Steven Matzner, Ph.D.


  • Postdoctoral Associate, Boyce Thompson Institute, Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.
  • Ph.D., Ecology, University of California, Davis
  • B.A., Biology, Augustana College


  • Professor, Biology
  • Augustana University

Current Research: 

With the threat of climate change and increasing demands for water resources, understanding how plants respond to water stress is important both for agricultural as well as natural ecosystems.  The Matzner lab has focused on the mechanisms by which plants cope with water stress.  Currently, Dr. Carrie Olson-Manning and I are looking at differences in water related traits of common milkweed and showy milkweed (Asclepias speciosa and Asclepias syriaca) A. syriaca is native to eastern South Dakota and A. speciosa western South Dakota.  South Dakota experiences a strong moisture gradient, with the east receiving >66cm precipitation/year and the west <43cm.  We hypothesize that water-related traits play a role in the observed distribution of these species.  We have measured transpiration rates, stomatal density, stomatal length and trichome density and found distinct differences between the two species.  These differences may suggest a mechanism important in explaining their distribution.  During the summer of 2021, research will involve several trips to work on common gardens and to measure plant traits and collect plant material for DNA/RNA extraction.  We recently obtained an instrument for measuring photosynthesis in the field and in the greenhouse.  We will use this instrument to measure photosynthetic differences in plant growing in our common gardens.  We may also be planting/growing milkweed in the greenhouse to help answer specific questions related to drought tolerance of the two species and their ability to hybridize.