Jesse Nippert
University Distinguished Professor of Biology
PI - Konza Prairie LTER Program

My research focus is on plant eco-physiological responses to changes in water availability (spatially, temporally, or driven by climate changes). Particularly, I'm interested in the mechanims of drought tolerance by grassland and savanna species (structure / function) as well as the theory of competition/ facilitation for water between trees and grasses. Thus, I enjoy spending my time addressing questions linking resource availability - physiology - patterns of productivity, with the goal of improving our ability to scale energy dynamics and hydrological processes from the plant- to ecosystem-level.

I love spending time outdoors in the grasslands. These systems exist within an interface of climatic variability and frequent disturbance (fire and grazers). Grass species are deceptively simple, but their unique physiology and form is adapted to environmental stress and disturbance. Despite abiotic and biotic pressures, grasses are masters of growth efficiency and develop dense canopies and high biomass. The environmental and biotic complexity of grasslands provides a challenging (mentally and physically) and enjoyable system to study. For me, there is nothing better than spending a day in the sun of the Konza Prairie.

CV (last updated - March 2023)


Saranya Puthalath
Post-doctoral Researcher

I would like to call myself an isotope hydrologist interested in understanding the hydrological processes in the soil-vegetation-atmosphere interface from the critical zone to the catchment and river basin scale. I employ stable isotopes (δ18O and δ2H) along with several other tools to trace the movement and transport of water in different hydrological compartments. I am from Kerala, the southernmost state of India blessed with the tropical vegetation cover of Western Ghats, a biodiversity hotspot. The vegetation was supported by copious rainfall (≈3000 mm annually), but with every passing year, the monsoon rainfall patterns have been witnessing drastic change- both in the form of extreme floods and drought events. This made me wonder about the water cycle changes associated with these extreme events. Hence, during my PhD, I studied the changes in surface water and groundwater circulation processes associated with weather fluctuations and the role of moisture recycling in producing rainfall. Soon, I wanted to explore how the water uptake strategies of plants are affected by these extreme events. For this, I have worked at the prestigious Physical Research Laboratory, India with a National Post-doctoral Fellowship.

I look forward to working at KSU to understand the impact of woody encroachment on the hydrological cycle and the response of woody and herbaceous plants toward extreme events.


Shahla Mohammadi
Ph.D. Student

I was born and grew up in Iran. As a person who spent lots of her childhood in prairies with great enthusiasm to study plants, Kansas State University, with its magnificent environment in every aspect, is an academic place that I always wanted to join one day. I’m here to extend my knowledge in Ecophysiology and fill the gap between this field of study and Plant Biochemistry. Isn’t it great?! Based on my background in Plant Science, I have investigated the signaling transduction pathway of abiotic stress responses in plants. I'd like to dedicate my time to do more research on physiochemical mechanisms in plants subjected to drought and oxidative stresses to understand the biochemical basis of resistance in the context of Ecophysiology. Moreover, I am interested in unravelling the functions of particular byproducts regulating abiotic stress tolerance in C4 grasses. So, my PhD project would be a breathtaking linkage between Ecophysiology and Plant biochemistry. I’m already excited about it.


Meghan Maine

I'm a military child that decided to continue living here in Kansas for my undergraduate! I am currently pursuing my degree in Biology on the Animal Biology track, with plans to apply for vet school in the near future. I enjoy working with animals and would like to do animal physiology research to benefit animals in the future.

Former Post-doctoral Scholars

Amy Concilio (2012-15)
Currently: Assistant Professor, St. Edwards, Austin, TX

Former Graduate Students

Rachel Keen (2019-2023) Ph.D. - Biology
Currently: Post-doc with Sharon Billings (Univ. Kansas) and Pam Sullivan (Oregon State)

Emily Wedel (2017-2019) M.S., (2020-2023) Ph.D. - Biology
Currently: Post-doc with Tyler Coverdale at Notre Dame

Ryan Donnelly (2020-2022) M.S. - Biology Currently: Taking a break in California!

Greg Tooley (2020-2022) M.S. - Biology Currently: Ph.D. student at Colorado State with Alan Knapp

Marissa Zaricor (2018-2021) M.S. - Biology Currently: Ph.D. student at Michigan State with Lauren Sullivan

Rory O'Connor (2014-2019) Ph.D. - Biology
Currently: Rangeland Ecologist, USDA-ARS, Burns OR

Seton Bachle (2015-2017) M.S., (2017-2021) Ph.D. - Biology
Currently: Post-doc at Li-COR BioSciences, Lincoln, NE

Kim O'Keefe (2012-2016) Ph.D. - Biology
Currently: Assistant Professor at St. Edwards, Austin, TX

Zak Ratajczak
(2011-2014) Ph.D. - Biology
Currently: Assistant Professor, Division of Biology, Kansas State Univ.

Troy Ocheltree
(2008-12) Ph.D. - Agronomy and SIMSL Lab Manager
Currently: Assoc. Professor, Dept. Forestry and Rangeland Stewardship, Colorado State University

Jeff Hartman (2009-11) M.S. - Biology
PhD (2015): University of Nebraska-Lincoln (w/ David Wedin)
Currently: Highway Environmental Program Manager at Nebraska Dept. of Transportation

Sally Kittrell nee Tucker) (2009-10) M.S. - Biology

Jacob Carter,
(2008-10) M.S. - Biology
PhD (2015): University of Kansas (w/ Joy Ward)
Currently: Research Director -- Union of Concerned Scientists

Former Undergrads

K-State Students

Yasen Alani (2019-2021)
Jessica Schauf (2018-2020) - working in W. Kansas as an Agronomist
Madison Lofing (2018-2019) - working in Los Angeles
Samuel Long
(summer 2018) - working in Chicago
Kenna Miller
(2016-2018) -- working in Kansas City
Lindsey Swartz
(2015-2017) - working in Manhattan
Jeremiah Ruiz
(summer 2017) - BS student at K-State
Aolani Zidek
(2016-17) - B.S. student at U. Hawaii
Rachel Lease
(2013-2016) - MS student at Utah State
Ben Ketter (2012-2014) - graduated with MS from U Missouri
Gracie Orozco (2009-2014) - Environmental Engineer, Victoria, TX
Laura Kemp (2011-2012) - scientist at The Land Institute in Salina, KS
Whitley Jackson (2008-2012) - Physician in KC
Teall Culbertson (2008-2011) - Veterinarian in KC

REU Students
Faith Atkinson (2021) from West Texas A&M
Lizeth Telleria (2017) from Cal St. Poly - Pomona
Mira Ensley-Field (2016) from Macalester College
Braden Hoch (2015) from K-State
Andy Muench
(2014) from U Wisconsin-Madison
Ben Ketter
(2013) from K-State
Annie Klodd
(2011) from Grinnell College
Rachel Wieme (2010) from St. Olaf's College
Zak Ratajczak (2009) from Vassar College
Laura Kangas (2008) from Michigan Tech

Shramps experiment
Willie Wildcat and Yasen


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