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Welcome. Our lab studies the evolutionary ecology of natural populations of plants, specifically the influence of environment on phenology, edaphic influences on plant reproduction and genetic diversity patterns in prairie plants.

Steve Travers

316 Stevens Hall

North Dakota State University

Fargo, ND 58108


PhD, University of California, Santa Barbara, 1998


Conservation Biology, Evolution, Evolutionary Ecology


Our lab studies the evolutionary ecology of natural populations of plants, specifically the influence of environment on phenology, edaphic influences on plant reproduction and genetic diversity patterns in prairie plants.

Phenology - Increasing global temperatures as a result of anthropogenic forcings are associated with earlier spring and lengthening growing seasons for plants relative to 100 years ago. One biological consequence of these climate and abiotic environment changes are that many species of plants and animals are shifting the timing of life cycle events (i.e. phenology) to earlier in the calendar year relative to historical patterns. 

Our lab is examining changes in  the timing of plant phenophases in the Red River region of North Dakota and Minnesota by comparing contemporary phenological patterns of wild species to the flowering patterns of the same species 100 years ago.  By using archival data on first flowering time collected by NDSU professor O.A. Stevens from 1910 to 1961 we can test the null hypothesis that flowering phenology is the same as prior to the dramatic increases in global temperatures in the 1980's.

For a summary of our results please see this poster of Kelsey Johnson' work: Plant phenology in the Red River valley

Also, check out our Local Phenology Phenokey.

Here is an interview on our Phenology work



Population Genetics - The Western Prairie Fringed orchid is the only threatened plant species in North Dakota and known from a handful of meta-populations throughout the northern plains.  Restrictions on reproduction and recruitment are only now beginning to be understood. We are using micro-satellite molecular markers developed specifically for this species to examine patterns in genetic diversity, gene flow and isolation among natural populations of this rare plant. Please see this poster of Andrew Ross's summary of our current work here: Western Prairie Fringed Orchid


  • Wolkovich, E.M., B.I. Cook, J.M. Allen, T.M. Crimmins, J.L. Betancourt, S. Travers, S. Pau, J. Regetz, T.J. Davies, N.J.B. Kraft, T.R. Ault, K. Bolmgren, S.J. Mazer, G.J. McCabe, B.J. McGill, C. Parmesan, N. Salamin, M.D. Schwartz and E. E. Cleland. 2012. Warming experiments underpredict plant phenological responses to climate change. Nature, 485: 494-497 full text
  • Cleland, E.E. J.M. Allen, T.M. Crimmins, J.A. Dunne, S.Pau, S.E. Travers, E.S. Zavaleta and E.M. Wolkovich. 2012. Phenological tracking enables positive species responses to climate change.  Ecology: In Press
  • Schafer, M., A. Ross, J. Londo, C. Burdick, E. Lee, S. Travers, P. Van deWater, and C. Sagers. 2011. The establishment of genetically engineered Canola populations in the U.S.. PLoS ONE 6(10):e25736 full text
  • Travers, Steven E., Gerald M. Fauske, Kristina Fox, Andrew A. Ross and Marion O. Harris. 2011. The hidden benefits of pollinator diversity for the rangelands of the Great Plains. Rangelands 33:20-26.

  • Dunnell, Kelsey L. and Steven E. Travers. 2011. Shifts in the flowering phenology of the northern Great Plains: patterns over 100 years. American Journal of Botany 98:1-11.
  • Campbell, D., C. Wu, and S. Travers. 2010. Photosynthetic and growth responses of reciprocal hybrids to variation in water and nitrogen availability. American Journal of Botany 97: 925-933
  • Travers, S.E., Z. Tang, D. Caragea, K.A. Garrett, S. H. Hulbert, J. E. Leach, J. Bai , A. Saleh, A.K. Knapp, P.A. Fay, J. Nippert, P.S. Schnable  and M.D. Smith. 2010. Spatial and temporal variation of big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii) transcription profiles with climate change. Journal of Ecology 98:374-383.
  • Travers, S.E. and K. Dunnell. 2009. First-flowering dates of plants in the Northern Great Plains. Ecology 90:2332.
  • Travers, S.E., M. D. Smith, J. Bai, S. H. Hulbert, J. E. Leach, P. S. Schnable, A. K. Knapp, G. A. Milliken, P. A. Fay, A. Saleh and K. A. Garrett. 2007. Ecological genomics: making the leap from model systems in the lab to native populations in the field. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. 5:19-24.
  • Garrett, K. A., S. P. Dendy, E. E. Frank, M. N. Rouse and S. E. Travers. 2006. Climate change effects on plant disease: genomes to ecosystems. Annual Review of Phytopathology 44:489-509.
  • Travers, S. E., J. Mena-Ali and A. G. Stephenson. 2004. Plasticity in the self-incompatibility system of Solanum carolinense. Plant Species Biology 19:127-135.

The Lab

Lauren Denhardt (PhD)


Sarah Wrobleski (Masters)



Elise Boehm (MS)

Andrew Ross (MS)

Magdalene Ovbiebo (BS)

Student Focused. Land Grant. Research University.

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Last Updated: Friday, May 30, 2014 2:21:56 PM