For most of my years at UT, I have had a majority appointment in research (~90% research / 10% teaching).
In 2004, I asked for and received a change to a major appointment in teaching.
In 2008 I was asked to serve as interim department head of Plant Sciences, and in 2009 I became permanent head.
I served a five-year term as department head and am grateful to return to the faculty ranks (July 2013) as a scientist and educator.
My research program addressed protection of plants and soils from environmental stresses. Specific emphases:
mycorrhizal symbiosis and plant drought biology
root-to-shoot signaling of soil drying in ornamental, agronomic and forest species
physiological determinants of plant drought tolerance and avoidance
tree response to climate change
response of dogwood to environment factors and diseases.
Mycorrhizae: One of our main focuses over the years has been mycorrhizal symbiosis.
The impacts of mycorrhizal colonization of soils are similar to those of introducing no-till practices: restored soil carbon, reduced soil erosion, and better soil quality. Farming accounts for an annual erosion loss of over 3 billion metric tons of soil in the US. Widespread use of mycorrhizae that reduced erosion by even just 1% -- a very conservative estimate, given the dramatic effect of the symbiosis on soil structure -- could translate into saving tens of millions of metric tons of soil annually in our nation. Mycorrhizal impact on remediation of the global greenhouse gas problem is also sizeable. A 10% increase in crop gas exchange from managing mycorrhizal symbiosis -- again a conservative estimate -- on just 5% of US land would increase carbon sequestration by 3.3 million metric tons ($66 million value) per year. Mycorrhizal improvement of soil structure and gas exchange also impacts plant health, through soil water infiltration, water holding capacity and plant drought resistance.
Recent course responsibilities include Landscape Plant Physiology, Environmental Plant Ecophysiology, Horticultural Internet Technology, Plant & Garden Photography, and Freshman Seminar.
article written by the spring 2008 students in PLSC 348
I served as teaching coordinator and undergraduate coordinator of the department from 2004-2008, with earlier stints as graduate coordinator in our legacy Department of Ornamental Horticulture & Landscape Design. Other academic responsibilities in recent years include courses in plant drought physiology and scientific communication; College representative to the University's Graduate Council; departmental graduate program coordinator; service on graduate student committees; IT coordinator for the University's Environmental Consortium; service on a number of departmental and university committees.
I created and maintain the Mycorrhizal Literature Exchange, the current departmental site, and a few others. In collaboration with Dr. Arnold Saxton, we began developing a statistical design and analysis web guide (DAWG) for biological and agricultural experiments (hope to get back to that one day).
Route to get here
I received my PhD in Horticulture from Washington State University in 1986, and my M.A. and B.S. in Biology and Botany from Southern Illinois University in 1975 and 1977, respectively. I postdoc'd for a year with the USDA Weed Physiology Group in Pullman and in September 1987 became a member of the faculty of the Department of Ornamental Horticulture & Landscape Design (OHLD) at UT. OHLD was reorganized in July 2001 into the current Department of Plant Sciences.
Look around.... green, in every direction.
Plants are everywhere.
They allow our existence.
We eat them, we wear them, we build our homes from them. I'm sitting on a piece of one now. We fill our lives with so many plant products. And now we are begining to fuel our vehicles with them.
Their presence on Earth these many millions of years created an atmosphere that allows us to breathe. And plants are our greatest hope for scrubbing the elevated carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere that is upsetting global balances.
So often, plants are simply the green blur in our peripheral vision as we speed through our daily lives. We sooo take them for granted. Our lives and the lives of so many other species depend on plant health and diversity.
Plus, they are spectacularly gorgeous.