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David McKenzie

David McKenzie

Associate Professor of Biological Sciences
Program Director, Field Sciences of School of Science & Mathematics

Campus Box 4050

Building Science Hall

Room 157

  • 620-341-5617


Ph.D., Ecology, University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY. Dissertation: Postfire species shifts, and the growth and regeneration of western red cedar (Thuja plicata), a range margin species, in Glacier National Park, Montana.

M.S. Biology, University of Nebraska – Omaha, Omaha, NE. Thesis: Restoration of Quercus macrocarpa (bur oak) savanna in Iowa’s Loess Hills.

B.A. Environmental Studies (Biology emphasis), Minor: Anthropology, University of Nebraska – Lincoln, Lincoln, NE. Undergraduate Thesis: Botanical biodiversity, distribution, and abundance of the mixed-grass prairie at Cedar Point Biological Research Station.


I am a Plant Ecologist and am particularly passionate about plant community succession, plant distributions, and the ecology of both natural and anthropogenic disturbance. I am also interested in margins of many kinds from large-scale margins such as species range-margins to small-scale margins such as microsite influences on species growth. I focus on understanding how plants and plant communities respond to, and are shaped by, the dynamic world around them. Emporia, Kansas and the surrounding region provides the perfect setting for these kinds of studies because of our variable topography, dynamic weather systems, multiple forms of land use, and various disturbance histories. We also have the juxtaposition of tall, mixed, and shortgrass prairie in the region, as well as the transition from prairie to wooded lowlands in southeast Kansas.

If you are a student and are interested in any of these fields, don’t hesitate to contact me. Also contact me if you are interested in becoming a graduate student at ESU.


  • General Biology (GB 100) is a general education class, and is for non-biology majors. We cover a little bit of everything and hopefully after this class you will understand biological concepts they you may encounter each day.
  • Bioscientific Terminology (GB 325), is a class in which students learn about the Greek and Latin roots of scientific words. The skills learned in this class will apply to every other biology class you take.
  • Plant Taxonomy (BO 542) is taught every fall semester. We learn primarily about plant identification, but also dabble in evolutionary relationships between plant groups and the roles that different plants play in the environment and for humans.
  • Forensic Botany (GB 459/859) is a class I teach with Dr. Sundberg. In this class we look at how plants are used as forensic evidence, and what the evidence actually represents for the plant. This class is an elective in the Forensic Science program as ESU, but is open to everyone.
  • Natural History Field Studies - Bahamas (GB 447/847) is a class I teach every other year in The Bahamas. It's a great class where we explore tropical marine and terrestrial organisms in their native habitat on San Salvador Island, The Bahamas. Click here for more information about this class.
  • Booze and Botany (GB 459/859) is a class where we learn about the plants behind some of the world's favorite beverages. You will also learn the fundamentals of fermentation for alcohol production.
  • Principles of Biology (GB140) is like GB100 but goes in to more depth. It is designed for biology majors and to prepare you to take the more advanced classes in our department.
  • Plant Ecology (GB759) is an advanced ecology class in which we focus on plants, their effects on other living organisms and their environment, and the effect the environment has on plants. We also discuss patterns plant ranges and distributions and the effects of various kinds of disturbance.


McKenzie, D.A. and D.B. Tinker. 2013. A tree-community-level analysis of successional status and gap-phase and postfire regeneration of range-margin Thuja plicata (western redcedar). Canadian Journal of Forest Research 43:119-128.

McKenzie, D.A., T.B. Bragg, and D.M. Sutherland. 2012. Initial changes in species cover following savanna restoration treatments in western Iowa. Great Plains Research 22:163-179.

McKenzie, D.A. and D.B. Tinker. 2012. Fire-induced shifts in overstory tree species composition and associated understory plant composition in Glacier National Park, Montana. Plant Ecology 213:207-224.

McKenzie, D.A. 2005. Plant composition of mixed-grass prairie of Cedar Point Biological Station, Keith County, Nebraska. Transactions of the Nebraska Academy of Science 30:17–23.