Theresa greatly enjoys working with the lab team to explore evolutionary questions and studying the fascinating world of plants. Always one to try to satisfy an innate curiosity about the natural world, she joined UC in 2002 as an Assistant Professor after earning her PhD in Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology (EEOB) at The Ohio State University in 2000 and her BS in Biological Sciences from the University of California, Irvine. A native of California, Theresa became intrigued with botany as an undergraduate, working with Drs. Stephen Weller and Ann Sakai at UC Irvine on the evolution of dioecy in the Hawaiian genus, Schiedea. Her graduate work took her into examining why Viola species produce both cleistogamous and chasmogamous flowers. While at UC, she became fascinated with invasive species, especially understanding why the common ornamental tree know as the Callery pear (Pyrus calleryana) would suddenly start to spread from cultivation after so many decades of “behaving” in residential and commercial landscapes.
After receiving tenure and promotion to Associate Professor at UC, Theresa was appointed in 2015 to a part-time administrative role as the Provost Fellow, working with the University Honors Program. She then transitioned to become Director of Nationally Competitive Awards, where she oversees the office in its efforts to connect UC students and alumni with nationally and internationally prestigious awards, such as Rhodes, Goldwater, and the NSF-GRFP. In this capacity, Theresa has enjoyed working with faculty, staff, and students across the university. In August 2018, Theresa switched positions to become Head of the Department of Biological Sciences.
Making a difference in the world is also important to Theresa, which is why she has become involved in several outreach and professional efforts. Working together with Pam Soltis and Kent Holsinger, she co-founded the Botanical Society of America‘s online journal, Applications in Plant Sciences, for which she still serves as editor-in-chief. Because of this experience and her graduate students curiosity about whether researchers in developing countries obtain adequate credit for their work in publications, Theresa began working with Dr. James Lee and Arlene Johnson, co-directors of UC’s Digital Scholarship Center (DSC). This resulted in the Publication Bias project – one of the DSC’s primary projects.
Theresa’s work with invasive plants also led to involvement with the Ohio Invasive Plants Council (OIPC), for which she served as a past President and helped to develop their scientifically-based assessment process, working with both land managers and the nursery industry. She currently chairs their Invasive Plant Assessment Team. In early 2018, she was appointed to the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s Invasive Plant Advisory Committee to help determine which plant species should be added to the state’s newly instituted invasive plant list. Theresa has also become involved with invasive plant issues more regionally, serving on the Board of Directors of the Midwest Invasive Plant Network (MIPN). She is currently collaborating with Kurt Dreisilker from Morton Arboretum on a communication platform for gardens and arboreta across North America to share information on introduced plants now escaping cultivation.