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Natasha Woods

Natasha Woods

Assistant Professor of Biology (2019)


B.S. in Biology, Jacksonville State University
M.S. in Biology, Jacksonville State University
Ph.D. in Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology, The Ohio State University


Phone: 610-625-7603
Office: 318 Collier Hall of Science
Lab: Collier Hall of Science 321

Areas of Research and/or Expertise

  • Plant community ecology, plant facilitation and competition, shrub encroachment, dune building, early seedling establishment, disturbance
  • Dr. Woods’s research generally focuses on the impact of the abiotic and biotic environment plant interactions


Dr. Woods started at Moravian University in Fall 2019, coming from Virginia Commonwealth University where she was a postdoctoral scholar funded by a Postdoctoral Fellowship from the Ford Foundation and a second fellowship from the NSF funded, Virginia Coast Reserve. Prior to that she was a Visiting Assistant Professor at The Ohio State University at Newark.  Her dissertation research was conducted at Joshua Tree National Park. The focus of her doctoral research was examining the role of abiotic and biotic conditions on the post drought establishment of shrubs in the Colorado Desert, California.  The expertise she gained during her dissertation research was used when examining early seedling establishment of woody species post hurricane disturbance on Hog Island, Virginia during her postdoc.  The past few years Dr. Woods’s research has focused on examining the role of dune elevation and grass density on shrub encroachment into grasslands on Hog Island, VA.

Dr. Woods is currently an affiliate investigator at Virginia Commonwealth University and the Virginia Coast Reserve Long-Term Ecological Research site.

Dr. Woods recently was awarded a Building Research Capacity grant, BRC-BIO-Diverse Undergraduate Research Students in Ecology (DURSiE), from the National Science Foundation.  Dr. Woods plans to extend her current research on Hog Island and examine the impact of accelerated storm disturbance on shrub encroachment into grasslands on Hog Island.  Dr. Woods wants to give students who have been systemically underrepresented in the field of ecology an opportunity to conduct field research. She is looking forward to taking Moravian University students to conduct this research on Hog Island.  Dr. Woods and some of her collaborators highlight the role of mentors and institutions in increasing representation in the STEM pathway in a recent paper, “The Intersections of Identity and Persistence for Retention in Ecology and Environmental Biology with Personal Narratives from Black Women”, published in the Journal of Geoscience Education. She is dedicated to creating a shift in representation in the fields of ecology and environmental science. Dr. Woods is on the steering committee for the RCN-UBE-The Undergraduate Network for Increasing Diversity of Ecologists (UNIDE).

Dr. Woods is also interested in Science Education Research. She often uses teaching modules in the classroom that conform to the 4DEE Framework endorsed by the Ecological Society of America in 2018. She was recently selected to participate in the Biodiversity Faculty Mentoring Network where she was trained how to create a data focused laboratory module that conforms to the 4DEE Framework from ESA. 

Dr. Woods has given invited talks for several institutions including the University of South Florida, San Diego State University, University of Florida, James Madison University, Virginia Commonwealth University, and the University of California at Riverside.  Dr. Woods regularly presents at scientific conferences including the Ecological Society of America, the Association of Southeastern Biologists, and the Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation conference.


2023 Woods, N.N., Kirschner, A. and Zinnert, J.C. Intraspecific competition in common coastal dune grasses overshadows facilitation on the dune face. Restoration Ecology e13870.

2022 Woods, N. N., Leggett, Z. H., Miriti, M. N. The intersections of identity and persistence for retention in ecology and environmental biology with personal narratives from Black women. Journal of Geoscience Education, pp. 1-12.

2021 Woods, N.N., Tuley, P.A. and Zinnert, J.C. 2021. Long-term community dynamics reveal different trajectories for two mid-Atlantic maritime forests. Forests. 12:1063.

2020 Woods, N. N., Swall, J. L., Zinnert, J. C. Soil salinity impacts future community composition of coastal forests. Wetlands. 40:1495-1503.

2020 Sinclair, M. N., Woods, N. N. and Zinnert, J.C. Facilitative and competitive tradeoffs between Morella cerifera seedlings and coastal grasses. Ecosphere. 11:e02995.

2019 Woods, N. N., Dows, B. L., Goldstein E. B. Moore, L. J. Young, D. R., Zinnert, J.C. Interaction of seed dispersal and environmental filtering affects woody encroachment patterns in coastal grassland. Ecosphere. 10:e02818.

2019 Woods, N. N., McCarthy, L. Miriti, M. N. Nonhierarchical competition among co-occurring woody seedlings in facilitated sites. Ecosphere. 10:e02751.

2016 Woods, N. N., Miriti, M. N. Ubiquitous germination among common perennial species in response to facilitated and unfacilitated microsites. Journal of Arid Environments. 124: 72-79.

2015 Maestre, F. T. et al. (1 of 28 authors). Increasing aridity reduces soil microbial diversity and abundance in global drylands. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 112:15684-15689.

2010 Pai, A., Benning, T., Woods, N., McGinnis, G., Chu, J., Netherton, J., Bauerle, C. The effectiveness of a case study-based first-year biology class at a black women’s college. Journal of College Science Teaching. 40:32-39.