Christopher Heckel

Christopher D. Heckel

Assistant Professor of Biology
When a person possessed of an active mind explores Nature, or ponders in imagination the broad range of organic creation, no single one among the manifold impressions that occur to him has so deep and powerful an effect as that of the ubiquitous abundance of life.
— Alexander Von Humboldt

Faculty Information

Additional Faculty Information for Christopher D. Heckel


B.S. in Biology, Hillsdale College

M.S. in Biology, Georgia Southern University

Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolution, University of Pittsburgh

Selected Publications

Deer Indirectly Alter the Reproductive Strategy and Operational Sex Ratio of an Unpalatable Forest Perennial. In The American Naturalist, 195, 1, (2020): 56-69.

Life History Trait Divergence among Populations of a Non-Palatable Species Reveals Strong Non-Trophic Indirect Effects of an Abundant Herbivore. In Oikos, 126, 4, (2017): 604-613.

Nonconsumptive Effects of a Generalist Ungulate Herbivore Drive Decline of Unpalatable Forest Herbs. In Ecology, 91, 2, (2010): 319-326.

Life History and Reproductive Biology of the Endangered Trillium Reliquum. In Plant Ecology, 189, (2007): 49-57.


American Society of Naturalists

Evolutionary Demography Society

Michigan Botanical Society

Courses Taught

BIO 101 Core Principles in Biology

BIO 201 Evolution and Biological Diversity

BIO 305 Botany

BIO 306 Plant Physiology

BIO 307 Plant Ecology

BIO 315 Michigan Flora


I joined the Biology Department in 2019 with my primary teaching and research interests focused in the plant sciences. I am broadly interested in understanding how anthropogenic disturbances, like overabundant herbivores, invasive species, and climate change, influence plant population dynamics and how those factors may further affect life history trait evolution. My past research has utilized comparative field surveys, experimental field manipulations, common gardens, and mathematical modelling techniques to discover the surprising negative effects of non-trophic indirect effects of overabundant deer on unpalatable forest herbs. My current research at Hillsdale College continues to focus on population dynamics and life history evolution of perennial forest herbs.

As a scientist, I love learning about the natural world: what are its parts, how do they interact, how do they work? In the classroom, I want to inspire and cultivate a similar curiosity about the natural world, as well as foster a love of inquiry, in my students. The quality of inquiry improves when students begin to see the natural world in greater detail. In my classes, I work to help students develop their observational skills through careful study and practice. When a student is prepared and a skilled observer, observations of the unexpected can be the genesis of new questions.