Schwinning Lab

Plant Ecology

Yang Tse

Current Lab Personnel

Susan Schwinning, Professor


I am interested in all aspects of plant water relations from single plants to ecosystems. I am particularly interested in the way in which fluctuating water availability in the environment affects vital processes from germination, seedling growth and competition to the death of individuals. Ultimately, my research is focused on advancing conceptual understanding of community-forming processes. Since moving to Central Texas, I have become curious about how these processes unfold in the rocky and shallow soils of the Edwards Plateau and other karst areas in the world.


Sarah Eisenmenger, M.S. Student


I am interested in the ecology of sustainable agricultural systems. I am focusing on how plant interactions in intercropping systems can be modified by varying the planting dates of the crop components. For example, if a subdominant crop species, such as bean, is planted earlier, will it be competitively more successful against a dominant crop species such as corn? If so, how does this affect the overyielding of the intercropping system?


Sierra DaSilva, M.S. Student


I am interested in the population ecology of Dicanthium sericeum, or Silky Bluestem, an Australian grass that is spreading in the Central Texas Hill Country. In Austin, this species is in the early stages of invasion, forming large monocultural stands which exclude native grasses. I plan to conduct the first scientific study of this species in Texas, starting with documenting its spatial progression with GIS. My preliminary data show that the Austin population doubled in less than one year. In the future, I will continue to monitor the population and conduct experiments to determine where the species preferentially establishes and how established stands respond to climate variation.


Kayla Sustaita, M.S. Student


My research is based on theories of holistic management of cattle grazing and its relationship with vegetation dynamics. I am hoping my research will provide better understanding of managing for sstainable range resources. I hope to one day be a rangeland manager focused on restoring native grasslands.


Derek Thomas, Undergraduate Student


I am currently a wildlife biology major at Texas State University. I am very interested in studying plant interactions with soil types and also their response given environmental changes. I strongly believe that understanding plant mechanisms when it comes to interacting with different soils and environmental impacts is the key to decreasing vegetation loss with increasing climate change.


Whitney Wood, Undergraduate Student


I am currently a senior at Texas State University with a major in Exercise Sport and Science and a minor in Life Sciences. I am interested in studying the weather patterns brought about by El NiƱo and how plants are impacted as a result. I am also interested in studying the impacts that humans have on our vegetation and wildlife as we expand into rural areas through urbanization. My goal is to become a professor at a university, educating people about the importance of our world's wildlife and how everything in our world works together to create the environment in which we live.





Lab News

Recent student presentations

Nathan Custer presented on his research at the Ecological Society of America Meeting in Portland. The title of his presentation was "Effect of transplant size on early survivorship". The paper was presented in a session on "Multiple Common Garden Experiments for Meeting Restoration Challenges: Difficulties and Potential Pitfalls" organized by Susanne Schwinning and Lesley DeFalco.

Highlighted publications

Schwinning, S., Meckel, H., Reichmann, L.G., Polley, H.W., Fay, P.A. 2017. Accelerated development in Johnsongrass seedlings (Sorghum halepense) suppresses the growth of native grasses through size-asymmetric competition. PLOS ONE 12, 20176042 pdf

Dammeyer, H.C., Schwinning, S., Schwartz, B., Moore, G. 2016. Effects of juniper removal and rainfall variation on tree transpiration in a semi-arid karst: Evidence of complex water storage dynamics. Hydrological Processes 30: 4568-4581. pdf

Other lab news

The lab welcomes two new graduate students:

Kayla Sustaita will examine the effects of adaptive rotational grazing on soil characteristics.

Logan Maxwell will investigate best restoration practices for abandoned oil and gas exploration fields in Utah.

The lab was awarded two federal grants in 2015:

NSF proposal : DEB-1557176: "Collaborative Research: Hydrological tipping points and desertification of semi-arid woodlands".

The DOD Legacy Award HQ0034-16-2-0006: "Characterizing Mojave Desert shrub ecotypes to establish seed transfer zones for military range restoration".

In the media

In August 2016, Susan was interviewed by Salwa Khan for the Wimberley Valley Radio show "Mothering Earth" Listen to the podcast here.

In September 2013, Susan was interviewed by Alan Knapp on a paper published in Functional Ecology. Listen to the podcast here.

Contact information
Susan Schwinning
601 University Drive
312 Supple Science Bldg
Texas State University
San Marcos, TX 78666, USA
Phone: (512) 245-3753
Fax: (512) 245-8713

Back to:

Biology Department
Texas State University

Friend websites:


Comments on the contents of this site should be directed to Susan Schwinning