Kate McCulloh

Kate McCulloh portrait

Assistant Professor of Botany
324 Birge Hall
Ph.D. (2004) University of Utah
Whole-plant ecological physiology; long distance water transport; plant responses to drought and other abiotic stresses
McCulloh's Lab


I’m a plant ecophysiologist, which means I use physiological approaches to answer questions framed in an ecological perspective. An extremely interesting question, in my mind, is how species that live right next to each other can co-exist. Specifically, what are the tradeoffs in the strategy employed by one species that allow a neighboring species to compete? Within this general framework, I am particularly fascinated by how the need for water affects species distributions and interactions.

Ultimately, the rate of water loss from the leaves of plants cannot exceed the rate at which it is supplied by the xylem. The distribution and properties of the xylem tissue throughout a plant, or its “hydraulic architecture,” combined with soil moisture availability largely determine the potential for water to be supplied to leaves. My research has been in quantifying patterns within the hydraulic architecture of plants with different growth forms and from different environments. My work spans multiple scales, from cell ultrastructure to ecological and evolutionary relationships between species across habitats. At the level of the individual, I include plants that vary in size from recent germinants to mature trees, which I access using the global network of canopy cranes or by climbing them with ropes and harness. My study species include conifer and angiosperm trees, palms, lianas, herbs and grasses from temperate and tropical systems. I use a variety of techniques including sap flow sensors, hydraulic measurements, leaf gas exchange, modeling, light microscopy and cryo-SEM.

If my interests overlap with yours, please feel free to contact me regarding potentially collaborating or joining the lab.