T. Michael Anderson



Associate Professor of Biology

B.S. Zoology, Oregon State University (1997)
Ph.D. Biology, Syracuse University (2004)
049 Winston Hall

(336) 758-5974

Areas of Interest

Savanna & Grassland Ecology, Plant Ecology, Large Herbivore Ecology, Biodiversity and Ecosystem Function, Biogeochemistry, Phylogenetic Community Assembly


My research focuses on the ecology and conservation of grassland and savannas ecosystems. In particular, I am interested in understanding the unique co-evolution that has occurred between plants and large herbivores in African savannas and the consequences of these interactions for ecosystem processes across large scales. The majority of my research is conducted in the Serengeti Ecosystem of East Africa, one of the last remaining fully functional grazing ecosystems, home to earth’s largest free-ranging ungulate herds and one of the best studied ecosystems in the paleotropics.

Recent and current projects include: (1) multivariate investigations of how landscape features, plant forage quality and risk of predation interact to determine the spatial distribution of large herbivore resident habitats; (2) understanding how phylogenetic relatedness among plant species contributes to the assembly of communities across ecological gradients; (3) seeking an understanding of factors that maintain savanna heterogeneity and plant species diversity across spatial scales; (4) investigations of the effects of plants and herbivores on nutrient cycling; (5) understanding the factors that determine the dynamics and stability of tree-grass coexistence in savannas across continents.

Selected Publications (2014 – present)

Anderson, T.M., T. Morrison, D. Rugemalila and R.M. Holdo. 2014. Compositional decoupling of savanna canopy and understory tree communities in Serengeti. In Press, Journal of Vegetation Science

Holdo, R.M., T.M. Anderson and T. Morrison. 2014. Precipitation, fire and shifting demographic bottlenecks in Serengeti tree populations. In press, Landscape Ecology.

Eby, S.L., T.M. Anderson, E.P. Mayemba and M.E. Ritchie. 2014. The effect of fire on mammalian herbivores: the role of body size and vegetation characteristics. In press, The Journal of Animal Ecology DOI: 10.1111/1365-2656.12221.

Arnold, S.G., T.M. Anderson and R.M. Holdo. 2014. Edaphic, nutritive, and species assemblage differences between hotspots and matrix vegetation: two African case studies. Biotropica 46:387–394.

Borer, E.T., E.W. Seabloom, D.S. Gruner, W.S. Harpole, H. Hillebrand, E.M. Lind, P.B. Adler, J. Alberti, T.M. Anderson, J.D. Bakker, L. Biederman, D. Blumenthal, C.S. Brown, L.A. Brudvig, Y.M. Buckley, M. Cadotte, C. Chu, E.E. Cleland, M.J. Crawley, P. Daleo, E.I. Damschen, K.F. Davies, N.M. DeCrappeo, G. Du, J. Firn, Y. Hautier, R.W. Heckman, A. Hector, J. HilleRisLambers, O. Iribarne, J.A. Klein, J.M.H. Knops, K.J. La Pierre, A.D.B. Leakey, W. Li, A.S. MacDougall, R.L. McCulley, B.A. Melbourne, C.E. Mitchell, J.L. Moore, B. Mortensen, L.R. O’Halloran, J.L. Orrock, J. Pascual, S.M. Prober, D.A. Pyke, A.C. Risch, M. Schuetz, M.D. Smith, C.J. Stevens, L.L. Sullivan, R.J. Williams, P.D. Wragg, J.P. Wright & L.H. Yang. 2014. Herbivores and nutrients control grassland plant diversity via light limitation. Nature 508:517–520.

Lehmann, C., T.M. Anderson, M. Sankaran, S.I. Higgins, S. Archibald, W.A. Hoffmann, N.P. Hanan, R.J. Williams, R. Fensham, J. Felfili, L. Hutley, J. Ratnam, J. San Jose, R. Montes, D. Franklin, J. Russell-Smith, C.M. Ryan, G. Durigan, P. Hiernaux, R. Haidar, D.M.J.S. Bowman and W.J. Bond. 2014. Savanna vegetation-fire-climate relationships differ among continents. Science 343: 548-552.

Anderson, T.M., M. Schütz and A. Risch. 2014. Endozoochorous seed dispersal and the evolution of germination strategies in Serengeti plants. Journal of Vegetation Science, 25:636-647.

Griffith, D.M., and T.M. Anderson. 2013. Responses of African grasses in the genus Sporobolus to defoliation and sodium stress: tradeoffs, cross-tolerance, or independent responses? Plants 2:712-725.

Seabloom, E. et al. 2013. Dominance by invasive species is the real embarrassment of richness: invasion in grassland ecosystems. Global Change Biology 19:3677-3687 (A NUTNET publication – 62 authors).

Gaughan, A., R. Holdo and T.M. Anderson. 2013. Using short-term MODIS time-series to quantify tree cover in an African savanna. Journal of International Remote Sensing 39:6865-6882.

Anderson, T.M., B. Kumordzi, W. Fokkema, H. Valls-Fox and H. Olff. 2013. Distinct physiological responses underlie defoliation tolerance in African lawn and bunch grasses. International Journal of Plant Sciences 174:769–778.