Laura Ladwig

damschenlab_lauraEcological communities are in constant flux. Organisms thrive and decline. Species come and go. Whole systems can be altered by a change in one aspect of the community, and as communities change, so too do the services they provide. Understanding what causes ecological communities to change and evaluating the consequences of said change are the basis of my research. The majority of my research revolves around plants. How plants respond to the environment, react to changing conditions, and influence the surrounding community. Plants are critical components of many food webs and have a large influence on the environment, so understanding how plants change informs us about the whole system.

Email: lmladwig [at]

Graduate Students

Jon Henn

damschenlab_jonI am interested in plant community assembly and how global changes are likely to affect it. My current research is focused on tall-grass prairies and combines plant functional traits with observational and experimental studies to better understand how plant community responses to environmental changes may be mediated by functional traits. Through my research I hope to inform management and restoration while learning about processes that affect plant communities.

Email: henn2 [at]

Stephanie McFarlane

damschenlab_stephanieI am interested in plant community assembly and restoration and related impacts on pollinators and pollination services. I am working to better understand how different management regimes affect restored tallgrass prairie plant and insect communities. This work is a collaboration between our lab and the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) as well as Claudio Gratton and Jade Kochanski at UW-Madison.

Email: mcfarlane [at]

Katherine T. Charton

damschenlab_katherineMy research interests broadly lie in landscape and plant ecology, with particular emphasis on community response to disturbance, fragmentation and habitat connectivity, and use of emerging technologies. My current project investigates how climate change, other disturbances, and their interactions mediate critical tipping points between grassland and woodland alternative stable states. I seek to identify drivers and mechanisms of woody encroachment in tallgrass prairies, informing land management practices and maintaining native prairie biodiversity and ecosystem services into the future.

Email: charton [at]

Jeannine H. Richards

damschenlab_jeannineI am broadly interested in conservation biology and plant community ecology, particularly in the humid tropics.My current research takes place in tropical montane forests and shade coffee farms in northern Nicaragua. I study the potential for coffee farms to serve as substitute habitat for epiphytes, plants that are structurally dependent on trees, including orchids, bromeliads and ferns. I use botanical surveys and functional traits to understand how the epiphyte community responds to land use changes and climate. I also use social science methods to understand farmers’ management decisions and how those affect epiphyte assemblages on their farms.

Email: jrichards7 [at]

Undergraduate Research Technicians

Sam Ahler

damschenlab_samI am both the lead lab technician and a researcher in the lab. As the lead tech, I am in charge of lab logistics like ordering equipment and supplies and scheduling undergrads, but also managing the trait database for our Wisconsin and South Carolina collection sites. My current research is focused on how belowground reproductive structures (i.e. rhizomes and bud banks) respond to cooling temperatures and the result it has on perennial recruitment during the growing season. I hope to expand the scientific knowledge concerning belowground reproductive tissue and how it is impacted by climatic changes, while also keeping the lab running smoothly.

Research Associates

Sabrie Breland

Lead technician and project manager for the Corridor Project at the Savannah River Site, SC.

Email: sabriejrb [at]

Portraits courtesy of Liz Kozik.