Current Lab Members

Jim Bever

Jim Bever

Professor of Biology


I am interested in testing basic ecological and evolutionary processes occurring within plants and their associated fungi. Read More…

Peggy Schultz

Peggy Schultz

Associate Specialist, Environmental Studies Program


My research extends from understanding factors that underlie the re-establishment of prairies to environmental education. Read More…

Lab Manager

Kristen Mecke

I am the lab manager and the lead technician on the Dimensions project out at the KUFS. However, I have a very broad range of ecological interests, including wildlife and plant interactions. For my graduate research, I studied the western cottonmouth where I used video analyses to study anti-predatory behavior. Although my educational background was heavily focused on wildlife ecology, plant monitoring and plant interactions have been a large focus of my work since graduating. Field season is my favorite time of year – come catch me out at the field station! ​

Lab Technicians

Austin Yoder

Austin Yoder

I am a student studying Molecular, Cellular, Developmental Biology with an interest in ecological genetics, especially in an agricultural sense. I assist many of our PhD candidates and post-doctoral researchers in many ways, including field work, DNA extractions, and other downstream DNA applications. My hope is to one day work with common agricultural crops in an effort to design larger, healthier, more resistant plants to feed our ever growing population.

Joshua Schemanski

Biochemistry Major. Interested in molecular and cellular biology.

Josh has  Bachelor’s degree in biochemistry. He started working in the Bever lab in 2017 as an undergraduate assistant and now works as a research technician.

Masters Students

Rebekah Wagner

I am a Masters student in Dr. Folashade Angusto’s lab at KU and I am interested in theoretical ecology, plant community ecology, plant-soil feedbacks, and prairie conservation. My theoretical work includes analyzing a mechanistic model of plant-symbiont interactions to better understand synergistic relationships in plant hosts with differing life history characteristics, conditioned to varying environmental conditions. My field work, with the Bever/Schultz lab, explores the demography of prairie plants treated with biodiversity, precipitation, and soil microbe community gradients. A majority of a prairie plants biomass can be underground, it is vital to understand how plant communities respond to various soil communities to effectively repair the prairie.

Haley Burrill

I am a master’s student in the lab. My background is in California redwood forest ecology and the effects of a pathogen, sudden oak death, on tanoak trees. Although I hail from the west, I am interested in the framework prairies provide for studying microbial community composition, pathogen and microbial effects on plant ecology. I am looking forward to researching the underground world of our field plots here, in Lawrence, and seeing where that leads me in the future!

Doctoral Students

Laura Podzikowski

I am broadly interested in how human activities are altering biogeochemical cycling on this planet.  However, to understand our impacts, there are fundamental questions in ecology that remain unanswered. For example, we still don’t have a clear understanding of how biodiversity mechanistically contributes to ecosystem functioning on multiple scales.  This makes it difficult to predict how realistic scenarios of species loss or addition might alter biogeochemical cycles.  For my PhD thesis I am exploring the links between mechanisms maintaining biodiversity in grassland systems and ecosystem function.  This work is part of a large biodiversity manipulation experiment taking place at the KU Field Station.

Theo Michaels

I love thinking about restoration in the context of culture, science and management. I am particularly interested in grasslands because of their subtle beauty, the way they play with wind, and because they often intersect wild and working spaces. My research goal is to find innovative ways to interface with ecosystem processes to drive restoration efforts.Specifically, I am interested in plant-soil interactions because they represent a mechanism that inherently creates feedbacks that we may be able to use and manipulate as tools for restoration.

Camille Delavaux

My research goal is to understand how humans are impacting the most diverse places in the world. My research focuses on plant-microbe interactions (both mycorrhizal fungi and pathogens) and how they change with human disturbance. My first project at KU was investigating plant pathogen community structure across a precipitation and temperature gradient in native compared to disturbed prairies in the Eastern US. I have also completed a large global analysis of mycorrhizal biogeography looking at how mycorrhizal fungi influence plant biogeography and how anthropogenic plant naturalization changes these patterns. I am also conducting work in Ecuador to understand how plant-microbe interactions mediate plant structure in the original plant colonization of the Galapagos Islands and how they change with anthropogenic plant invasion. Finally, my main project in Kansas prairies centers around understanding differences in native and disturbed prairies in terms of mycorrhizal induced resistance to pathogens. Across all of my projects, I hope to find implications for conservation and restoration of these diverse ecosystems. I also enjoy working with and training undergraduate students in my research.

Rob Ramos

Evolutionary Biology has always been central to my research focus. I am specifically interested in the evolution and persistence of symbiotic relationships. Mycorrhizal fungi are a vital vital part of the soil community with strong symbiotic relationships with many prairie plants. Having grown up in the Midwest, I have always been fond of prairie systems. The high rate of both natural and anthropogenic disturbances create an intriguing research venue. I also have a background in geospatial analysis and would like to apply geospatial modeling techniques to prairie systems and symbiotic mycorrhizal relationships.

Postdoctoral Fellows

Rondy Malik

Rondy’s research interest spans the realm of applied and basic ecology. His past research topics have included population structure of a non-indigenous weed, microbial bioprotection of crops, microbes in trophic ecology, and wood decomposition in eastern mixed hardwood forests. Currently, Rondy is interested in unraveling ways in which elements of global change may impact microbes and plant secondary metabolites.

Susan Magnoli

I am a postdoc in the Bever/Schultz Lab broadly interested in evolutionary ecology and plant-microbe interactions, with the goal of better understanding population establishment in novel habitats. My dissertation research focused on rapid adaptation in recently restored plant populations, showing that populations can experience evolutionary changes in phenology and mutualism-related traits in only a few generations after establishment. My postdoc research focuses on the role of rhizobial composition in determining the success of legume species across grasslands of varying land-use histories. By examining legume-rhizobia interactions in this context I hope to determine how this mutualism influences the establishment of both desirable late-successional native legumes and weedy legumes that inhibit restoration success.

Liz Koziol

Postdoctoral Fellow

My graduate work focused on native prairie mycorrhizal fungi. I collected prairie mycorrhizae from old-growth prairies and cultured the for use in restoration. Through this work, I found that inoculation with prairie microbes including mycorrhizal can help prairie seedlings and seeded species establish in a restoration. I found that some late successional plant species–those that are most often only found in late successional, remnant and undisturbed prairie communities–will only establish in restorations with the inclusion of their below ground prairie mycorrhizae. I was so impressed with what prairie fungi could do to improve restoration, that I began a small business called MycoBloom so that I can provide these prairie fungi to others.

My current research is sponsored the Kansas Biological Station, the Land Institute, and the Malone Family Land Preservation Foundation. I am working with the perennial plant species that the Land Institute has been conducting research on including Kernza, Silphium, perennial wheat and perennial Sorghum. Some of these plants, Silphium for example, are later successional prairie species. Based on my research in the prairie, these species are likely to be strongly dependent on mycorrhizal fungi. Currently, I am isolating mycorrhizal fungi from prairies in Kansas to inoculate perennial crop species in field and greenhouse studies at the new greenhouse and field stations in Lawrence, Kansas.

Guangzhou Wang

​I am a visiting doctoral student from the Chinese Agricultural University (CAU) working with James Bever and Peggy Schultz. My interests focus on the roles of soil microbes, mainly mycorrhizal fungi and soil pathogens, in influencing plant interactions, coexistence and plant community productivity in both agricultural intercropping system and natural prairie grassland. From the perspective of plant-soil feedbacks, I am trying to dig out some general rules applicable to both systems in instructing agriculture practice and ecological restoration.

Terra Lubin

My research focuses on interactions of the plant community with soil microbes, particularly in grasslands and grassland restorations in North America. I want to understand impacts of these interactions on plant communities in a variety of biotic and abiotic environments in order to better translate ecological research of plant-soil feedbacks into practical applications for restoration. One of my goals is to find ways to increase communication of knowledge and data between different research disciplines, and between ecologists and restoration practitioners.

Undergraduate Students

Abby Neal

I am a student studying Environmental Studies and Political Science. I enjoy working in the Bever lab to study the biological processes that are important in understanding our natural environment.

Ryan Weishaar

I am an exercise science major that has been interested in science my entire life. I am also on the pre-med track which is why I am interested in working around research and learning more about everything that goes into research.

Isabelle Ellington

I am interested in behavioral ecology and conservation biology.

Spencer Rogers

I am a senior studying molecular, cellular, and developmental biology. I enjoy working in the molecular lab and getting hands on research experience and learning new lab techniques.

Maggie Ziegler

I am a pre-medical student studying biology and business. Two of my interests include learning about the health care field, which I accomplish by volunteering at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, and learning about biological research, which I am able to do by working in the Bever lab.

Undergraduate Assistants

Abby Neal –

Maddie Bessler –

Isabelle Ellington –

Spencer Rogers –

Victoria Hughes –

Bever/Schultz Lab

Lab Alumni

  • Collin Bruey, KU University Honors Program, cbruey at
  • Grace Parker, Biology, Pre-Vet graduate track,
  • Olivia Childress, Environmental Studies major at KU
  • Alisa Childress, Environmental Studies
  • Zhen Wang, Grassland Research Institute
  • Kelly Chesus, Colorado State University, kelly.chesus at
  • Anne Pringle, University of Wisconsin, apringle2 at
  • Kristi Westover, Winthrop University, westoverk at
  • Bala Chaudhary, Depaul University, bala.chaudhary at
  • Lidia Yoshida, NSF, lyoshida at
  • Anne Hartley, Florida Gulf Coast University, ahartley at
  • Keith Vogelsang, Ivy Tech University, kvogelsang at
  • Alison Bennett, Ohio State University, alison.bennett at
  • Janice Alers-Garcia, EPA, alers-garcia.janice at
  • Sarah Richardson, Depaul University, sricha10 at
  • Vanessa Beauchamp, Towson U, VBeauchamp at
  • Scott Mangan, University of Washington smangan at
  • Hyun-Joo (Jamie) Kang, Western University, hkang at
  • Wendy Taheri, TerraNimbus, LLC, wendy.taheri at Liz Seifert, lizseifert at
  • Thomas Platt, Kansas State University, tgplatt at
  • Elizabeth Middleton, Missouri Department of Conservation, Elizabeth.Middleton at
  • Baoming Ji, Beijing Forestry University, China, baomingji at
  • Jeremiah Henning, University of Minnesota, jhenning at
  • Wittaya Kaonongbua, KMUTT, Thailand, wittaya.kao at
  • Katherine Zaiger, zaigerk at
  • Anna Larimer, Kansas State University, larimera at
  • Peter Zee, University of Mississippi, zee at
  • Kerri Crawford, University of Houston, kmcrawf3 at Central.UH.EDU
  • Caroline Angelard, U Luassane, caroline.angelard at
  • Keenan Mack, Illinois College, keenan.mack at
  • Elise Morton, University of Florida, elisemorton at
  • Jessica Duchicela, ESPE, Ecuador, jiduchicela at
  • Chaoyuan Zheng, FAFU, China, zhengcy at
  • Ursel Schuette, University of Alaska, uschuette at
  • Anna Rosling, Uppsala University, anna.rosling at
  • Junling Zhang, Chinese Agricultural University, junlingz at
  • Fei-Hai Yu, Beijing Forestry University, feihaiyu at
  • Min Tang, Beijing Forestry University, tangmin at
  • Marc Bogonovich, OpenWords, marc.bogonovich at
  • Rondy Malik, Penn State University, rjm472 at
  • Brian Steidinger, Stanford, bsteidi2 at
  • Jacob Hopkins, University of Kansas, Jacob_Hopkins6 at
  • Geoffrey House, Santa Fe Institute, geo.house7 at
  • Tanya Cheeke, Washington State University, tanya.cheeke at
  • Geoffrey House, Los Alamos National Laboratory, geo.house7 at
  • Jun Yu, Institute of Applied Ecology Chinese Academy of Sciences, junyu at
  • Jonathan Bauer, Miami University, jonathantbauer at
  • Alice Tipton, Lincoln University, tiptona at
  • Tanya Cheeke, Washington State University, Pullman, tanyacheeke at