Jeannine H. Richards


PhD Candidate (expected 2020), Environment & Resources, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison

MA, Zoology, Global Environment Program, Miami University

BA, Conservation Biology & Environmental Policy, University Professors Program, Boston University

Curriculum Vitae:


Research Interests:

Tropical plant ecology, epiphyte diversity and ecology, functional ecology, agricultural systems and agroecology, conservation planning, international conservation, ecological restoration, interdisciplinary collaboration

Current Research:

In tropical forests, high biodiversity frequently intersects with rapid deforestation rates, often driven by agricultural expansion. Yet, traditional agriculture methods often incorporate ecological relationships into farming, offering potential to meet conservation and human development needs together. Research in these landscapes is still in its early stages, but suggests that complex, diversified farming systems can support high biodiversity. Shade coffee, the most well-studied of these agroecosystems, has become a model for studying agriculture that incorporates trees. In agroforests, substantial botanical diversity may reside in epiphytic plants—air plants, such as orchids and bromeliads, that grow on tree branches. Epiphytes are vital members of tropical forests; research suggests that they serve a keystone role, cycling nutrients, providing habitat for invertebrates, and offering food resources for birds. They are threatened by habitat loss from deforestation, thus agroforests may offer critical substitute habitat. Yet, not all agroforests support epiphytes equally. Varying producer decisions yield a range of abiotic environments in coffee farms that favor some epiphytes over others, meditated by the physiological traits of each species.  My research compares epiphyte diversity and abundance between intact forests and coffee agroforests, examines traits among species that facilitate colonization of agroforests, and links environmental conditions that favor epiphytes in coffee farms to producers’ management decisions. Explicating the relationship between management decisions, adaptive plant traits, and the implications for the biodiversity of epiphytes that coffee farms can sustain provides a missing link in our current understanding of the conservation potential and value of tropical agroforests.

Personal Interests:

Amateur farmer, orchid collector, bookworm, outdoor enthusiast, world traveler, foodie. I like cats better than dogs and oranges better than apples. My goal in life is to someday own a house that has a mango tree in the yard.

Contact Info:| 608-393-7352 | 430 Lincoln Drive | Madison, WI 53703