Field Station Laboratory Manager

Dr. Dennis Gray

Dennis's primary research interest is nutrient dynamics in forest soils. He is conducting both field and greenhouse studies to determine the fate of nutrients mobilized by prescription fire.


Dennis received his Ph.D. (2006) in the Rutgers University, Ecology, Evolution and Natural Resources graduate program. His BA (1980) and MS (1990) degrees in Biology are from the Rutgers University Camden College of Arts and Sciences and the Rutgers Camden University College respectively. He has been a research technician at Rutgers University since 1988. Previously, Dennis worked as an analytical chemist and as a field biologist for environmental consulting firms. He has a wide range of experience with eastern United States ecology, flora and fauna and has 20+ years experience as an analytical chemist.

Doctoral Research

Dennis's research focuses on the nutrient dynamics of forest soils in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. Through a series of field and greenhouse experiments, Dennis examinined the fate of nutrients in response to prescription fires in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. In the field, he is examined the effect of fire frequency and fire intensity on nutrient cycling through measures of standing nutrient capital and leachate loss. In field and greenhouse experiments he investigated the effect of nitrogen and phosphorus release from fire on the soil microbial community and plant vegetative growth response.


Geng, Y., Dighton, J., Gray, D. 2012. The effects of thinning and soil disturbance on enzyme activities under pitch pine soil in New Jersey Pinelands Applied Soil Ecology 62 (2012) 1– 7

Dighton, J., Helmisaari, H.-S., Maghirang, M., Smith, S., Malcolm, K., Johnson, W., Quast, L.,
Lallier, B., Gray, D., Setälä, H., Starr, M., Luiro, J., Kukkola, M. 2012.
Impacts of forest post thinning residues on soil chemistry, fauna and roots: Implications of residue removal in Finland. Applied Soil Ecology 60 (2012) 16– 22. Corrigendum: Applied Soil Ecology 62 (2012) 184

Gray, D.M., Swanson, J., Dighton, J. 2010. The influence of contrasting ground cover vegetation on soil properties in the NJ pine barrens. Applied Soil Ecology 60 (2012) 41– 48

Gray, D.M. and Dighton, J. 2009. Nutrient utilization by pine seedlings and soil microbes in oligotrophic pine barrens forest soils subjected to prescribed fire treatment. Soil Biology & Biochemistry. 41: 1957-1965. doi:10.1016/j.soilbio.2009.06.021

Krumins, J. A., Dighton, J., Gray, D.M., Franklin, R., Morin, P.J., Roberts, M.S. 2009. Soil microbial community response to nitrogen enrichment in two scrub oak forests. Forest Ecology and Management. 258: 1383-1390. doi:10.1016/j.foreco.2009.06.046

Gray, D.M., and Dighton, J. 2006. Mineralization of forest litter nutrients by heat and combustion. Soil Biology & Biochemistry 38: 1469-1477.

Dighton, J., Tuininga, A.R., Gray, D.M., Huskins, R.E. and Belton, T. 2004. Impacts of atmospheric deposition on New Jersey pine barrens forest soils and communities of ectomycorrhizae. Forest Ecology and Management 201: 131-144.

Tuininga, A.R., Dighton, J., and Gray, D.M. 2002. Burning, watering, litter quality and time effects on N, P, and K uptake by pitch pine (Pinus rigida) seedlings in a greenhouse study. Soil Biology & Biochemistry 34: 865-873.

Bunnell, J., Zampella, R., Morgan, M.D. and Gray, D.M. 1999. A comparison of nitrogen removal by subsurface pressure dosing and standard septic systems in sandy soils. Journal of Environmental Management 56: 209-219.


Prescribed fire and soil disturbance effects on above ground and belowground processes in the NJ Pinelands.
Pinelands Science Office Research Series,
NJ Pinelands Commission, Richard J. Sullivan Center, New Lisbon, NJ. April 17, 2012

Pine Barrens upland forest soil fertility and the influence of fire and disturbance.
NJ Pinelands Commission, Pinelands Symposium, Burlington County NJ Community College. March 20, 2010.

The Pinelands Influence on the Barnegat Bay Ecosystem.
Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve Lunch & Learn Seminar series. Tuckerton Seaport Museum, Tuckerton NJ. January 13, 2010.

Nutrient cycling in the New Jersey pine barrens, oligotrophic soils in a fire prone ecosystem.
Soil and Water Conservation Society, Firman E. Bear Chapter, Chatsworth NJ. May 30, 2008.

Nutrient cycling in the New Jersey Pine Barrens: The fate of fire mobilized nutrients
Drexel University Department of Bioscience & Biotechnology Seminar Series, Phila. PA. March 6, 2008.

Prescribed Fire and Nutrient cycling : Research opportunities in the pine barrens
Rutgers Camden Biology Department Seminar Series, Camden NJ. October 25, 2007.

Krumins, J. A., Gray, D. M., and Dighton., J. 2007. Microbial community and soil nutrient response to a gypsy moth outbreak in the New Jersey Pinelands. Soil Ecology Society of America 2007 11th Biennial Meeting, Moab, UT.

Dighton, J., Krumins, J. and Gray, D. Fungal succession on and decomposition of gypsy moth frass. XVCEM conference, St. Petersburg, Russia

Brickner, D. W., Dighton, J. and Gray, D. M. 2005. Prescribed fire effects on soil processes and belowground carbon storage in a New Jersey pine barrens pine-oak forest. Soil Ecology Society of America 2005 10th Biennial Meeting, Argonne Laboratory, IL.

Gray, D. M., and Dighton., J. 2005. Mineralization of forest litter nutrients by combustion. Soil Ecology Society of America 2005 10th Biennial Meeting, Argonne National Laboratory, Argonne, IL.

Gray, D.M. and J. Dighton. 2001. The fate of nutrients released by control burning and the effect on pine seedling growth. Paper. Ecological Society of America 2001 Annual Meeting, Madison, WI.

Tuininga, A. R., D. Gray and J. Dighton. 1999. Effect of fire intensity and time since burn on below-ground nutrient dynamics in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. Paper. Ecological Society of America 1999 Annual Meeting, Spokane, WA.

Gray, D., A. R. Tuininga and J. Dighton. 1999. Short -term and long-term effects of fire frequency on below-ground nutrient dynamics in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. Paper. Ecological Society of America 1999 Annual Meeting, Spokane, WA.

Tuininga, A. R., J. Dighton and D. Gray. 1998. Short-term effects of prescribed burning on ectomycorrhizal community structure, nutrient uptake and soil water chemistry in the New Jersey pine barrens. Paper. International Conference on Mycorrhizae (ICOM) 2. Uppsala, Sweden.


Kornbluh, A., Clark, K.L., Gray, D.M., Skowronski, N., Hom, J. Insect invasion and forest resilience:  Recovery of C and N dynamics following invasion by gypsy moth (*Lymantria dispar* L.). 94th ESA Meeting, Aug 2-7, 2009. Albuquerque NM

Clark, K.L., Skowronski, N., Kornbluh, A., Gallagher, M., Hom, J., Gray, D.M., Dighton, J. Mechanisms of recovery following disturbance in forest ecosystems on the Atlantic coastal plain. 94th ESA Meeting, Aug 2-7, 2009. Albuquerque NM

Gray, D.M. and Dighton, J. The effect of disturbance on soil nutrients and plant species composition. 12th biennial Soil Ecology Society Meeting, July 22-25, 2009. Burlington VT

Gray, D. M., Dighton, J., Clark, K.L., Skowronski, N., Kornbluh, A. Insect herbivory influence on plant and soil nitrogen. Biogeomon 6, June 29-July 3, 2009. Helsinki Finland

Crane, S., Dighton, J., Gray, D.M. Fungal Succession on and Decomposition of Lymantria dispar (Gypsy Moth) Frass 109th Annual Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology, May, 17-21, 2009. Phila. PA

Sterner, L., Foy, G., Gray, D.M., Dighton, J. Determination of phosphorus concentration in Pinelands clay. 237th American Chemical Society March 22-26, 2009 Salt Lake City, UT

Morgan, M. and D. Gray. 1998. Effects of fire on major ion chemistry of undisturbed New Jersey USA Pineland streams. Poster. Biogeomon II, Villanova, PA.

Courses Taught

General Ecology Lab, 2012

Plant Ecology, 2011

Topics in Quantitative Biology: The Interpretation of Biological Data, 2010

The Forest Carbon Cycle, 2009

Analytical Methods in Environmental Studies: Nitrogen & Phosphorus, 2007, 2008, 2011

Field Ecology, 2010

General Ecology, 2003


Address: P.O. Box 206, 501 Four Mile Road, New Lisbon, NJ 08064 Phone: (609) 894-8849 FAX: (609) 894-0472