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Kirsten Stephan

Kirsten Stephan


My grad students and I are studying the effects of fertilization and other environmental factors on plant species composition and nitrogen cycling. Currently with my research I hope my findings will lead to improved management of forest ecosystems.

If you weren’t working at WVU, what’s the most likely alternative?

I probably would have worked for the U.S. Forest Service. I like working in the applied aspect of my work. If I worked for the Forest Service, I would be the one not just doing research but applying the improved management approaches.

Moment you knew what you wanted to study?

Probably some time in high school. I wanted to study biology; I knew that for a long time. My father is a forester in Germany so I got to spend some time in the forests, and I think that probably influenced my decision. I think I liked the idea of being outside. I don’t think I necessarily started out wanting to be a forester like my dad. I think studying life - which is what biology is - was the next closest thing.

Moment you knew your current role was right for you?

I enjoy both teaching and research. The teaching part I like because I hope to share some excitement for understanding the natural world better. As for the research part, there are so many interesting questions one could answer.

Favorite part of social distancing?

I get to tinker a little bit more in the garden while I’m watching the kids, I’ve also enjoyed teaching them. I’m getting a better feel for what they know and what they don’t know. They are five and eight years old.

Least favorite part of social distancing?

Sharing my time between watching my children and trying to get some work done. It’s just not possible. It’s the constant feeling of not doing a good job at either activity.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

I probably would live in Sweden. Germans have a fascination with Scandinavia. I spent seven months there as an exchange student when I was an undergraduate student, and it was just such an amazing experience. The landscapes, the people, and their society as a whole were just very intriguing.

Just for Fun

Favorite book: Inspector Rutledge series by Caroline and Charles Todd

Favorite local restaurant: Pies & Pints

Favorite local activity: Hiking in the forest, Canaan Valley