During June 5-9, 2016, a meeting for plant eco-physiologists will convene in the tallgrass prairie ecosystem. PHYS-Fest is specifically focused on promoting collaboration, interactions, and networking among plant eco-physiologists.  PHYS-Fest will vary from the traditional scientific meeting format of short research presentations organized by focus areas.  Rather, participants will engage in data collection to address a pre-defined scientific question (i.e., What is the physiological variability within common growth forms of the tallgrass prairie?) and develop short video presentations on ecophysiological subjects for contribution to a video library for classroom teaching. Each night, “networking sessions” will occur to mentor junior scientists and facilitate interactions among faculty / research labs.

PHYS-Fest is organized to accomplish 3 distinct goals:

    • characterizing the diurnal physiological variability within tallgrass prairie plant species
    • compilation/ creation of a plant eco-physiology video teaching library
    • strategic planning for the field of eco-physiology

The meeting aims to initiate discussion addressing research frontiers within plant ecophysiology, promote collegiality among participants, and allow for vision development for our field.  


PHYS-Fest is sponsored by NSF-IOS, Decagon Devices, New Phytologist, and Li-Cor Biosciences.

NSF Decagon
New Phytologist Licor



Participants will arrive in Manhattan, KS on Sunday, June 5 2016, bringing (some) equipment from their lab (IRGA, fluorometer, pressure bomb...). Participants will works as teams in a coordinated and synchronized ecophysiological sampling campaigns to assess the physiological variability among grasses and woody plants across a fire frequency / topography gradient at the Konza Prairie.

Data collection will occur in 3 blocks to capture diel variability (morning, afternoon, night) on Mon-Weds during PHYS-Fest. Sampling teams will have rotating data collection assignments to maximize exposure to the site, and ensure adequate 'breaks' from fieldwork.

During daytime periods when groups have available time, GoPro Video Cameras will be available for creation of short videos highlighting ecophys concepts. These videos will be incorporated into an ecophys teaching library hosted online.

Evening activities are designed to be fun and interactive, and provide networking and mentoring opportunities for students and post-docs. Evening activities during PHYS-Fest will include:

  • ice-breaker games
  • career planning for students (including advice on preparing job applications, interviewing tips, negotiating job offers, and preparing for tenure).
  • discussing job opportunities, career advancement, and landing a job in the private sector
  • identification of Grand Challenges in Ecophysiology (for discussion at future meetings)
  • planning for PHYS-Fest II

Wednesday evening will serve as the ‘capstone event’ of our week To provide perspective on successful careers and the decisions/ trade-offs that were made, we have invited a cohort of ‘senior ecophysiologists’ to describe the decisions they made that defined their career.  This panel will include Russ Monson, Joe Berry, Zoe Cardon, Jeannine Cavender-Bares and Alan Knapp! Our goal is to use this panel of successful ecophysiologists to highlight changes in ecophysiology over the past 3 decades, gain insight into their key career decisions and motivations, and inspire the group of participants towards our goal of coalescing the field of ecophysiology.

PHYS-Fest concludes midday on Thursday, June 9, 2016.


Tallgrass Prairie at the Konza Prairie Biological Station
Photo credit: Judd Patterson

PHYS-Fest will occur during the first week of June, 2016 at the ~3,500 ha Konza Prairie Biological Station, outside Manhattan, KS.  Konza is an original NSF-LTER site, with an experimental platform supporting long-term observations and experiments to facilitate insight into the dynamics and drivers of mesic grassland ecology in the central United States. Konza is managed in a watershed-level experimental framework to explore the impacts of varying the frequency of fire and the role of grazers (bison and cattle) in this ecosystem.  In addition, the landscape is topographically complex at small spatial scales, with thin-soil uplands and deep-soil lowlands. The dominant functional type of Konza is C4 grass, but the site is floristically diverse (> 550 vascular plant species), has a significant woody component (gallery forests and woody shrubs), and has many species representing all 3 photosynthetic pathways. 

Konza barn 

Accomodation will be provided on site for students and post-docs among 3 guest cottages each with bedrooms, living room, bath, kitchen, and laundry facilities.  We will arrange lodging for the other 20 Phys-Fest participants in Manhattan (~ 10mi away). Group activities will occur within Konza’s on-site multipurpose meeting facility (Konza Barn).  The Barn has a seating capacity of ~100 persons with a fully equipped A/V system, wireless internet, and full kitchen.

Logistically, travel to Konza Prairie is via the regional Manhattan Airport (~30min away), or via Kansas City International (~2hr away), Lincoln International Airport (~2.5hr) or Wichita International Airport (~2.5hr).  Arrangements will be organized to shuttle participants from surrounding airports to Konza, to minimize the number of vehicle rentals required.

Students and post-docs will receive a $500 travel voucher to offset travel expenses, plus accomodation on Konza. Most meals and drinks will be provided for all participants.

 How to Apply


Given the logistical constraints of research on Konza and the objectives of PHYS-Fest, meeting attendance is limited to 40 participants. Approximately 20 faculty eco-physiological scientists with broad research interests will be invited/selected to participate at Phys-Fest. For the other 20 attendees, we encourage applications from students and post-docs. We encourage participants from historically under-represented ethnic, racial, and gender groups.

Students / Post-docs: Prepare a 1-page (< 400 words) statement that describes:

    • your general interset in ecophysiology
    • background / research interests
    • motivation to attend PHYS-Fest
    • ability to bring equipment to the meeting

Applications can be submitted to any of the conference organizers.

Faculty / Professionals: Please notify one of the conference organizers of your intention to participate.

Application deadline is February 28, 2016


If you have additional questions about PHYS-Fest, please contact any of the organizers: Jesse Nippert, Brent Helliker, Kate McCulloh, Troy Ocheltree, or Chris Still. We'll do our best to provide answers in a timely manner.

  Last Update: 16-Feb-2016