Susan Kephart

Professor of Biology


  • Ph.D., Indiana University
  • B.A., Ohio Wesleyan University

Teaching Philosophy

To teach is to learn... and both involve the creative process of integrating what we already know and have experienced with new ideas and information. Science is an exciting venture because the discoveries of investigative research in the field and lab constantly enlighten and modify existing concepts and theories.

Research Interests

Speciation and hybridization; plant-animal interactions including plant-pollinator co-evolution and herbivory; the use of molecular tools to understand plant evolution, ecology, and systematics; linking science to community restoration and plant conservation efforts. Current active projects involve diverse study systems in Ascleipas (milkweeds), Silene (carnation family), and Camassia (camas). Dr. Kathryn Theiss, a former Willamette University graduate, is now a postdoctoral scholar in the Kephart-Theiss lab and is part of a National Science Foundation study that seeks to decipher species boundaries using integrative taxonomy for two sister groups that reach their greatest diversity in Oregon and the Northwest. These colorful, insect-pollinated lineages appear to be in varying stages of speciation, and include rare and common species that show ecological diversity with respect to soil type, light, and water levels. Two species of Camassia occur in eastern North America with an evident disjunction in the Rocky Mountain regions

NSF Award: Collaborative RUI Grant: Understanding diversity in camas and rush lilies: Can a unified approach resolve species boundaries in difficult groups?

Advised Student Research

(Currently being updated; please see asterisks for student coauthors under publications below, or contact for questions or further information.)

Current Thesis Students:

Theresa Barosh
An exploration of the relationship between galling insects and Willamette Valley camas species

Linnea Hardlund
An examination of flowering time as a potential isolating mechanism between two species of western camas

Rhys Ormond
A geometric morphometric study of symmetry and shape relative to pollination and speciation in Camassia

Past Students:
  • 2006. Marin Palmer. Pollinator preference and visitation of Camassia quamash and Camassia leichtlinii (Agavaceae).
  • 2006. Constance Adler & Kindra Clark-Snustad. Prezygotic barriers to hybridization in Camassia: An analysis of pollen tube growth and habitat disparities.
  • 2006. Molly Sultany. The geography, taxonomy, and ethnobotany of two species of western Camassia (Agavaceae) by North American Indigenous tribes.
  • 2005. Josef Uyeda. Allozyme analysis of species boundaries in co-ocurring western Camassia.
  • 2005. Suzanne Torre . Reintroduction as a tool for restoring diversity in wetland habitats.
  • 2005. Jenna Dillon. Differentiating the propagules and growth requirements of native camas lilies (Camassia).
  • 2004. Diana Lofflin, Erin Christophersen. The roles of pollinator limitation and seedling establishment in the evolution and conservation of "sky island" endemics in Silene.
  • 2003. Kathryn Theiss. Pollinator behavior and effectiveness in sympatric species of Asclepias (Apocynaceae).
  • 2003 & 2001. Jasmyn Caole, Julie Hourigan, Alyssa Robb, Victoryia Drofyak-Wolfer. Effects of habitat fragmentation on pollination and herbivory in showy milkweed, Asclepias speciosa.
  • 2002. Emerin Hatfield. Reproduction isolating barriers to hybridization between two milkweed species (Asclepias speciosa and Asclepias fascicularis).
  • 2001. Briana Gross, Kari Rollenhagen, and Jamie Mellor. Species boundaries in Camassia: Analysis of a putative hybrid zone.
  • 2000. Jonathan Thompson. Variation in pollen ultrastructure in the Silene douglasii complex (Caryophyllaceae).
  • 1999. Kandra Yee. ISSRs as a tool for assessing genetic differences in Silene douglasii.
  • 1999 Tighe Richardson. Variability in nectar volume and composition in rare and common varieties of Douglas' catchfly, Silene douglasii.
  • 1996 Andrea Foust and Jennifer Butler. Morphology, electrophoretic varability, and pollination biology of four floral color morphs of Clarkia amoena var. pacifica.


* Indicates student co-author.
  • T. Culley, J. Leng,* S. Kephart, S, F. Cartieri,* and K. Theiss.* Development of 16 microsatellite markers within the Camassia (Agavaceae) species complex and amplification in related taxa. Submitted, 2012.
  • S. Kephart, S, D. Lofflin* and S. Torre.* 2012. Rarity, reintroduction, and dynamic environments: Case studies in Northwest Camassia and Silene. In: Reichard, S, Gibble, W. and Combs, J. Conserving Plant Biodiversity in a Changing World: A View from NW North America. University of Washington Botanic Gardens, Conference Proceedings, in press.
  • Fishbein, M., S. Kephart, M. Wilder, *K. Halpin,* and S. Datwyler.* 2010. Phylogeny of Camassia (Agavaceae) inferred from plastid rpl16intron and trnD-trnY-trnE-trnT intergenic spacer DNA sequences: implications for species delimitation. Systematic Botany 35: 77-85. (cover photo)
  • Tomimatsu, H., S. Kephart, M. Vellend. 2009. Phylogeography of Camassia quamash in western North America: postglacial colonization and transport by indigenous peoples. Molecular Ecology 18: 3918-3928.
  • Kephart, S. and C. Collins. 2009. Fostering Interdisciplinary Inquiry, Communication, and Action Among Diverse Populations, pp. 389-413. In: Environmental Education, Communication, and Sustainability. W. Filho and F. Mannke, eds.
  • Sultany, M*, S Kephart, & P. Eilers. 2007. Blue flower of tribal legend: Skye blue petals resemble lakes of fine, clear water. Kalmiopsis 14: 28-35.
  • Theiss, K,* Kephart S, and C. Ivey. 2007. Pollinator effectiveness on co-occurring milkweeds (Asclepias; Apocynaceae, Asclepiadoideae) . Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden. Ann. Missouri Bot. Gard. 94: 507-516/
  • Collins, C. & S. Kephart. 2007. Wilderness in the American imaginary: Media constructions of scientific and political knowledge, pp. 249-259. In: Wilderness, Advocacy, and the Media, Proceedings, 8th Conference on Communication and Environment, University of Georgia.
  • Uyeda, J.* & S. Kephart . 2006. Detecting species boundaries and hybridization in Camassia quamash and C. leichtlinii (Agavaceae) using allozymes. Systematic Botany 31; 642-655.
  • Kephart, S. 2006. Pollination mutualisms in the Caryophyllaceae. New Phytologist 169: 667-680.
  • Kephart,S, R. Reynolds, M. Rutter, C. Fenster, & M. Dudash. 2006. Pollination and seed predation by moths on Silene and allied Caryophyllaceae: evaluating a model system to study the evolution of mutualisms. New Phytologist 169: 637-640. (with cover photo)
  • Kephart, S. 2005. Pollen-pollinator limitation, Chpt 6.4. In: Dafni A, Kevan P, & B. Husband (eds). Practical Pollination Ecology. Enviroquest, Ontario, Canada.
  • Lofflin, D.* and S. Kephart. 2005. Outbreeding, seedling establishment, and maladaptation in natural and reintroduced populations of rare and common Silene douglasii (Caryophyllaceae) American Journal of Botany, in press, Vol 10.
  • Kephart, S. and K. Theiss.* 2004. Pollinator-mediated isolation in sympatric milkweeds (Asclepias): do floral morphology & insect behavior influence species boundaries? New Phytologist 161: 265-77.
  • Kephart, S. 2004. Inbreeding and re-introduction: progeny success in rare Silene populations of varied density. Conservation Genetics 5: 49-61.
  • Hatfield, E.* and S. Kephart. 2003. Reproductive isolation and hybridization between two sympatric milkweeds (Asclepias fascicularis and A. speciosa). Madroño 50: 170-180.
  • Kephart, S., J. Butler,* and A. Foust.* 2002. Variability and drift in natural populations: from mollusks to trees. American Biology Teacher 64:455-463.
  • Kephart, S., K.Sturgeon, J.Lum*, and K. Bledsoe*. 1999. Varietal relationships in Silene douglasii (Caryophyllaceae): morphological variability at the population level. Systematic Botany 24: 529-544.
  • Kephart, S., E. Brown*, and J. Hall*. 1999. Inbreeding depression and partial selfing: evolutionary implications of mixed-mating in a coastal endemic, Silene douglasii var. oraria (Caryophyllaceae). Heredity 82: 543-554.
  • Brown, E.* and S. Kephart. 1999. Variability in pollen load: implications for reproduction and seedling vigor in a rare plant, Silene douglasii var. oraria. International Journal of Plant Sciences 160: 1145-1152.
  • Wolfe, A., Q. Xiang , and S. Kephart. 1998. Diploid hybrid speciation in Penstemon (Scrophulariaceae). Proceedings, National Academy of Sciences 95: 5112-5115.
  • Wolfe, A., Q. Xiang, and S. Kephart. 1998. Assessing hybridization in natural populations of Penstemon (Scrophulariaceae) using hypervariable inter-simple sequence repeat (ISSR) bands. Molecular Ecology 7:1107-1125.
  • Kephart, S. and C. Paladino*. 1997. Demographic change and microhabitat variability in a grassland endemic, Silene douglasii var. oraria (Caryophyllaceae). American Journal of Botany 84: 179-189.
  • Collins, C. and S. Kephart. 1995. Science as news: the emergence and framing of biodiversity. Mass Comm Review 22: 20-44.
  • Kephart, S. R. 1990. Starch gel electrophoresis of plant isozymes: A comparative analysis of techniques. American Journal of Botany 77: 693-712. (Special Paper).