Meet Our Alumni

Undergrad alumni

Elizabeth Bowman, BS Botany 2014

Liz graduated summa cum laude Spring 2014 with a Bachelor of Science in Botany. She came to OSU in winter 2012 as a sophomore transfer student after taking classes from a variety of colleges due to spending six years enlisted in the Navy. Not long after starting classes, she got a job with the Oregon Flora Project assisting with the digitization of herbarium specimens and conducting research into the ethnobotanical uses of Oregon flora by Native Americans. After taking mycology with Joseph Spatafora and lichenology with Bruce McCune though, Liz developed an undivided interest in all things related to fungi. To widen her experience with fungi, she got a job as a student lab technician in Jane Smith's mycorrhizal lab at the PNW Research Station on campus. She also served as an undergraduate TA for Botany 321, Plant Systematics, taught by Aaron Liston. The whole time she was at OSU she was an active member of the Undergraduate Botany Club, and served as the club secretary her senior year.

In 2013, she received the Merrill Family Foundation Scholarship and the Jean Siddall Memorial Scholarship, which helped immensely with off putting some of the financial burden of school. Additionally, that summer she received the Botanical Society of America's PLANTS travel grant that covered the cost of travel and all conference fees for the 2013 New Orleans BSA conference. This was her first time being exposed to such a wide swath of men and women in academia. Being able to learn about current research across the country and having the opportunity to talk to graduate students and researchers had a huge influence on her decision to pursue graduate school. 

Now a graduate student in Dr. Betsy Arnold's lab at the University of Arizona, Liz is studying how  ectomycorrhizal fungi and fungal foliar endophytes of the host species Pinus ponderosa are affected by abiotic and biotic stresses. This study has a goal of understanding how these plant-fungal relationships for this agriculturally important tree species will be affected by climate change, and is due in large part to the reception of the National Science Foundation's Graduate Research Fellowship. 

Liz's advice: "Don't be afraid to go and talk to professors and graduate students. Ask them about their research, and ask them questions. A large part of my success in actually getting the NSF GRFP was due to the assistance I received from various professors around OSU; after coming up with research questions and study designs, I would discuss them with professors to work out the kinks and then revise them. Hearing what people who had been conducting research for decades had to say was invaluable and I learned a lot from their breakdown of my ideas. I really enjoyed my time at OSU, and the wonderful Botany department. The PNW is a wonderful place to study plants and fungi, so take advantage of as many opportunities as you can."

Christina Wesseler, BS Botany 2011
Christina came to the OSU Botany program in 2008 as a junior transfer student, after four years at the Central Oregon Community College in Bend, Oregon, studying for a Bachelor degree in Wildlife Biology. She began studying Botany after she worked a first summer field job with the US Forest Service doing Forest Pathology surveys. A significant part of the job was identifying plants and vegetation community types and this ultimately shaped her curriculum choices at OSU. Christina took many classes which are optional in the Botany major knowing that she needed to take Bryology, Lichenology, Mycology, and any other taxonomy class available that would lead to her being appointed as full–time District Botanist with the USFS in northern Oregon. Her outdoor interests developed early on during family hiking and camping trips with parents who are also employees of the USFS.

During her time at OSU she joined the BPP club, and served as Secretary and Treasurer. This brought her closer to a group of students with a passion for botany and science, and who became a base of friends with whom she studied, laughed, and learned. She attributes her most memorable experiences to time spent with the botany club, and their various trips. She also became involved with department student committees.

Christina worked in Bruce McCune’s lichenology lab, and was also an undergraduate teaching assistant for Mark Wilson in BOT 313 Plant Structure. Both of these jobs taught her a great deal, and augmented her growing passion for non-vascular plants and for teaching.

As district botanist, Christina’s day-to-day job involves surveying project areas for sensitive species, writing specialist reports documenting findings and recommendations, compiling species lists and entering information into a reference GIS-based National Database. She also assists the Forest Invasive Species Coordinator with work on weeds, mapping new sites and updating yearly weed treatment information. In the field she needs to recognize all levels of plant taxa. Surveys are done specifically for sensitive, listed, or invasive species, but all the associated plants must be recognized in order to know where to find the target species. She is also trying to build a relationship with the local schools, to increase knowledge about plants and their importance.

Christina’s advice: “For those interested in fieldwork - get experience. Take the non-vascular classes, and others like agrostology and aquatic botany, as well as an ArcGIS class. While the botany program did a wonderful job preparing me for my work professionally, I think having this additional experience is vital for a field position. Go on botany club hikes, or forays with professors, and refine your eye for plants. “Plant Blindness” is Aaron Liston’s term for the blinders that so many people walk around with each day. If you can, do an internship while you are in school. Volunteer with non-profit groups like the Institute for Applied Ecology when they do sensitive species monitoring or planting. Any work you do as a volunteer will go on your resume. This experience is what federal or state employers are looking for. If your interests are in lab work, try to find work in one of the many amazing labs, or an internship. Often, it is knowing someone who works professionally in these fields that will open up the opportunities for you. Find out what your passion is. A job is something you need to enjoy and want to return to each day, even if it isn’t always agreeable. Be ready to work hard to reach your goals. It can take years of work, especially when jobs may be hard to find.”

Malcolm Anderson, BS Botany 2009
Malcolm came to OSU as a freshman exploratory studies/undeclared major in Fall 2005 and entered the Botany major in Fall 2006. He had an interest in science from high school but the first year at OSU of large enrollment bacc core classes did not really help him to get to know people or figure out which major to opt for. It was Ken Johnson’s BOT 350 Introductory Plant Pathology, a small interactive class with lab time and field excursions, that stimulated his interest. At this point Malcolm became a lot more engaged in his education trying out higher level and split level classes to challenge himself. He really liked that Botany and Plant Pathology was a relatively small department allowing him to get to know the professors and fellow students.

While at OSU he became involved with the BPP Club serving as Vice President in 2008 and President in 2009. He applied for and obtained research funding as an undergraduate to work on two separate research projects, funded by the OSU Student Sustainability Center, the Corvallis Chapter of the Native Plant Society of Oregon, and the Portland Garden Club Katherine R. Pamplin Fund, one of which led to publication in the Journal of Urban Ecosystems. Ultimately it was a job posting on the BPP undergrad listserve that led his transition from working as a student researcher to the job where he works today.

Summers and winter breaks, Malcolm took various positions with Forest Service as Biological Science Aid, Riparian Restoration Crew Leader, Certified Wildland Firefighter, and as Program Leader with Multnomah Education Service District Outdoor School, experiences which developed skills related to habitat surveys, restoration programs, and project management.

Since graduating Malcolm completed the undergraduate research project he began with John Lambrinos (OSU Horticulture) on the potential value of mosses for stormwater management in urban environments. He began a position at the Northwest Habitat Institute, a small non-profit, to conduct seasonal botanical surveys. This became a permanent position, through learning ArcGIS and Microsoft Access that enabled him to do in-office habitat evaluations and mapping outside the fieldwork season.  He primarily works on habitat evaluation and botanical surveys on a wide variety of projects primarily located in western Oregon but also in Washington, California, and New Mexico. In addition he does remote habitat assessments, and map creation, while also aiding in data preparation, interpretation and report/grant writing. 

Malcolm’s advice: “I would suggest new students try out a few higher level classes in majors they are interested in early on. It will give them a much better idea of what to expect latter on and likely challenge and engage them far more than lecture hall or introductory classes.  I also recommend working a variety of summer jobs throughout your college career when you are not yet committed to any one track and can try out different things.  I do think it is a good idea for most people to take at least a year off between their undergraduate degree and any advanced degree and to get some work experience.”

Graduate alumni

Steve Sillett, PhD Botany and Plant Pathology 1995 and Marie Antoine, MS Botany and Plant Pathology 2002
Steve Sillett's and his wife, Marie Antoine's work has been widely featured in the media.  Steve's major professor was Bruce McCune and Marie's was Bill Winner. Steve currently holds the Kenneth L. Fisher Chair in Redwood Forest Ecology at Humboldt State University, where Marie is also a lecturer. Together they study and climb the tallest trees on earth.

In January 2013, OSU published an interview with Steve following an article that appeared in National Geographic in December 2012.

Cedar Hesse, BS Botany and Biology (double major) 2005, PhD Botany and Plant Pathology 2012
Cedar came to OSU in Fall 2000 as a freshman to major in Biochemistry and Biophysics. Following his sophomore year and some reflection on his career ambitions, he decided to switch his major to Botany. In Spring 2003, while still taking classes, he was hired as a part-time undergraduate lab tech in the Central Services Lab of the Center for Genome Research and Bioinformatics at OSU.  It was there he was first introduced to the molecular biology laboratory and state-of-the-art biotechnology. After a year of processing DNA fragment samples for the CSL, Cedar moved into undergraduate research roles with two labs in the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology.  Working in the Spatafora lab, Cedar contributed to the Assembling the Fungal Tree of Life (AFTOL) project, and in the Hansen lab he worked on a molecular identification method for Phytophthora cultures.  He was also an Undergraduate TA for BOT 313 Plant Structure taught by Mark Wilson.  Cedar graduated with a double major in Botany and Biology and a minor in Chemistry in Winter 2005.

Immediately after graduating, Cedar was hired as a Biological Science Technician by David Pyke (BPP courtesy faculty) with the US Geological Survey.  He worked for a year and a half for the USGS doing fieldwork in the Great Basin of Oregon and Idaho during the spring and summer, as well as lab work in the winter.

Cedar applied for Graduate School and started his PhD program with Joey Spatafora as major professor in Fall 2006. Highlights during this period included:

  • Presenting research at eight scientific conferences including at the International Mycological Congress in Edinburgh Scotland, August 2010 (thanks to the BPP Anita Summers Travel Award)
  • Graduate TA for Introductory Mycology (BOT 461/561)
  • Graduate RA for Assembling the Fungal Tree of Life 2 project
  • BPP Graduate Student Association officer (2007-8)
  • Graduate Representative for Graduate Studies Committee (2009-10)
  • Chair of Student Promotion and Tenure Committee (2011)

Cedar graduated with a PhD in Spring 2012 with a Dissertation entitled: “Characterization of Fungal and Bacterial Communities Associated with Mat-forming Ectomycorrhizal Fungi from Old-growth Stands in the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest”

In October 2012, Cedar started as a Postdoctoral Research Associate at Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, New Mexico, mentored by Dr. Cheryl Kuske in the Bioscience Division, Environmental Microbiology Team. His current research focuses on using 'omics approaches to understanding soil microbial community function under climate change scenarios.  His projects include soil metagenomics and metatranscriptomics, as well as culture-based studies using genomic, gene-expression, and proteome analyses.

Cedar’s advice: “In my experience, your education cannot stop with classes and grades.  If you take the initiative to find on-campus jobs or internships within your area of interest you will be greatly rewarded.  As a graduate student, make every effort to attend scientific conferences to share your work and meet your peers. The BPP has great funding opportunities to help make this happen, use them!”

Shanti Berryman, PhD Botany and Plant Pathology 2002
Shanti came to OSU in 1999 to work on lichens with major professor Bruce MCune. Her thesis was entiitled "Epiphytic macrolichens in relation to forest management and topography in a western Oregon watershed." After a postdoc in Forest Sciences, Shanti has worked extensively on social‐environmental issues related to impacts of air quality and industrial development on ecosystem health in the area of oil sands development of northeastern Alberta. Today she owns her own company, Integral Ecology Group, with two business partners. It is an environmental consulting company that is based out of Victoria, BC focusing on on applied ecological and cultural research by providing consulting services that interface between human land uses and their supporting and surrounding environments. They are a group of professionals with extensive prior experience in the technical disciplines of vegetation ecology, soil science, ethnobotany and traditional land use studies. Shanti is also a adjunct Professor a the University of New Mexico.

Shanti's advice: "foster independence and autonomy; develop interdisciplinary skills and try to blend applied science with strong foundations in the scientific method to make your research applicable to the real world.  Develop strong analytical, writing and speaking skills, and encourage discussion on topics like ethics.  These skills have allowed me to be successful as a business owner and as a consultant, working across both the public and private sector."

CAS Alumni Legacy Awardees

James Douglas Ripley, PhD Botany and Plant Pathology 1984
James Douglas (Doug) Ripley completed his Ph.D. in plant ecology in 1984 with major professor William Chilcote. Dr. Ripley has had a distinguished career in research, teaching, and natural resource management and was honored with the 2012 College of Agricultural Sciences Legacy Award to recognize his lifetime achievement.

Dr. Ripley’s career is notable in how it demonstrates the value of “continuous learning” through a combination of formal and informal educational opportunities.  Dr. Ripley received a B.A. (1967) and M.A (1969) in Biology at San Francisco State University in San Francisco, CA. He then served as an Air Force Disaster Preparedness Officer at multiple international and national bases. In 1978, he became an Assistant Professor in Biology at the US Air Force Academy in Colorado.  He completed advanced studies in biology and ecology at four different universities in proximity to his various base assignments. In 1981, he came to Oregon State University to complete his Ph.D. and in 1984 returned to the US Air Force Academy as Associate Professor and Deputy Department Head. In addition to teaching numerous courses in the full spectrum of biology, he conducted a long-term ecological research project on the Academy Reservation. Dr. Ripley then became Senior Staff Biologist in the Directorate of Environment at Headquarters for the Air Force in Washington, D.C. during which he regularly participated in a course for senior Air Force commanders on issues focusing on conservation of natural and cultural resources.

From 1994-2001, he was Natural and Cultural Resources Program Manager in the Environmental Division of the Office of The Civil Engineer at the U.S. Air Force, HQ where he directed policy and managed the Air Force natural and cultural resources conservation programs on over 130 installations occupying approximately nine million acres of land, and in particular as advisor for land management issues, biodiversity conservation, threatened and endangered species protection, forestry programs, wetland resources, natural areas protection, coastal barrier resources, National Natural Areas and outdoor recreation resources. Dr. Ripley provided guidance and technical assistance to the Department of Defense, and other government and nongovernmental environmental and conservation agencies.

Dr. Ripley’s civilian career with the Air Force culminated as Conservation Program Manager for the Environmental Division of the Air National Guard overseeing the management of natural and cultural resources conservation at Units throughout the US and US territories, advising on land management issues, forestry programs, pest management, threatened and endangered species, an many other areas of resource protection and management. His direct contributions extended far beyond the communities in which military programs are located to a wide variety of ecological settings.

Since 2004, Dr. Ripley has worked as an independent environmental consultant for a variety of environmental programs including the Department of Defense, U.S. Coast Guard, Nature Conservancy and NatureServe.

Judy Jernstedt,  BS Botany 1973
Since earning her B.S. degree with honors from Oregon State University in 1973, majoring in Botany, Dr. Jernstedt has become well known for her research and teaching in plant anatomy and morphology.  Following her first degree, Dr. Jernstedt received her M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of California, Davis, where she specialized in systematics and anatomy.  She spent a year as Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Manchester, England, before joining the Botany Department at the University of Georgia in 1980 as Assistant Professor of Botany. She advanced to Associate Professor there in 1986.  In 1986 she accepted a position in the Department of Agronomy and Range Sciences (now part of the Department of Plant Sciences) at the University of California, Davis, and currently holds the rank of Professor.

For her overarching professional service with the Botanical Society of America , Dr. Jernstedt  was presented with the College of Agricultural Sciences Distinguished Alumni Award in the category of Leader in 2011. She was Treasurer of the Society from 1992 to 1998; she was then elected as President in 2001 and has been Editor-in-Chief of its award-winning monthly journal, the American Journal of Botany, since 2005.  She is the first female at the helm of this journal in its now 100-year history and has truly shown extraordinary leadership in this role, which she will hold until 2015. During Dr. Jernstedt’s tenure, this publication received international recognition as one of the top 10 most influential journals in biology and medicine over last 100 years.

Dr. Jernstedt’s main research focus is on differentiation in plants, emphasizing cell, tissue and organ-level development.  This includes investigation of shoot apical meristem determination in vascular plants, shoot growth and branching, and the structure and development of crop plants.   She and her students and postdocs have studied the involvement of the microtubule cytoskeleton in cell enlargement (or contraction) in organs and cells as diverse as hyacinth contractile roots and cotton seed coat hairs.  She also has teaching responsibilities in four advanced level and graduate courses, specializing in plant anatomy, morphology, evolution, and developmental biology, and she has also distinguished herself as an outstanding advisor for undergraduate students, for which she has won university awards. 

Hiram Larew, MS Botany and Plant Pathology 1977, PhD Entomology 1981
Hiram Larew earned his master’s degree in Botany from OSU in 1977 with Fred Rickson, and a doctorate in Entomology with Peter McEvoyin 1981. He was recently honored withthe 2010 CAS Alumni Legacy Award for career lifetime achievement. Dr. Larew has risen to prominence in the science, policy and management of the US Government’s international science programs.

Since 1998 Hiram Larew has served as Director of the Center for International Programs at the National Institute of Food and Agriculture U.S. Department of Agriculture. He oversees programs in sustainable development in Asia and Africa and guides Extension and food aid research projects in Iraq.  He has transformed international agricultural science programs into models for sustainable development overseas by fostering partnerships between American universities, business, government and charitable organizations to assist countries around the world. His distinguished career pathway has led Dr. Larew through the USDA – Agricultural Research Service, the US Agency for International Development, the Brookings Institution, the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health, and the US Department of State, Bureau of Oceans, Environment and Science.

He also is a published poet and was a 2006 nominee for the Pushcart Prize.