ABOUT ME

My life's passion is to apply the most "cutting veg" (cutting edge for plants!) research to increase the success of restoration and conservation projects while inspiring people from all walks of life to care about plant communities and global change. After working on vegetation management projects for the National Resources Conservation Service, The Nature Conservancy, South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service I saw a great need for ecologists to develop science-backed solutions to management challenges in ways that would be useful on the ground. Currently, I am collaborating with Grand Teton National Park to conduct surveys of intact and restored sagebrush steppe communities and to analyze a data set of plant abundances that spans a decade. Our goals are to determine what drives the trajectories of restored communities, how restored and intact communities differ temporally, and whether we can make reliable predictions about species level responses to yearly changes in climate. We will measure functional traits, or physical traits of plants known to relate to a plant's ecological strategy and environmental response, to help with these analyses and predictions. The goal is to improve restoration predictability and to increase the potential resilience of restored sagebrush communities to ongoing and upcoming climatic change. I also enjoy botanizing everywhere I go and telling everyone I see along the way to stop and smell the flowers (and of course to check out the gorgeous grasses I see too). 

 

To me, the catchphrase "cutting veg botany" is a reminder that we need cutting edge scientific discovery and quantitative skills to protect plant diversity, but that all of our work as plant ecologists still ultimately relies on the development of strong taxonomic skills that are too quickly left on the back-burner in the modern age. It is my belief that both must be kept in high regard and taught equally to the next-generation of plant scientists if we are to continue making great strides in our understanding of Earth's (arguably) most important trophic level. In other words, I am equally excited to talk to you about NDMS ordination or involucral bracts. #iamabotanist AND #iamanecologist

Interests: botany/taxonomy, plant community ecology, conservation biology, restoration science, ecological modeling, population dynamics, global change, ecophysiology, functional trait diversity, science communication and outreach, non-traditional student representation

Hobbies: botanizing, foraging, long hikes, crochet, gardening, ukelele, photography, cats

Email: swessel1@uwyo.edu

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WORK EXPERIENCE

EDUCATION

Biology Lab Manager

Northern State University   8/2018-6/2019

2019 - 2021 (expected)

University of Wyoming

M.S. Botany, emphasis on Plant Community Ecology

Range Technician

USFWS, Sand Lake Wildlife Refuge  5/2018-8/2018

Vegetation Monitoring Assistant

The Nature Conservancy, Ordway Prairie   7/2017-8/2017

Habitat Technician

South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks   5/2017-1/2018

2014 - 2018

Northern State University

B.S. Biology and Environmental Science, summa cum laude

Undergraduate Certs. in GIS and Organismal Biology

A.S. Biotechnology
 

Earth Team Volunteer

National Resources Conservation Service   2/2017-6/2017

Contact Me