Who's Who of Professional Women


Patricia Werner

Patricia A. Werner, PhD, is a renowned ecologist, a Professor Emeritus of the University of Florida (UFL) and an Honorary Professor in the Fenner School of Environment and Society at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra, Australia. She joined the Michigan State University (MSU) faculty in 1973 as an Assistant Professor and, over the next decade, advanced to become a full Professor. During her tenure, she notably conducted research on plant populations with respect to community structure and function in succession systems and prairies. In 1982, Prof. Werner began research on tree population dynamics in Kakadu National Park, which is the largest national park in Australia, during a sabbatical leave from MSU and funded by her grant from the USDA Forest Service. Prof. Werner eventually relocated to Australia in 1985, as a Senior Principal Research Scientist and Director at the Tropical Ecosystems Research Centre (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization) located in Darwin, Northern Territory.

Attaining dual citizenship in 1987, Prof. Werner returned to the U.S. in 1990 as the Director of the Division of Environmental Biology at the National Science Foundation in Washington, D.C. In 1992, she accepted the role as Professor and inaugural Chair of the Department of Wildlife Ecology at the University of Florida in Gainesville. In 2000, Prof. Werner was a Fulbright Senior Scholar at the Charles Darwin University in Australia. In 2003, Prof. Werner returned to Australia where she remains today as an affiliate of ANU, actively serving as an Honorary Professor.

As a teacher, Prof. Werner taught various university courses, including Population Ecology, Community Ecology, Terrestrial Ecology, and Biogeography. She supervised masters and doctoral students while at MSU and UFL, all of whom have made significant contributions to ecological research, teaching, and academic administration. The Florida Education Fund named Prof. Werner “The Most Valuable Mentor for 2000” for “excellence in the mentoring of historically under-represented graduate students.” Her recent popular presentation, targeted at instruction for early career, women and minority scientists, is entitled “Lessons Learned in 40 Years of Research: Tips for Today.”

As a researcher, Prof. Werner is a recognized pioneer in plant population ecology. She established a legacy of research integrating basic botany, population ecology, and community ecology that laid the foundation for new ways of thinking about plants in natural environments, especially in successional and disturbed habitats. Her contribution was recognized early on by a 1988 Science Citation Classic Award from the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI, now Web of Science) for a seminal 1975 publication “having considerable influence on other authors in this field over the years.” During her career, Prof. Werner established several large-scale field experiments in the USA and in Australia that manipulated competitors, grazers, and fire to determine how selected plants colonize and persist in various habitats.

In 2019, she published a demographic model of canopy trees in Australian savannas, based on 30 years of field data, only the third such model in the world. Prof. Werner has published over 85 scholarly articles in top peer reviewed international journals, co-authored “Australia’s Biodiversity and Climate Change,” and “Savanna Ecology and Management: Australian Perspectives and Intercontinental Comparisons.” She has a record of invited research seminars at conferences, universities, and institutes in North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia.

Apart from her teaching and research efforts, Prof. Werner has also provided executive leadership, professional service, and outreach to the general public. Prof. Werner served on the advisory board of Kakadu National Park from 1986 to 1989 and as a board member of the Questacon National Science Museum in Canberra between 1988 and 1990. Prof. Werner was a national board member of the USA Man and Biosphere Program, an affiliate of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Paris. In 1991, she served on the select committee of the USA Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on reauthorization of the Clean Water Act.

During 1996-1997, Prof. Werner was Chair of the Section on Fish and Wildlife Programs, representing 70+ universities under the USA’s National Association of State Universities and Colleges (NASULGC), and also served as Chair from 1997 to 1998, during which time she testified twice before U.S. congressional sub-committees. Prof. Werner also was an instructor for two-week sessions of a U.S. national program for the development of university administrators from 1997 to 1999. Prof. Werner served as an Expert Advisor on biodiversity to the Australian Greenhouse Office in Canberra from 2007 to 2011. Throughout her career, Prof. Werner has served on various science society editorial and governing boards, organized conference sessions, provided talks at primary and high schools and public lectures, TV and radio presentations, and print media interviews and articles.

After completing a bachelor’s degree, Prof. Werner was accepted to the Michigan State University, where she continued her studies. She earned a Master of Science in plant systematics in 1968, followed by a Doctor of Philosophy in plant ecology in 1972. Eminently qualified in her field, Prof. Werner was named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) for “efforts on behalf of the advancement of science (that) are scientifically distinguished.” She remains a member of the Ecological Society of Australia and the Ecological Society of America.

Prof. Werner received Outstanding Performance Awards in both 1990 and 1991 from the USA Federal Senior Executive Service of the National Science Foundation. She recently established the Patricia A. Werner Scholarship for Ecological Field Studies at MSU, administered by MSU’s Kellogg Biological Station, to ensure that students studying ecology would be afforded the opportunity to study plants and animals outside of the classroom. A celebrated Marquis listee, Prof. Werner has been named to the 27th through 33rd editions of Who’s Who in the World.


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