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Dr. Nathan Lemoine

Dr. Nathan Lemoine
Dr. Nathan LemoineMarquette University

Wehr Life Sciences, 412

MilwaukeeWI53201United States of America
(414) 288-1482Lemoine Lab Website

Assistant Professor

Trophic Ecology/Quantitative Ecology

Adjunct Curator-Milwaukee Public Museum



B.S., 2006, University of Richmond, Richmond, VA

Ph.D., 2015, Florida International University, Miami, FL

Post-doctoral Fellow, 2015-2019, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO

Research Interests

Climate Warming and Plant-Herbivore Interactions 

Climate Warming and Plant-Herbivore InteractionsI use a combination of laboratory experiments, field experiments, and theoretical modeling to understand the ecological and evolutionary ramifications of climate warming on plant and insect communities.

My work to date has demonstrated that warming increases insect metabolic rates, stimulating herbivory. However, herbivore nitrogen limitation also strengthens with temperature. As a result, warming can sometimes be beneficial for insects on high nitrogen plants or deleterious for insects on low nitrogen plants. There is therefore substantial variability in whether warming will increase or decrease insect herbivory and population growth rates.

These patterns are complicated by two factors. First, warming can also reduce plant nutrient concentrations on their own, further strengthening herbivore nutrient limitation. The increase in nutrient limitation can actually stabilize herbivore population dynamics at high temperatures by eliminating ‘boom and bust’ population cycles. However, including predation risk completely reverses these patterns. Herbivores are forced to forage more widely to meet their nutritional requirements and experience higher mortality rates due to increased exposure to predators.

Thus, the impacts of warming on plant-herbivore interactions are highly idiosyncratic and require considering the entire community of plants, herbivores, and predators.

Drought, Herbivory, and Ecosystem Function 

Drought, Herbivory, and Ecosystem Function I recently received an NSF award to study the role of insect herbivores in North American grasslands, and how extreme drought strengthens or weaken insect contributions to biogeochemical cycling.

Surprisingly, we don’t have a firm grasp on whether insects appreciably affect primary production in grasslands. Even more surprisingly, it appears that insects can either decrease grassland production via consumption or increase grassland production by stimulating nutrient cycling. No study has yet conducted a long-term, cross-site examination of the effects of insects on grasslands. The first part of this project is to measure grassland primary production and nutrient cycling in the absence and presence of grasshoppers across multiple grassland sites that vary in community composition and climate. This study will be replicated for 3 -5 years to understand the temporal variability in insect herbivory.

Drought can alter insect herbivory by decreasing grasshopper abundances, decreasing plant water content, or increasing plant nutritional content. The second part of this study will use rainout shelters to assess how extreme drought affects insect control of grassland primary production and nutrient cycling.

Ecophysiology, Global Change, and Ecosystem Function 

Ecophysiology, Global Change, and Ecosystem Function I combine plant ecophysiological experiments with satellite data to understand the constraints of climate on plant functional types (C3 or C4 grasses) and how climate dictates the sensitivity of grasslands to drought.

C4 grasses typically exist in hotter, more arid ecosystems than C3 grasses. Furthermore, C3 grass physiology is extremely drought sensitive due to their photosynthetic pathway. However, the paradox is that C4 grasslands, especially arid grasslands, are extremely drought sensitive compared to C3 grasslands. Physiology experiments have demonstrated that C4 grasses do tolerate drought better. However, placing C4 grass physiology into environmental context using satellite estimates of soil moisture demonstrate that C4 grasses often exist closer to their physiological threshold than C3 grasses. As a result, C4 grasslands typically experience more severe declines in production due to drought than do C3 grasslands.

Selected Publications

Lemoine NP (2019) Moving beyond flat priors: how and why to choose informative priors in Bayesian analyses. Oikos 128:912-928

Lemoine NP (2019) Considering the effects of temperature x nutrient interactions on the thermal response curve of carrying capacity. Ecology 100:e02599

Lemoine NP, Smith MD (2019) Drought and herbivores modify nutrient cycling in the semi-arid shortgrass steppe. Plant Ecology 220:227-239

Lemoine NP, Griffin-Nolan RJ, Lock AD, Knapp AK (2018) Drought timing, not previous exposure to drought, determines sensitivity of two shortgrass species to water stress. Oecologia 188:965-975

Lemoine NP (2017) Predation risk reverses the potential effects of warming on plant-herbivore interactions by altering the relative strengths of trait- and density-mediated interactions. The American Naturalist 190:337-349

Lemoine NP, Dietrich JD, Smith MD (2017) Climatic and environmental constraints on three aspects of flowering in three dominant tallgrass species. Functional Ecology 31:1894-1902

Lemoine NP, Doublet D, Salminen, J-P, Burkepile DE, Parker JD (2017) Responses of plant phenology, growth, defense, and reproduction to interactive effects of warming and insect herbivory. Ecology 98:1817-1828


Predicting the effects of extreme drought on insect herbivore control of grassland ecosystem function – National Science Foundation


Dr. Lemoine is currently accepting new Ph.D. students into his lab

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Department of Biological Sciences

Wehr Life Sciences, 109
1428 W. Clybourn St.
Milwaukee, WI 53233

(414) 288-7355

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