- Ph.D., Biology; University of Alaska Fairbanks (in association with Norwegian University of Science and Technology, NTNU, and Oregon State University); 2002
- Bachelor of Science, Biology and Art; magna cum laude; Willamette University, Salem, Oregon; 1994
BiographyAs a plant ecologist and conservation biologist I am interested in plant reproductive biology and pollination ecology, where I employ multi-scale approaches, from manipulative experiments at the population level to landscape-scale modeling. I have studied mating system and floral trait evolution and ecology in arctic, temperate, and tropical taxa (Parrya, Primula, Mimulus, and Dalechampia), and my research is currently focused primarily in arctic tundra and boreal systems. My research and conservation work has required long-term collaborations with federal, state, and provincial agencies and involves substantial public outreach to provide scientific information for effective conservation.
Teaching ResponsibilitiesCourses Taught
Biology of Vascular Plants (for biology majors)
Plant Systematics (for biology majors)
Plant Evolutionary Ecology (for biology majors)
Principles of Ecology (for biology majors)
Arctic Biology: from Ecology to the Genome (field and lab course for biology majors)
Fundamentals of Biology II
Introductory Biology (for non-majors)
Professional & Department Service2002-present
Alaska Natural Heritage Program Rare Plant Database: Oversee and assist with revising species and associated ecological and distributional data; respond to data requests from the public and state and federal agencies (see:
Alaska Exotic Plant Information Clearinghouse Database: Develop, oversee and assist with revising species and associated ecological and distributional data; respond to data requests from the public and agencies (see: http://akweeds.uaa.alaska.edu/). This is the largest spatially explicit non-native plant database in North America with over 80,000 records.
Manuscript Reviewer: Review manuscripts for New Phytologist, Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research, Western North American Naturalist, Phytoneuron, Journal of Fish and Wildlife Management, Wetlands, etc.
Plant Identification for the Public: Identify vascular plants for agency biologists, state epidemiology office, state troopers, and local citizens.
UAA Herbarium Curator: Curate, exchange, and maintain plant collections of University of Alaska Anchorage (ca. 12,000 specimens).
2012 – present
Hortus Steering Committee Member: Provide scientific input and university links with the Alaska Botanical Garden.
2012 – present
Pacific Northwest Cooperative Ecosystem Study Unit Technical Representative: represent UAA research interests for collaborative projects with federal agency partners.
National Science Foundation Proposal Reviewer: Arctic Research and Education Program.
Committee for Noxious and Invasive Plant Management Board Member: One of nine board members of the state’s non-native plant management committee, representing research and educational interests and organizing annual meetings and activities.
Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program Contributor: International planning meeting, Anchorage, Alaska.
Research InterestsStudents in my lab and I research plant evolutionary ecology and plant conservation biology. Specifically, we are studying the genomic and ecological consequences of loss of function mutations in the anthocyanin biosynthetic pathway for arctic plants, the impacts of non-native species on pollination networks and soil ecology, reproductive ecology of rare plants, and vulnerabilities of Alaska’s plant species. I also manage the state’s rare plant and non-native plant databases.
- 2016 NOAA National Research Reserve Operations ($612,000). Co-PI with J. Shepherd
- 2016 Wildlife Diversity (340,000) – Alaska Dept. Fish and Game. Co-PI with P. Schuette
- 2016 Rare and Invasive Plant Assessment – Phase II ($126,000) USDI BLM. Co-PI with J. Fulkerson
- 2015 Seeds of Success ($46,000) – USDI BLM. with J. Fulkerson
- 2015 Arctic Pollinators ($7,150) – USGS
- 2015 Rare and Invasive Plant Assessment ($70,000) – USDI BLM. with J. Fulkerson and L. Flagstad
- 2014 Tongass Rare Species Assessment ($50,000) – USDA USFS with J. Fulkerson
- 2014 Rare and Invasive Plant Assessment ($28,000) – USDI BLM. with J. Fulkerson and L. Flagstad
- 2014 AKEPIC Database support ($11,000) – USDA, NPS. Co-PI with L. Flagstad
- 2014 Invasive Plant Assessment – Seeds of Success ($49,000) – USDI BLM. with J. Fulkerson
- 2014 Smartphone App – Invasive Plant Identification ($5000) – UAF Extension Service
- 2013 Central Yukon Rapid Ecoregional Assessment ($1,099,721) – USDI, BLM. Co-PI with J. Trammell, K. Boggs, N. Fresco, and D. Vadapalli
- 2013 Rare and Invasive Plant Monitoring – Reindeer forage vegetation assistance ($28,000) – USDI, BLM. with L. Flagstad
- 2013 Rare and Invasive Plant Monitoring & Education ($30,000) – USDI, BLM
- 2013 Seeds of Success – Phase 3 ($35,000) – USDI, BLM. Co-PI with J. Fulkerson.
- 2012 Western Arctic Caribou Herd Forage Monitoring ($250,000) – USDI, BLM
- 2012 Invasive Species Surveys in Areas Impacted by Wildfire ($129,000) – USDI, BLM
- 2012 Yukon, Kuskokwim, Lime Hills Ecoregional Assessment ($980,000) – USDI, BLM. Co-PI with K. Boggs, M. McTeague, S. Martin, and N. Fresco.
- 2011 Seward Peninsula, Nulato Hills Rapid Ecoregional Assessment ($280,000 awarded to UAA) – USDI, BLM. Co-PI with K. Boggs, T.S. Rupp, and S. Martin.
- 2011 North Slope Wetlands Inventory ($105,000) – Alaska Department Environmental Conservation
- 2010 Campbell Tract Invasive Plant Management ($64,000) – USDI, BLM
- 2010 Phase I Cooperative Animal and Plant Inventory ($62,000) – USDI, BLM
- 2010 ARRA Salmon Lake/Unalakleet Wild and Scenic River Invasive Plant Inventory and Education ($25,000) – co-PI with H. Cortés-Burns, USDI, BLM
- 2010 Are Alaskan Pollinators Abandoning Native Berries for Exotic Clover? ($494,000 total Co-PI with Christa Mulder, UAF, Jeff Conn and Steve Seefeldt AK ARS) – USDA/CSREES
PublicationsSelected Peer Reviewed Publications
Spellman, K.V., C.P.H. Mulder, and M.L. Carlson. 2016. Effects of invasive plant patch size and distance on the pollination and reproduction of native boreal plants. Botany 12: 1151-1160. DOI: 10.1139/cjb-2015- 0233.
Eidam, D. M., F. A. von Hippel, M. L. Carlson, D. R. Lassuy, and J. A. López. 2016. Trophic ecology of introduced populations of Alaska blackfish (Dallia pectoralis) in the Cook Inlet Basin, Alaska. Environmental Biology of Fishes. 99: 557-569. DOI 10.1007/s10641-016- 0497-6.
Spellman, K.V., L. C. Schneller, C. P. H. Mulder, M. L. Carlson. 2015. Effects of non‑native Melilotus albus on pollination and reproduction in two boreal shrubs. Oecologia DOI 10.1007/s00442-015- 3364-9.
Jarnevich, C. S., T. R. Holcombe, E. Bella, M. L. Carlson, G. Graziano, M. Lamb, S. Seefeldt, J. Morisette. 2014. Cross-Scale Assessment of Potential Habitat Shifts in a Rapidly Changing Climate. Invasive Plant Science and Management 7: 491-502
Butler, T., C. Dick, M.L. Carlson, J.B. Whittall. 2014. Transcriptome analysis of a petal anthocyanin polymorphism in the arctic mustard, Parrya nudicaulis. PLoS One 9(7): e101338. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0101338.
Carlson, M. L., R. Lipkin, C. Roland, and A.E. Miller. 2013. New and important vascular plant collections from south-central and southwestern Alaska: a region of floristic convergence. Rhodora 115: 61-95.
Fulkerson, J. R., J. B. Whittall, M. L. Carlson. 2012. Reproductive Ecology and Severe Pollen Limitation in the Polychromic Tundra Plant, Parrya nudicaulis (Brassicaceae). Plos One 7(3) e32790. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0032790.
Sowerwine, J. E., M. J. Rinella, M. L. Carlson. 2012. Do populations of an invasive weed differ greatly in their per-gram competitive effects? Western North American Naturalist 72: 43-47.
Dick, C. A., J. Buenrostro, T. Butler, D. J. Kliebenstein, M. L. Carlson, J. B. Whittall. 2011. Arctic mustard flower color polymorphism controlled by petal-specific downregulation at the threshold of the anthocyanin biosynthetic pathway. Plos One 6(4): e18230. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0018230.
Carlson, M. L., L. A. Flagstad, L. A., F. Gillet, and E. A. D. Mitchell. 2010. Community development along a proglacial chronosequence: Is aboveground and belowground community structure controlled more by biotic than abiotic factors? Journal of Ecology 98:1084-1095.
Carlson, M. L., and R. J. Meinke. 2008. Hybridization between a rare and introduced Oenothera along the North Pacific Coast. Western North American Naturalist 68:161-172.
Conn, J., K. Beattie, M. Shephard, M. L. Carlson, I. V. Lapina, M. Hebert, R. Gronquist, M. Rasy. 2008. Alaska Melilotus (Fabaceae) Invasions: Distribution, Origin, and Susceptibility of Plant Communities. Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research 40:298-308.
Whittall, J. B., and M. L. Carlson. 2009. Plant defense: a pre-adaptation for pollinator shifts, New Phylotogist 182:5-8.
Carlson, M. L., S. D. Gisler, and S. Kelso. 2008. The role of reproductive assurance in the Arctic: a comparative study of a homostylous and distylous species pair Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research 40:39-47.
Pélabon, C., T. F. Hansen, M. L. Carlson, and W. S. Armbruster. 2006. Patterns of asymmetry in the twining vine Dalechampia scandens (Euphorbiaceae): ontogenetic and hierarchical perspectives. New Phytologist 170:65-74.
Whittall, J. B., M. L. Carlson, P. Beardsley, R. J. Meinke, A. Liston. 2006. The Mimulus moschatus Alliance (Phyrmaceae): molecular and morphological phylogenetics and their conservation significance. Systematic Botany 31:380-397.
Pélabon, C., M. L. Carlson, T. F. Hansen, and W. S. Armbruster. 2005. Effects of crossing distance on fitness and developmental stability in Dalechampia scandens (Euphorbiaceae). American Journal of Botany 92:842-851.
Pélabon, C., M. L. Carlson, T. F. Hansen, N. G. Yoccoz, and W. S. Armbruster 2004. Consequences of interpopulation crosses on developmental stability and canalization of floral traits in Dalechampia scandens (Euphorbiaceae). Journal of Evolutionary Biology 17: 19-32.
Pélabon, C., T. F. Hansen, M. L. Carlson, and W. S. Armbruster 2004. Variational and genetic properties of developmental stability in Dalechampia scandens. Evolution 58: 504-514.
Hansen, T. F., C. Pélabon, W. S. Armbruster, and M. L. Carlson. 2003. Evolvability and genetic constraint in Dalechampia blossoms: components of variance and measures of evolvability. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 16: 754-766.
Hansen, T. F., W. S. Armbruster, M. L. Carlson, and C. Pélabon. 2003. Evolvability and genetic constraint in Dalechampia blossoms: Genetic correlations and conditional evolvability. Journal of Experimental Zoology 296(B): 23-39.
Career History/Work Experience
- Director – Alaska Center for Conservation Science, University of Alaska Anchorage (Sept 2015-present)
- Associate Professor of Biology, Alaska Natural Heritage Program & Biological Sciences, University of Alaska Anchorage (2010-present)
- Assistant Professor June, 2004 – 2010, Alaska Natural Heritage Program & Biological Sciences, University of Alaska Anchorage
- Assistant Research Professor June 2002 – 2004, Alaska Natural Heritage Program, University of Alaska Anchorage
- Faculty Research Assistant – Plant Conservation Program at Oregon State University (1999-2002)
- Sabbatical Replacement Instructor: Norwegian University of Science and Technology (Trondheim, Norway, January 1999 – May 1999)
- Botany Research Assistant – Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway (1998-1999)
- Botanist – Independent contractor for Oregon Department of Agriculture, Plant Conservation Biology Program (1998)
- Faculty Research Assistant, Plant Conservation Program at Oregon State University (1994-1997)
- Botany Field Assistant, Oregon Department of Agriculture, Plant Conservation Biology Program (1992-1993)