As a plant ecophysiologist, I strive to understand the physiological processes that structure natural ecosystems. I am particularly interested in addressing three key questions:

  1. What are the limits of plant functioning under environmental stresses associated with climate change?
  2. How do plant responses to their environment influence community-level processes?
  3. ​How can we use this information to explain ecosystem change?

I use a variety of physiological and statistical techniques to address these questions, including leaf gas exchange, sensor networks, stable isotope analyses, plant hydraulic measurements, and bayesian modeling. Although my research has primarily focused on grasslands, I am interested in addressing similar questions in other systems as well.

Year Started

Education

Kansas State University, PhD Biology (2016)

Saint Joseph’s University, MS Biology (2012)

The College of New Jersey, BS Biology (2010)

External Grants

Active Grants

NSF Integrative Research in Biology: Collaborative Proposal: Integrating trait diversity across hierarchical scales to predict biological resilience in an era of extreme environmental change. Total award of $1,402,568 to two collaborators: $524,421 to University of North Carolina at Greensboro; and $878,147 awarded to University of Wyoming with subaward to SEU; Subrecipient PI: Kimberly O’Keefe, Biological Sciences. Subaward amount $341,093; grant period 2021-2026

Publications & Articles

Publications

*indicates undergraduate student author

O’Keefe K, Bachle S, Keen R, Tooley EG, Nippert JB (2021) Root traits reveal safety and efficiency differences in grasses and shrubs exposed to different fire regimes. Functional Ecology. https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2435.13972

Wedel ER, O’Keefe K, Nippert JB, Hoch B*, O’Connor RC (2021) Spatio-temporal differences in leaf physiology are associated with fire, not drought, in a clonally integrated shrub. AoB PLANTS. https://doi.org/10.1093/aobpla/plab037

Berry CZ, Ávila-Lovera E, De Guzman ME, O’Keefe K, Emery NC (2021) Beneath the Bark: Assessing Woody Stem Water and Carbon Fluxes and Its Prevalence Across Climates and the Woody Plant Phylogeny. Frontiers in Forests and Global Change. DOI=10.3389/ffgc.2021.675299

O’Keefe K, McCulloh KA (2020) Do invasive jumping worms impact sugar maple (Acer saccharum) functioning during a novel invasion of a temperate forest? Biological Invasions. DOI: 10.1007/s10530-020-02360-z

O’Keefe K, Bell DM, McCulloh KA, Nippert JB (2020) Bridging the flux gap: sap flow measurements reveal species-specific patterns of water-use in a tallgrass prairie. JGR Biogeosciences. DOI: 10.1029/2019JG005446

Hart J*, O’Keefe K, Augustine S, McCulloh KA (2020) Physiological responses of germinant Pinus palustris and P. taeda seedlings to water stress and the significance of the grass-stage. Forest Ecology and Management. DOI: 10.1016/j.foreco.2019.117647

O’Keefe K, Nippert JB, McCulloh KA (2019) Plant water uptake along a diversity gradient provides evidence for complementarity in hydrological niches. Oikos. DOI: 10.1111/oik.06529

O’Keefe K, Nippert JB (2018) Drivers of nocturnal water flux in a tallgrass prairie. Functional Ecology. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2435.13072

O’Keefe K, Nippert JB (2017b) An assessment of diurnal water uptake in a mesic prairie: evidence for hydraulic lift? Oecologia DOI: 10.1007/s00442-017-3827-2

O’Keefe K, Nippert JB (2017a) Grazing by bison is a stronger driver of plant ecohydrology in tallgrass prairie than fire history. Plant and Soil DOI: 10.1007/s11104-016-3048-1

Muench AT*, O’Keefe K, Nippert JB (2016) Comparative ecohydrology between Cornus drummondii and Solidago canadensis in upland tallgrass prairie. Plant Ecology. DOI: 10.1007/s11258-016-0567-z

O’Keefe K, Swemmer A, Nippert JB (2016) Savanna tree seedlings are physiologically tolerant to nighttime freeze events. Frontiers in Plant Science 7:46. DOI: 10.3389/fpls.2016.00046

O’Keefe K, Springer CJ, Grennell J, Davis S (2014) Biofuel Development from Cellulosic Sources. in: The Plant Sciences – Ecology & the Environment, ed: Russel Monson, Springer Reference Series, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg. 2013-12-01 19:08:16 UTC

O’Keefe K, Del Cid C, Arango CP, Puetz W*, Springer CJ (2013) Elevated [CO2] does not ameliorate the negative consequences of infection with the xylem-limited bacteria Xylella fastidiosa in Quercus rubra seedlings. Castanea 78(3):216-226. DOI: 10.2179/12-040

O’Keefe K, Tomeo N, Nippert JB, Springer CJ (2013) Population origin and genome size do not impact Panicum virgatum (switchgrass) responses to variable precipitation. Ecosphere 4(3):37. DOI: 10.1890/ES12-00339.1

Department Group