Interview with new Native Plants Journal editor Lora Perkins

Welcome to Native Plants Journal and UW Press, Lora Perkins! Can you start by sharing a bit about your background and experience in the fields of restoration and ecology?

I am a plant ecologist working primarily in the field of restoration ecology. My educational background includes three land grant institutions, New Mexico State University, Oregon State University, and University of Nevada, Reno. I am now a Professor at South Dakota State University. This track through land grant universities has instilled in me a deep appreciation for research that increases our basic scientific understanding as well as provides locally relevant boots-on-the-ground application. For example, we want to understand the basic science around dormancy in native seeds and we also want to get the little buggers to germinate during ecological restoration!

My past research has focused on both native and invasive plants and I have worked in hot deserts, cold deserts, and prairie ecosystems. I (along with a co-author) was awarded the 2019 Bradshaw Medal from the Society for Ecological Restoration for outstanding contribution to the field. More recently, I serve on the Advisory Board for the Center for Excellence in Bison Research, on the Prairie Reconstruction Initiative Advisory Team, and am part of the executive team for the Northern Great Plains Native Seed Partnership.

As the new editor of Native Plants Journal, what inspired you to take on this role? What aspects of the journal’s mission and focus align with your professional interests?

Native plants hold tremendous importance both for our environment and for cultural heritage. Native plants are diverse and interesting. Some natives are iconic and widespread (for example, Andropogon gerardii (big bluestem): tall, easily recognizable with the ‘turkeyfoot’ inflorescence, and a distribution from Saskatchewan to the Gulf of Mexico. Some native plants are rare and ephemeral (for example, Penstemon haydenii (blowout penstemon) that is a habitat specialist found only in the sandhills in Nebraska and Wyoming. Native Plants Journal is THE place to share essential information about all plants native to North America.

Assuming the role as editor is a profound opportunity to cultivate the journal in its mission to be leading forum to share information on North American native plants. I aim to help the journal to grow and blossom with increased use and impact.

What is your vision for the future of Native Plants Journal? Are there specific initiatives you hope to implement to expand the journal’s impact and reach?

One goal I have for the Native Plants Journal is to expand the spatial distribution of our editorial board and manuscripts. In the past, we have been really good at distributing information about plants native to the western United States. I would like to achieve more balance by adding editorial board members and increasing the number of manuscripts from other regions throughout North America.

Our sister journal, Ecological Restoration, is also under new editorship. We are excited to explore cross-journal initiatives and collaborations.

Are there specific thematic areas or topics within native plants and restoration that you believe deserve more attention in the journal?

I enjoy journal volumes with a theme. However, I do not necessarily think these themes must necessarily come from the top down. I am open to suggestions and to see if there are themes that naturally emerge from submissions. That being said, some potential themes that come to mind are based on phylogenetic groups (i.e., a related group of plants), geographic groups (i.e., native plants from a given area), plant life stages (e.g., floral traits); or a practical topics (e.g., treatments to increase seed performance in restoration). 

In your view, what role can Native Plants Journal play in promoting awareness and understanding of the importance of native plants in conservation?

Native Plants Journal should be the go-to source of information for anyone looking for information about plants native to North America. It is the role of our journal to consolidate, disseminate, highlight, and elevate information about biology, ecology, conservation, restoration, or production of native plants.

What advice do you have for aspiring researchers and authors looking to contribute to Native Plants Journal? How can they ensure their work aligns with the journal’s goals and standards?

Any aspiring researcher or author who has work about native plants should consider our journal. We publish five different types of manuscripts: refereed research (rigorous scientific research); topic reviews on native plant-related subjects; germplasm release articles; propagation protocols; and general technical articles. The key is that the work must be about plants native to North America. We accept work on a single species as well as work on many species. We want articles published in our journal to be accessible to academics, practitioners, growers, as well as folks just interested in native plants, so the writing must be clear and easy to understand.

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