Major adviser: Louise Egerton-Warburton, PhD

Research Interests: Invasion biology, restoration ecology, soil microbial ecology, landscape ecology

Current Research

Restoration is a method of biological conservation in urban areas where ecosystems are subject to a suite of natural and anthropogenic disturbances. Restoration can also serve as an experimental method to investigate ecological processes. By attempting to reassemble components of an ecosystem, we learn how organisms interact with other organisms, their environment and human activities. In practice, restoration often seeks to restore the entire ecosystem, including not only native organisms, but also ecological processes and biotic interactions for long term sustainability. However, little is known about how the practice of restoration, typically an aboveground activity, influences key ecosystem processes that often occur belowground. My research investigates the impacts of biological invasion and restoration on above and belowground interactions. This work will contribute to basic ecological knowledge about the temperate woodlands, globally rare tallgrass prairie ecosystems, and the processes and interactions between plant and soil communities that determine biological diversity in the Midwest.


B. V. Iannone III, L. G. Umek, L. Heneghan, and D. H. Wise. 2013. Amending soil with mulched European buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica) does not reduce reinvasion. Ecological Restoration 31: 264-273.

Iannone, B. V., III, L. G. Umek, D. H. Wise, and L. Heneghan. 2012. A simple, safe, and effective sampling technique for investigating earthworm communities in woodland soils: implications for citizen science. Natural Areas Journal 32(3):500-509.

Madeja, G., L. Umek, and K. Havens. 2012. Differences in Seed Set and Fill of Cultivars of Miscanthus Grown in USDA Cold Hardiness Zone 5 and Their Potential for Invasiveness Source: Journal of Environmental Horticulture 30(1):42-50.

Heneghan L., C. Mulvaney, K. Ross, L. Umek, C. Watkins, L. M. Westphal, D. H. Wise. 2012. Lessons Learned from Chicago Wilderness—Implementing and Sustaining Conservation Management in an Urban Setting. Diversity 4(1):74-93.

Heneghan, L., L. Umek, B. Bernau, K. Grady, J. Iatropulos, D. Jabon and M. Workman. 2008. Ecological research can augment restoration practice in urban areas degraded by invasive species—examples from Chicago Wilderness. Urban Ecosystems, 12(1): 63-77. Special Issue on Soils.

Heneghan, L., F. R. Fatemi, L. Umek, K. A. Fagen, K. Grady and M. Workman. 2006. The invasive shrub European buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica, L.) alters soil properties in Midwestern U.S. woodlands. Applied Soil Ecology 32: 142-148.

Saunders, C., Umek, L., L.Westphal and Willard, B. 2006. A Social Science Research Agenda for Chicago Wilderness. Chicago Wilderness member publication.

Heneghan, L. and L. Umek. 2005. Above, Below and Beyond - Understanding and Contextualizing the Role of People in Urban Ecosystems. Scholarship with a Mission: Externally Funded Research in the DePaul University College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Craven D, M Thakur, E Cameron, L Frelich, R Beausejour, R Blair, B Blossey, J Burtis, A Choi, T Fahey, N Fisichelli, K Gibson, T Handa, K Hopfenspberger, S Loss, V Nuzzo, J Maerz,  T Sackett, B Scharenboch, S Smith, M Vellend, L Umek, and N Eisenhauer. The unseen invaders: introduced earthworms as drivers of change in plant communities in North American forests (a meta-analysis). Global Change Biology, in press.

Book Chapters

L. Heneghan, C. Mulvaney, K. Ross, S. Stewart, L. Umek, C. Watkins, A. Wali,  L. M. Westphal, and D. H. Wise. 2013. Local assessment: from wild Chicago to Chicago Wilderness - Chicago’s ecological setting and recent efforts to protect and restore nature in the region.  In Urbanization, biodiversity and ecosystem services: challenges and opportunities: a global assessment. Edited by T. Elmqvist, M. Fragkias, J. Goodness, B. Guneralp, P. McDonald, S. Parnell, M. Schewenius, M. Sendstad, K. Seto, C. Wilkinson. Open Access: Springer. pg 337-354.

Select Presentations

Umek, L. 2013. A celebration of Chicago's biodiversity: How many species in our region? One of nine panelists. Chicago, IL.

Umek, L., L. Heneghan and D. Wise. 2013. The Chicago Wilderness Land Management Research Program, a/k/a 100 Sites for 100 Years: Developing an urban long-term restoration research program. Society for Ecological Restoration, Midwest Great Lakes Chapter Annual Meeting, Wooster, OH.

Umek, L and L. Heneghan. 2011. Restoration of buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica) invaded areas using soil amendments.Society for Ecological Restoration Annual Meeting, Merida, Mexico.

Umek, L. 2010. Field Study: Restoration of Buckthorn Invaded Woodlands Using Soil Ecology and Soil Amendments. Invasive Plant Management Workshop, Chicago Botanic Garden, Glencoe, IL. Video available here.

Umek, L and L. Heneghan. 2009. Integrating soil ecological knowledge into restoration practice: A case study for restoration following invasion by European buckthorn. Ecological Society of America International Meeting in Albuquerque, NM.

Publishing Contributions

Honors and Awards

  • 2013-2015 Presidential Fellowship, Northwestern University
  • 2013 Student Research Award, First Place, Illinois Environmental Professionals Association
  • 2012 Plant Biology and Conservation Research Award
  • 2011-2012  Dr. John N. Nicholson Fellowship
  • 2011  Plant Biology and Conservation Travel Award
  • 2010  EPA Conservation and Native Landscaping Award. Awarded for restoration work on Whippoorwill Farm project, transforming a buckthorn thicket into a living laboratory to find the effective restoration strategies
  • 2007  Winnetka Garden Club Graduate Research Grant
  • 2005-2007  Lake Forest Openlands Association Graduate Fellowship

Academic Service