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Jacqueline P. Ott

Jackie Ott

Research Ecologist

8221 Mt Rushmore Road
Rapid City, SD 57702-8741
Contact Jacqueline P. Ott

Current Research

My research addresses basic and applied questions in grassland and shrubland ecology and can be broadly summarized under five topics.

Fire Ecology
• Examining post-fire regeneration in mixed-grass prairie and sagebrush steppe across a gradient of annual brome invasion
• Measuring the effect of fuel load on soil heating and subsequent vegetation responses in grassland and shrubland systems
• Evaluating the effect of post-fire drought on vegetation recovery in mixed-grass prairie
• Identifying societal perspectives on prescribed fire use across western North Dakota

• Examining drought effects on bud production, size, dormancy, and mortality of perennial grass species
• Investigating seasonal and long-term extreme drought effects on mixed-grass prairie
• Developing and Validating PhenoMap: A web application monitoring phenology (“greenness”) across the United States
• Validating the South Dakota Drought Tool which provides managers forage production predictions throughout the growing season

Invasive species
• Comparing the effects of precipitation frequency and grazing on growth and competition of the invasive perennial grass Smooth Brome (Bromus inermis) and the native perennial grass Western Wheatgrass (Pascopyrum smithii)
• Using plant traits to identify characteristics of noxious weeds according to ecoregion

Human impacts
• Assessing the status of plant and wildlife communities on the Badlands Bombing Range

Belowground plant traits
• Developing methods to measure belowground plant traits
• Documenting belowground plant traits across precipitation and temperature gradients in the Great Plains

Research Interests

Grasslands and shrublands were historically shaped by three major drivers: climate, grazing, and fire. In addition to these historic drivers, our society has found many uses for grasslands and shrublands, such as energy development and livestock grazing, as well as introduced new threats, such as invasive species, that can greatly alter these landscapes. My research interests center around the response of grasslands and shrublands to these drivers and anthropogenic uses and effects.

In order to provide science-based knowledge to managers, I seek to understand both the pattern of grassland and shrubland response and the underlying mechanism driving their response to these major grassland drivers. Looking at the less studied belowground mechanisms (bud banks, nutrient availability, soil heating) can provide a deeper understanding of aboveground responses. Therefore, I aim to work at the nexus of basic and applied ecology to provide fundamental and applied information and tools for scientists and managers.

Past Research

My past research has included:

  • Determining the bud bank and tiller dynamics of multiple perennial grass species in mixed-grass and tallgrass prairie
  • Assessing belowground traits of dominant grass species in southern African savannas
  • Determining the herbivory response of the African savanna tree Colophospermum mopane
  • Summarizing potential effects and mitigation opportunities during energy development on the Great Plains and specifically for the Little Missouri National Grassland in North Dakota

Why This Research is Important

Managers require science-based knowledge and tools to aid in their decision-making. Research identifying and evaluating how grasslands and shrublands will respond to major ecosystem drivers is critical to enabling managers to make informed decisions. Research understanding the mechanisms driving these responses will provide managers the tools to think through how grasslands and shrublands will respond to a new situation than has been previously studied or experienced.


  • Kansas State University, Ph.D., Biology (Plant Ecology), 2014
  • Kansas State University, Certificate, Applied Statistics, 2011
  • Kansas State University, M.S., Biology (Plant Ecology), 2009
  • Concordia University- Nebraska, B.S., Biology, 2006
  • Professional Experience

    Research Ecologist, RMRS
    2016 to present

    Post-doctoral Ecologist/ Research Associate, South Dakota State University/RMRS
    2014 to 2016

    Professional Organizations

    • International Association of Vegetation Science, Member ( 2018 to present )
    • USFS National Grassland Council, Member, Education & Outreach Chair ( 2017 to present )
    • Society of Range Management, Member ( 2015 to present )
    • Ecological Society of America, Member ( 2009 to present )
    • Botanical Society of America, Member ( 2008 to present )


    RMRS Early Career Scientist Publication, 2019
    In recognition of "The ecology and significance of belowground bud banks in plants" as the outstanding publication by a RMRS early career scientist
    Regional Forester's Honor Award for Excellence in Science and Technology, 2016
    Awarded in USFS Region 1 to a team of managers and scientists
    Chris Edler Award for Outstanding Research on Konza Prairie Biological Station, 2013
    Awarded annually to a graduate student within the Division of Biology at Kansas State University
    Presidential Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, 2012
    Awarded annually to one graduate student at Kansas State University
    John C. Frazier Award for Excellence in Graduate Student Research in Plant Science, 2008
    Awarded annually within the Division of Biology at Kansas State University


    Ott, Jacqueline P.; Hanberry, Brice; Khalil, Mona; Paschke, Mark W.; van der Burg, Max Post; Prenni, Anthony J., 2020. Energy development in the Great Plains: Implications and mitigation opportunities
    Schrader-Patton, Charlie; Grulke, Nancy E.; Ott, Jacqueline P., 2020. Monitoring land surface phenology in near real time by using PhenoMap
    Klimesova, Jitka; Martínkova, Jana; Pausas, Juli G.; de Moraes, Moemy Gomes; Herben, Tomas; Yu, Fei-Hai; Puntieri, Javier; Vesk, Peter A.; de Bello, Francesco; Janecek, Stepan; Altman, Jan; Appezzato-da-Gloria, Beatriz; Bartuskova, Alena; Crivellaro, Alan; Dolezal, Jiri; Ott, Jacqueline P.; Paula, Susana; Schnablova, Renata; Schweingruber, Fritz H.; Ottaviani, Gianluigi, 2019. Handbook of standardized protocols for collecting plant modularity traits
    Ott, Jacqueline P.; Klimesova, Jitka; Hartnett, David C., 2019. The ecology and significance of below-ground bud banks in plants
    Butler, Jack L.; Ott, Jacqueline P.; Hartway, Cynthia R.; Dickerson, Brian E., 2018. Biological assessment of oil and gas development on the Little Missouri National Grassland
    Ott, Jacqueline P.; Butler, Jack L.; Rong, Yuping; Xu, Lan., 2017. Greater bud outgrowth of Bromus inermis than Pascopyrum smithii under multiple environmental conditions
    Finch, Deborah M.; Pendleton, Rosemary L.; Reeves, Matt C.; Ott, Jeffrey E.; Kilkenny, Francis F.; Butler, Jack L.; Ott, Jacqueline P.; Pinto, Jeremiah R.; Ford, Paulette L.; Runyon, Justin B.; Rumble, Mark A.; Kitchen, Stanley G., 2016. Rangeland drought: Effects, restoration, and adaptation [Chap. 8]

    Featured External Publications

    A screenshot of the PhenoMap application.
    PhenoMap monitors weekly changes in phenology (green-up and brown-down) across the western United States via satellite.  Weekly satellite values of “greenness” successfully tracked changes in phenology documented by phenology cameras in grasslands, shrublands, deciduous broadleaf, and mixed forests but demonstrated the difficulty of tracking changes in phenology of evergreen needleleaf forests.
    A closeup of new leaves on a stem of grass.
    Similar to a seed bank, buds can be stored in the soil over time to form a bud bank. These belowground bud banks are the primary source of seasonal regrowth in most plant communities and are crucial to plant community recovery following disturbance. We summarized the current knowledge of belowground bud banks and their role in maintaining plant population, community, and ecosystem function following disturbance and during climatic variability. 
    Pump jacks harvest oil and gas resources from grasslands.
    Major U.S. energy sources – fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas), biofuels (ethanol), and wind – are concentrated in grassland ecosystems of the Great Plains. This research synthesized potential ecological effects and mitigation opportunities during renewable and non-renewable energy development in the Great Plains.  
    A view of a well pad under construction with trucks and other heavy machinery surrounded by prairie.
    Little Missouri National Grassland occurs within one of the major oil and shale plays in North America. Increased oil and gas extraction since 2000 has greatly affected the region. This review investigates the effects of oil and gas development on the grassland and provides specific information on the habitat needs and potential threats for three threatened species or species of concern- the Dakota skipper, Sprague’s Pipit, and the Northern Long-Eared Bat.
    RMRS scientists and university collaborators collect buds from the Buffalo Gap National Grassland for a growth chamber experiment.
    Scientists found that the invasive smooth brome out-performed the native western wheatgrass under a variety of temperature and moisture conditions. Their results help understand the competitive ability of smooth brome and have important implications for predicting vegetation dynamics under climate change.
    Belowground plant structures support aboveground regeneration in ecosystems around the world.  More research is needed to document and understand the anatomy, physiology, demography and ecological role of belowground plant organs.  By working with a global network of scientists we aim to provide research, syntheses and protocols on belowground plant traits.
    With increasing temperatures due to climate change and the inherent interannual variability in precipitation of most grasslands, droughts will likely increase in frequency and intensity across the Great Plains. Precipitation legacies from previous years can impact current year productivity in arid grasslands by shifting tiller and bud bank densities of the dominant grasses. Belowground bud survival during drought and the ability of buds to break dormancy following drought are key to maintaining a resilient grassland in both arid and mesic grasslands.
    Post-fire resiliency of plant communities in northern mixed-grass prairie and eastern sagebrush steppe depends largely on plant regeneration from aboveground and belowground buds. Canopy and stem regeneration occurs more quickly via the bud bank than via seedling recruitment. To better predict plant community responses to fire, we need an enhanced understanding of the immediate and long-term bud responses of key forb, grass, and shrub species to fire.