Stuart Wagenius, Ph.D.
Institute for Plant Conservation
Chicago Botanic Garden
1000 Lake Cook Road
Glencoe, IL 60022
phone: 847 835 6978
fax: 847 835 6975
My current research focus is to understand and quantify ecological and evolutionary consequences of habitat fragmentation for the prairie plant Echinacea angustifolia. I enjoy working on this project because it helps plant conservation, it trains the next generation of scientists, and it advances basic science.
Conservation. Prairie plants, like many plants worldwide, live in habitat remnants that are now very small compared to the previous few thousand years. I’m interested in addressing practical questions such as: Will these small populations persist? Which factors contribute to population decline and how much? What are the best things people can do to help populations persist? We can apply what we learn about Echinacea to many other plants because Echinacea has many common traits. For example, Echinacea is a long-lived plant, like many other prairie plants, but not much is known about the population dynamics of such plants.
Education. I enjoy working with people at all stages in their education by teaching, mentoring, and advising. I am especially committed to working with students who are interested in ecological or evolutionary field research at the undergraduate or graduate level. I supervise undergraduate field research assistants every summer and advise graduate students through UIC and Northwestern University. I teach Conservation Genetics at several venues, including Northwestern University, where I am an adjunct assistant professor. I also teach a statistics class each year (Quantitative Methods in Ecology and Conservation). This class is a core course for the Graduate Program in Plant Biology and Conservation at Northwestern.
Basic Science. The practical questions that motivate my empirical research also raise new questions that push the frontiers of scientific understanding. Some of the issues we are trying to understand better include: 1) the relationship between spatial scales of habitat fragmentation and density-dependent gene flow, 2) interactions between genetic, spatial, and temporal constraints to reproduction, 3) dependence of fitness traits on ecological parameters that change over time (fires, insects, conspecific density). It is intellectually stimulating to try to understand the Echinacea system, where both ecology and evolution influence basic biological processes.
Watch a video of Stuart talking about prairie conservation: