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Biological Sciences

Robert Pal

Robert   Pal

Assistant Professor/Director of Restoration
CBB 218
Phone: (406) 496-4725
E-mail Robert Pal »


Biography

Robert Pal is an assistant professor and the director of restoration at Montana Tech (Department of Biological Sciences). He holds a master’s in agriculture and a PhD in Biology/Plant Ecology. His main research focus has always been the study of the flora and vegetation of disturbed habitats, including agricultural and urban areas. That led him to work on plant invasion and on ecological restoration. He was awarded by prestigious research grants such as Fulbright and Marie Curie fellowships. Robert is in charge of the Native Plant Restoration Project in Butte, and is also responsible for the Restoration Certificate at Montana Tech. Besides multiple restoration projects he is part of several national and international research projects mainly in biological invasions.


Research Interests

As a botanist and community ecologist he is fascinated by one of the fundamental questions in ecology: what interactions determine plant distribution and abundance.

Much of his research has involved large-scale field experiments to address how abiotic and biotic interactions influence community composition and diversity in anthropogenically disturbed habitats. Beside these taxonomically based approaches, he is particularly interested in how environmental conditions and human impacts influence functional organization of weed communities.

Another large part of his research focuses on invasion biology. Here he studies evolutionary changes in invasive plant species (e.g. Solidago gigantea), and novel plant-plant, plant-soil, plant-microorganisms and plant-herbivore interactions arising from new invasions on a transcontinental scale.

Ecology of anthropogenic habitats

  • Restoration Ecology
  • Ecology of arable fields, vineyards, oldfields and energy crops
  • Hyperaccumularion

Biological Invasions

  • Biogeography, phenotypic plasticity
  • Plant-plant, plant-soil, plant-microorganisms and plant-herbivore interactions
  • Competition, diversity loss
  • Biocontrol

Non-Research Academic Interests

Plant taxonomy and syntaxonomy

  • Flora and vegetation survey
  • Habitat and flora mapping
  • Building of phytosociological database
  • Weed communities (arable fields, vineyards and ruderal habitats)
  • Red lists

Selected Honors & Awards

  • 2005, 2008, 2011: ERASMUS teaching staff mobility at the University of Camerino, Italy
  • 2009: USA - FULBRIGHT Research Fellowship, The University of Montana, Division of Biological Sciences
  • 2012-2015: MARIE CURIE Research Fellowship at The University of Montana, and at the University of Pecs, Hungary

Career in Brief

  • Assistant Professor/Director of Restoration, Montana Tech, Department of Biological Sciences 2015-present
  • Assistant Professor, University of Pécs, Institute of Biology, Department of Ecology, 2013-2015
  • Assistant Professor, University of Pécs, Institute of Biology, Department of Plant Systematics and Geobotany, 2007-2013
  • Professor’s assistant, University of Pécs, Institute of Biology, Department of Plant Systematics and Geobotany, 2006-2007
  • Research assistant, Research Group of Biological Adaptation, Hungarian Academy of Sciences at the University of Pécs, 2003-2006
  • Ph.D. candidate, University of Pécs, Institute of Biology, Department of Botany, Doctoral School of Botany, 2000-2003

Courses Taught

  • Restoration I (2015-)
  • Restoration II (2016-
  • Restoration Seminar (2015-)
  • Discussions in Restoration (2015-)
  • Restoration Capstone (2016-)
  • Restoration Field Practicum (2016-)

Selected Publications

NAGY D.U., STRANCZINGER SZ., GODI A., WEISZ A., ROSCHE C., SUDA J., MARIANO M., PAL R.W. (2017): Does higher ploidy level increase the risk of invasion? A case study with two geo-cytotypes of Solidago gigantea Aiton (Asteraceae). Journal of Plant Ecology. DOI: 10.1093/jpe/rtx005

LIAO H., GURGEL P.C.S., PÁL R.W., HOOPER D., CALLAWAY R.M. (2016): Solidago gigantea plants from nonnative ranges compensate more in response to damage than plants from the native range. Ecology 97(9): 2355–2363.

PAL R.W., CHEN S.,·NAGY D.U., CALLAWAY R.M. (2015): Impacts of Solidago gigantea on other species at home and away. Biological Invasions 17: 3317-3325.

SHAH M. A, CALLAWAY R.M., SHAH T., HOUSEMAN G. R, PAL R.W., XIAO S., LUO W., ROSCHE C., RESHI Z. A, KHASA D.P., CHEN S. (2014): Conyza canadensis suppresses plant diversity in its nonnative ranges but not at home: a transcontinental comparison. New Phytologist 202(4): 1286-1296.

PAL R.W., PINKE G., BOTTA-DUKÁT Z., CAMPETELLA G., BARTHA S., KALOCSAI R., LENGYEL A. (2013): Can management intensity be more important than environmental factors? A case study along an extreme elevation gradient from Central Italian cereal fields. Plant Biosystems 147(2):343-353.

CALLAWAY R. M., WALLER L. P., DIACONU A., PAL R., COLLINS A. R., MUELLER-SCHAERER H., MARON J. L. (2011): Escape from competition: neighbors reduce Centaurea stoebe performance at home but not away. Ecology 92(12): 2208-2213.


Personal Interests

Robert is a passionate photographer. His photos can be viewed at https://www.flickr.com/photos/robertpal. He also enjoys hiking, skiing, and cooking.