I am excited to be a part of Team Echinacea during my sabbatical. I am a Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, MN. My work is funded by a grant awarded by the National Science Foundation, which allows faculty from smaller undergraduate colleges to collaborate with university researchers on an established project (ie. Stuart and Ruth’s Echinacea Project). I look forward to advancing my research program, especially opportunities for undergraduate research projects as well as integrating what I learn into the Gustavus curriculum.
Overall my research questions have been driven by a simple curiosity in processes that generate and maintain diversity within and among plant populations. In particular I am interested in how habitat fragmentation may affect plant traits, plant-insect interactions and genetic variation. This summer we propose to address three related questions: 1) Do plants from different genetic crosses experience different levels of herbivory? 2) How do ecophysiological plant traits such as photosynthetic traits or leaf traits vary as a function of different genetic crosses? 3) What is the feedback between herbivory, physiological traits and genetic identity, and how might this influence plant fitness?
I take great joy in collaborating with students and colleagues on research and in classes. Students from my lab have published or presented work that help define strategies for maintaining plant diversity. I also enjoy experiential education, opportunities where we learn together in the field by observing, asking questions and collecting interesting data.
I grew up in Colorado and lived 10 years in California; like many westerners, I relish opportunities to be outdoors, especially in natural areas. In my spare time I enjoy hiking, canoeing, going fast downhill on skis or a bike, and camping. I putter around in gardens, museums or while watching birds. Travel near and wide is treasured. I relax with good books or music and the company of friends.
For more information, please see my homepage: http://homepages.gac.edu/~pkittels/