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Danielle Gafford
Undergraduate Student
Biological Sciences
University of Missouri
Posted 4-11-22

Twitter: @danielle_gaff24 (Twitter)

Danielle Gafford

I have pursued my interests further by studying tallgrass prairie ecology in relation to seed dispersal and disturbance. My current research with Dr. Lauren Sullivan focuses on quantifying herbaceous community assembly dynamics in grasslands. I am specifically interested in how physical disturbances affect vegetation recovery in relation to nutrient enrichment and factors affecting stabilization. To gain a better understanding of diversity and species colonization, I analyze the seed rain and the seed bank of the plots I am currently studying in Minnesota. This research has become increasingly important with grassland conversion to agricultural fields and loss of biodiversity being prominent and threating to this vital ecosystem.

How Danielle got interested in the botanical sciences:
I discovered my fondness for plants after the purchase of my first leafy friend, Steve. Over sixty plants and one humidifier later, (with an unexpected high mortality rate of ferns) I devoted myself to the intricacies I became curious about. After being raised on nature documentaries, I noticed the clear focus on animal behavior while plants were mainly exhibited as a pretty backdrop. This distinction made me interested in the vast biodiversity that is clearly present. Searching for answers led me to work with Dr. Chris Pires where I discovered my infatuation with the complexity and fragility present in every plant species. Through my initial involvement researching de novo domestication in wild and feral Brassica species, I entered the world of botany with wide eyes and an immense determination to learn everything I could. As I continued to learn more through literature, I pursued my continued curiosity by listening to an infinite amount of plant podcasts. I started going on plant identification hikes as a break from studying for my classes and soon after, my friends began to comment when I started identifying plants as we drove by them on the road.

Image from Danielle Gafford

Image from Danielle Gafford

Danielle's advice for those just starting their botanical journey:
Explore and don’t be ashamed to ask questions! Botany is vast with many disciplines so it can be overwhelming to know where to start. The best way to learn is through conversations with individuals from a variety of fields. There is always something new to learn and more to understand so stay open and curious.

Other Passions:
Outside of botany, I spend a lot of my free time hiking and painting. I enjoy expressing creativity through a variety of mediums and I especially enjoy doing so through ceramics, watercolor, creative writing, and scrapbooking. I also collect antique books leading to my love of literature and poetry. Recently, I began long boarding and it became an unexpected highlight of my weekends. I have found new paved hiking trails that I will take my board down until I find a good place to set up my hammock, drink some tea, and read a book. I look forward to the times I perform hive checkups as a part of bee keeping club as well as the time I set aside for board game and trivia night with my friends. Watching documentaries with my cat is also a highlight of my evenings. I am usually planning a road trip with friends, and I always create an overly curated list of songs and podcasts to listen to on our way to the campsite.

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