Kate McCulloh

Position title: Associate Professor

Phone: +1 608 890 3042

324 Birge Hall
430 Lincoln Dr
Madison, WI 53706

Email: kmcculloh <at>

Kate’s CV

Current Lab Members

Steven Augustine

Position title: Graduate Student

Email: spaugustine<at>

Pinus is a diverse genus of conifers, with 75 species in North America alone. They are unique in their distribution, as they are typically confined to alpine regions, deserts, or fire disturbed environments. My research will focus will on how climate has driven specific physiological adaptations in Pinus, from their seeds to their needles. Much of my research will look at what traits promote drought tolerance at different life stages and how they differ between white and yellow pines.

Alex Goke

Position title: Graduate Student

Email: atgoke<at>

Conifers inhabit some of the most extreme climate regions of the globe illustrating their immense physiological adaptations to support the greatest known extents of tree growth. In these environments, strong directional selection is thought to reduce plasticity and restrict a species ability to acclimate to multiple biotic stressors, such as combined shade and drought. My research focuses on identifying the physiological adaptations underpinning diverse drought and shade tolerances in conifers with an aim towards understanding how shifting environmental conditions may disrupt historical regeneration dynamics based on contrasting drought-shade strategies of co-occurring species.

Rachel Jordan

Position title: Graduate Student

Email: rkjordan<at>

I am broadly interested in the versatility of conifers and their winter carbon balances in a changing climate. My research focuses on the physiological tradeoffs of active vs. inactive responses to midwinter warm periods and the extent to which these strategies may differ within forests or even a single species. A species’ relative ability to “take advantage” of mid-winter thaws (and survive subsequent re-freezing) may influence its future survival and distribution as these warm periods become longer and more frequent. I aim to use this research to inform decision-making in the forestry and tree farming industries.

Christopher Krieg

Position title: Research Associate

Email: ckrieg <at>

My research interests broadly aim to understand the evolutionary and ecological significance of plant function. In particular, a common theme in my work is how adaptive plant physiological traits impact species distributions and ecologies. To conduct my work, I often integrate diverse methods including plant gas-exchange, hydraulics, stable isotopes, functional anatomy, species niche and distribution modelling, and often in an evolutionary context. The primary areas of my long-term research interests are multifarious and range from the ecophysiology of polyploid plants, conservation physiology of cycads, drought responses in vascular plants, and the phenotypic and functional consequences of domestication in crop legumes. For more information, check out my website

Kim O’Keefe

Position title: Research Associate

Email: okeefe4 <at>

As a plant ecophysiologist, I am broadly interested in studying the functional relationship between plants and their environment. My research has three goals: 1) improve fine-scale spatiotemporal resolution of water movement through the soil-plant-atmosphere continuum (SPAC); 2) elucidate physiological mechanisms of woody and herbaceous species coexistence in grasslands; and 3) understand physiological responses of plants to climate variability. I use a variety of techniques to address my research questions, including leaf gas exchange, sap flow sensors, stable isotopes, and hydraulic measurements. Although my research has primarily focused on grasslands, I am interested in addressing similar questions in other systems as well.Check out my work at

Duncan Smith

Position title: Research Associate

Email: ddsmith3 <at>

Duncan’s CV

The coordination of plant architecture, xylem anatomy and stomatal responses represents a “hydraulic strategy” that should greatly influence a plant’s ability to survive. I am interested in the strategies that different species of plants employ that allow them to succeed under varied environmental conditions. Much of my PhD work focused on plants experiencing more or less ideal conditions but in the McCulloh lab I will address responses to drought and its alleviation. Understanding these responses will be increasingly important to predict landscape-level changes in a warming climate. These issues will be addressed through field and lab studies and modeling.

Former Lab Members

Maegan Gagne

Position title: PhD, 2019

Kelly Kerr

Position title: Masters degree, 2014

Amanda Salvi

Position title: PhD, 2020

Alex Wenthe

Position title: Masters degree, 2017