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Orou Gaoue

Associate Professor

Research Interest

Conservation biology, demography, plant-human interactions


2008 – Ph.D., University of Hawaii at Manoa
2000 – B.S.,   University of Abomey-Calavi


Research in my lab integrates population ecology and ethnobiology to study plant-human interactions in a changing world and how this informs the conservation of biodiversity and sustainable use of ecosystem services. Understanding the feedback loop between human decision-making and plant population dynamics response is a critical first step into developing conservation through-use and sustainable harvest strategies for wild plants.

My research program includes two complementary areas. First, I use field observation and mathematical models to investigate the ecological and evolutionary impacts of anthropogenic activities on plants across habitats and climates. I ask how biotic and abiotic factors shape plant population dynamics, plant-insect interactions and mediate plant populations’ response to chronic anthropogenic disturbance (e.g., harvest, fire fragmentation, etc.). I then draw the direct implications for sustainable management. Second, I use an ethnoecological approach to investigate how local people use their ecological knowledge to understand the response of their environment to perturbation, global change, and accordingly adjust (or not) their management practices. This second aspect is designed to provide predictions on future harvesting patterns which in turn are fed into mathematical models to investigate how future harvest will impact existing forest resources. Answering these basic ecological and ethnoecological questions has direct implications for the conservation and sustainable use of plants.


- How do ecological systems respond to chronic anthropological disturbance?
- What are the demographic consequences of ecological interactions?
- How do local people's knowledge shape plant-human/culture interactions?


I am actively recruiting new graduate students! If you are interested in plant population dynamics, demographic modeling, ethnoecology, and the study of (non)human impacts on plant demography and plant-insect interactions, send me an email or a tweet @ogaoue.


Please visit Google Scholar or Research Gate to see our lab publications.

Bialic-Murphy L, Gaoue OG, & Kawelo K. (2017) Microhabitat heterogeneity and a non-native avian frugivore drive the population dynamics of an island endemic shrub, Cyrtandra dentataJournal of Applied Ecology, doi:10.1111/1365-2664.12868.

Gaoue OG. (2016) Transient dynamics reveal the importance of early life survival to the response of a tropical plant to harvest. Journal of Applied Ecology, 53, 112-119. 

Gaoue OG, Jiang J, Ding W, Agusto FB, & Lenhart S. (2016) Optimal harvesting strategies for timber and non-timber forest products in tropical ecosystems. Theoretical Ecology, 9:287–297.

Gaoue OG, Ngonghala CN, Jiang J, & Maud L. (2016) Towards a mechanistic understanding of the synergistic effects of harvesting timber and non-timber forest products. Methods in Ecology and Evolution, 7, 398-406.

Ticktin T., Mondragon D. & Gaoue OG. (2016) Host genus and rainfall drive the population dynamics of a vascular epiphyte. Ecosphere, 7(11), e01580.

Bufford LJ, & Gaoue OG. (2015) Defoliation by pastoralists affects savanna tree seedling dynamics by limiting the facilitative role of canopy cover. Ecological Applications, 25,1319–1329. 

Gaoue OG, Lemes MR, Ticktin T, Sinsin B, and Eyog Matig O. (2014) Non-timber forest products harvesting does not affect the genetic diversity of a tropical tree despite negative impact on population fitness. Biotropica, 46(6), 756-762. 

Gaoue OG, Horvitz CC, Ticktin T, Steiner U, & Tuljapurkar S (2013). Defoliation and bark harvest alter the life history traits of a Tropical tree. Journal of Ecology 101, 1563–1571.

Gaoue OG, Horvitz CC, & Ticktin T (2011). Non-timber forest products harvest in variable environments: modeling the effects of harvesting as a stochastic sequence. Ecological Applications, 21, 1604-1616. 

Gaoue OG, Sack L, & Ticktin T (2011). Human impacts on leaf economics in heterogeneous landscapes: the effect of harvesting non-timber forest products from African mahogany across habitats and climates. Journal of Applied Ecology, 48, 844-852. 



Contact Information

  • Austin Peay 403D
  • Mailing Address: 569 Dabney Hall, 1416 Circle Dr, Knoxville, TN 37996
  • Phone: (865) 974-3046
  • Fax: (865) 974-3067
  • E-mail:
  • Lab Website