Amanda Little
Amanda Little, who does research on wetlands, stops at a waterfall in Gulfoss, Iceland.

What’s new in your field? 

The hot topic that my colleague Dr. Jim Church and I are pursuing is the field of metacommunity dynamics. The National Science Foundation-sponsored research that we are conducting in the Ice Age National Scientific Preserve examines how the biological communities of ephemeral ponds (wetlands that dry up every year) are structured. This study is providing information about how best to preserve sensitive organisms, like wood frogs, spotted salamanders and fairy shrimp in times of changing climate. In addition to our five-year study, I also keep up with the best practices for killing invasive plant species and the ongoing updates plant taxonomists are making as they change the names of various plant species.

Why do you love teaching, especially at UW-Stout? 

I have been offered a great deal of freedom at UW-Stout to help develop the new environmental science program and the plant science minor. These developments allow me to teach the courses that I love, like Plant Taxonomy, Plant Ecology, and Wetland Ecology. The UW-Stout students are wonderful. They are humble, hard-working and very career-focused. I enjoy helping them find career opportunities and develop certifications that will help them land that job!

What’s your favorite teaching memory, moment or student? 

One of my favorite teaching moments is watching students when they first encounter a bog. It’s always wonderful! They love the carnivorous plants, and some take advantage of the opportunity to walk barefoot across the carpet of Sphagnum moss. The moment when they first jump up and down on the bog and it quakes like Jell-O beneath them is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for them. I have also enjoyed students testing their limits with the margins of a bog pond and almost falling in!

What’s interesting about you that your students might not know? 

I really enjoy reading science fiction and fantasy novels. I have even been on a panel at a science fiction convention! Also, I am an excellent pianist and at one point considered a music career.

If you could interview anyone, who would it be and why? 

Blackbeard, to find out where his treasure was buried, and then I would interview EC Pielou, a female theoretical ecologist (one of the few). I would also interview John Muir, Aldo Leopold and Henry Gleason (a famous plant ecologist and taxonomist). How did they accomplish the wonderful things that they did, both for science and land conservation? How did they come back from the inevitable setbacks that are part of anyone’s career and life? How did they manage both passion for their careers and balance their personal lives? It would also be interesting to interview one of my cats to see what it really thinks (if it could speak).

Five Questions

About Mandy

» Faculty Profile

Title: Associate professor, department of biology

Teaching focus, expertise: I teach plant and ecology-focused courses, including Plants and People (general education), Plant Taxonomy, Plant Ecology, Ecology, Ecology Laboratory, and Wetland Ecology. My research focuses on wetland ecology, specifically related to plant community dynamics, climate change, and the ability of organisms to disperse across landscapes.

Background: This is my sixth year teaching at UW-Stout. I received my bachelor’s, master’s, and Ph.D. all from within the UW System. My Ph.D. is in botany from UW-Madison, but I did my research on beaver-created wetlands in Acadia National Park in Maine. During and following graduate school, I taught at Edgewood College as an adjunct faculty member and spent three years teaching general biology and genetics at the University of Minnesota-Duluth.

Family, hobbies: I am married to another UW-Stout professor, Matt Kuchta, a geologist in the physics department. I enjoy gardening, killing invasive plants, running, reading, cross-country skiing and snuggling with our two cats, Pippin and Birkie.

January 2014