected to an interactive map of the forest sties in the CloudNET reasearch network.



  • Blog

    June 22, 2016
    Ezhome: Lawncare On-Demand For better or worse, your home is judged by your lawn. Overgrown grass and dandelion outbreaks are a common source of neighborly unrest, yet finding time to rake, weed, or hire out the neighbor kids to do the chores for you is a challenge. For homeowners in Silicon...
    Shortly before starting this website, I stumbled upon a blog that I started in two years ago to track the progress of my last field season in Panama. I wrote passages consistently for about a month until I became too stressed to devote any attention to the blogosphere. Now, as I write the...
    February 24, 2016
    I met my best friend Mari Pesek in my first biology class in college. However, on our list of shared interests, biology trailed rather distantly behind karaoke, Czech festivals, and that time we saw Tom Cruise while no one else was looking. Mari had our first real biology adventure together after...
    More Posts
  • Publications

    And here are my full CV and resume.


    Heineman, K. D., Turner, B. L., and J W. Dalling. In prep. The frequency of multi-stemmed trees correlates with soil phosphorus availability and tree species phosphorus allocation in Panamanian tropical forests.


    Heineman, K. D., Turner, B. L., and J W. Dalling. 2016. Variation in wood nutrients along a tropical soil fertility gradient. New Phytologist. DOI: 10.1111/nph.13904. pdf


    Dalling, J. W., Heineman, K. D., Lopez, O. R., Wright, S. J., and B. L. Turner. 2016. Nutrient availability in tropical rain forests: the paradigm of phosphorus limitation. Book Chapter In: Tropical tree physiology: adaptations and responses in a changing environment. Ed. Goldstein, G.; Santiago, L. pdf


    Dalling, J. W., Heineman, K. D., Gonzalez, G., and R. Ostertag. 2015. Nutrient relations in tropical montane forests: synthesis and future directions. Journal of Tropical Ecology. DOI: 10.1017/S0266467415000619. pdf


    Heineman, K. D., Russo, S. E., Baillie, I. C., et al., 2015. Evaluation of stem rot in 339 Bornean tree species: implications of size, taxonomy, and soil-related variation for aboveground biomass estimates. Biogeosciences, 12, 1-17. pdf


    Heineman, K. D., Caballero, P., Morris, A., Velasquez, C., Serrano, K., Ramos, N., Gonzalez, J., Mayorga, L., Corre, M. D., and J. W. Dalling. 2015. Variation in canopy litterfall along a precipitation and soil fertility gradient in a Panamanian lower montane forest. Biotropica, 47, 300-309. pdf


    Heineman, K. D., Jensen, E., Shapland, A., Bogenrief, B., Tan, S., Rebarber, R., and S. E. Russo, 2011. The effects of belowground resources on aboveground allometric growth in Bornean tree species. Forest Ecology and Management, 261, 1820-1832. pdf

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