Laura Ladwig

Ecological communities are in constant flux. Organisms thrlauraladwigive 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.

Research Associates

Melissa Burt

melissaburtfireI am the lead technician and project manager for the Corridor Project at the Savannah River Site, SC. Before joining the lab, I completed my Master’s degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Tennessee with Dr. Nate Sanders.  I am generally interested in how drivers of global change affect community dynamics. My most recent research investigates the effects of corridors and edge effects on myrmecochory (seed dispersal by ants).

Graduate Students

Amy Alstad

I am a graduate student in the Damschen lab.  My current research Amy2013.jpginvestigates long-term changes in the plant communities in Wisconsin prairie remnants.  I am resampling prairie sites first studied by John Curtis in the 1950s, and comparing the past and present plant communities to ask questions about the effects of landscape context, climate change, and plant functional traits.  My aim with this research includes both providing answers to open questions in ecological theory, as well as generating results with tangible conservation and restoration applications.

Jon Henn

jon_fire2_lmlI 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.

Quinn Sorenson

quinn_soils3_lmlI focus on plant community ecology in the context of agricultural land-use history and habitat fragmentation in the U.S. Southeast longleaf pine ecosystem. I am interested in understanding how the legacies of agriculture on soil and belowground processes affect plant communities and restoration success. Within the Corridor Project, a well-replicated landscape experiment testing the effects of corridors, I am interested in how landscape connectivity affect the development of plant communities over time. I have a strong background in land management and restoration ecology in coastal sage scrub and grasslands of southern California. I hope to use my research to test ecological theory as well as inform conservation planning and restoration efforts.

Undergraduate Students

Emily Nettesheim – Lead Research Technician


I am a senior at UW-Madison studying Molecular Biology & Anthropology. I have been with the Damschen Lab since Summer 2015 and am currently the Lead Research Technician. In addition to overseeing the daily operations of the lab I am conducting independent research to assess the cold tolerance of prairie forb root tissue. I have measured cold tolerance from Fall to Spring to determine root tissue acclimation and deacclimation to winter temperatures. I am currently in the process of writing up this project for publication and have given numerous presentations about my findings. I am the recipient of the Lakeshore Nature Preserve Student Engagement Grant and won the Reid Bryson Undergraduate Student Award for my research.

Undergraduate Researchers – Spring 2017

Genevieve Anderegg, Morganne Boppel, Zhengxi Chen, Shea Collins, Kelsey Demeny, Jenna Guernsey, Auna Kaufmann-Schwartz, Samantha Kinsler, Lahna Lundolph, Ayla Masrin, Audrey Spiegelhoff, Kyle Watter, Jake Weinberger