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Environmental Horticulture Graduate Program

Environmental Horticulture Graduate Program

Stephanie Verhulst / Ph.D. Candidate Environmental Horticulture

I graduated from the University of Wisconsin – Madison with a Bachelor of Science degree in Wildlife Ecology and a certificate in Environmental Studies in 2005. As I’m not the traditional student, I spent 6 years after my undergrad working as a Field Biologist in California and Environmental Scientist in Florida. During that time, I worked on a diversity of projects ranging endangered species surveys and relocations for gopher tortoises, scrub jays, and indigo snakes, in Florida and burrowing owls and San Joaquin kit foxes in California to wetland mitigation and restoration projects where I designed, planted, and monitored the restored systems.

I left the environmental consulting world in 2010 to pursue my MS degree from the University of North Florida studying epiphytic algal communities growing on Spartina alterniflora in the Guana Tolomata Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve when exposed to elevated water nutrient levels simulating eutrophication. During this work, I developed my love for salt marshes and the estuarine environment which led to my current Ph.D. research on the effects of sea-level rise on coastal plant communities along Florida’s gulf coast.

Adviser: Dr. Carrie Adams

Staphanie Verhulst CV

    • 2017-present Ph.D. in Environmental Horticulture, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL
    • 2010-2013 M.S. in Biology, University of North Florida, Jacksonville, FL
    • 2001-2005 B.S. in Wildlife Ecology, University of Wisconsin – Madison, Madison, WI


      • 2017-2021 Graduate Research Assistantship
      • 2017-2021 Grinter Fellowship
      • 2019 Bloom and Grow Garden Society Graduate Scholarship
      • 2020 Certification in Climate Change Adaptation and Climate Resilience with Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission



      • 2020-2021 Society of Wetland Scientists Student Delegate

    My doctoral research focuses on environmental stressors including tidal inundation, elevated salinity, and herbivory causing the loss coastal plant communities in the Big Bend region of Florida. My goal is to integrate current environmental conditions and stressors with plant growth, physiological response, and reproductive success to understand future coastal plant community responses to increased sea levels.  This work includes both field-based studies and controlled mesocosm experiments to assess species specific responses. My primary species of focus has been the salt marsh grass black needlerush (Juncus roemerianus) and the coastal forest species cabbage palm (Sabal palmetto).

    I am working on two additional projects to provide a more complete picture of salt marsh ecology and interactions: 1) the responses in salt marsh soil microbial community diversity and abundance to increased flooding and salinity and 2) the influences of genetic diversity of smooth cordgrass (Spartina alternifora) plant communities on resistance to salt marsh colonization by the invasive common reed, Phragmites australis.


    FOR 5157 – Produced and presented course material and assisted in discussions, grading, and course preparation

    • Verhulst, S. and C.R. Adams. 2020. Are coastal plants the marsh loss “canary in the coal mine”? UF/IFAS Florida LAKEWATCH, 90:9-12