Matthews, Elizabeth (Liz) R. (Active)
National Park Service
Plant community structure
Liz grew up in New Orleans, LA, but spent her childhood summers in the mountains of western North Carolina, where her interest in natural ecosystems and love of Eastern Deciduous forests was born. Moving north to pursue undergraduate studies, she completed a B.S. at the University of the South, Sewanee, where she studied Forestry and Geology. Liz then moved to western North Carolina to apply her undergraduate training in working for a Nature Conservancy field office. It was during this experience that she got her hands dirty with invasive species management and caught the botany bug. Liz subsequently pursued graduate training in plant ecology, moving to Chapel Hill, NC to work under Robert K. Peet and Alan S. Weakley. For her doctoral work, Liz studied alluvial vegetation communities of the North Carolina Piedmont and produced a comprehensive vegetation classification of these communities and a tool to link vegetation descriptions, such as those in the US National Vegetation Classification, to riparian restoration efforts in North Carolina. Following her graduate work, Liz moved to California where she worked with Dr. Susan Mazer at the University of California, Santa Barbara to establish and direct the California Phenology Project, an on-going Citizen Science-based plant phenology monitoring program. Liz moved back to the eastern U.S. in 2013 to begin her current position of Inventory and Monitoring Botanist with the National Park Service. In this role, she leads a regional forest vegetation-monitoring program, which tracks vegetation status and change at more than 400 permanent monitoring sites distributed among eleven National Park Service units. Her current research interests include the impacts of urban stressors on forest composition and structure and applications of long-term monitoring to land management decision-making. Liz lives in Silver Spring, MD with her husband, Jose Zúñiga, and children. She currently serves as a board member on the Maryland Native Plant Society. Her personal interests include exploring the landscapes and flora of the Mid-Atlantic, and beyond, on foot and bike.