Sara Baer

Director, Kansas Biological Survey
Senior Scientist, Kansas Biological Survey
Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Primary office:
108B Takeru HIguchi Hall


Academic degrees
Ph.D., Biology, Kansas State University, 2001
M.S., Entomology, University of Georgia, 1995
B.S., Biology, University of North Texas, 1992

Young Alumni Award, Kansas State University, 2014
Women of Distinction Award, Southern Illinois University, 2015 

Program affiliation 
KU Ecosystems Research Group
Konza Prairie Long Term Ecological Research Program 

Areas of specialization
Plant, soil and restoration ecology

Research interests 
My primary research interest is the application of ecological theory to restoring ecosystems, particularly grassland. The Baer-lab studies above and belowground changes in structure (species and functional composition of plants and microbes) and function (primary productivity, nutrient cycling, and carbon sequestration) during ecological restoration in response to environmental heterogeneity, interannual variability in climate, and intraspecific variation in population sources of dominant species. Much of our research has focused on agroecosystems restored to tallgrass prairie. We have found slow changes in total soil carbon pools on decadal scales, dependent on soil texture, but rapid recovery of easily decomposable organic matter pools that tie up available nitrogen as restoration proceeds. Different ecotypes of dominant species used in restoration can differentially affect species composition and traits with consequences for ecosystem processes. Some of these studies span multiple decades and demonstrate that restored grasslands are dynamic ecosystems both above and belowground, and our knowledge of these ecosystems remains in its infancy.

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