Steven Lee Matzner

Dr. Matzner teaches Introduction to Biological Principles I and II, and Plant Ecology. This coming year Dr. Matzner will be team-teaching an interdisciplinary class for the Augustana Honors Program (Civitas) entitled “The Ethics of Food.”

Steven MatznerProfessor of Biology
Augustana University
2001 S. Summit Ave.
Sioux Falls, SD 57197
Phone: 605.274.4821
Fax: 605.274.4718


Ph. D. Ecology               University of California, Davis, CA                  1999
Dissertation: Population and/or size class differences in gas exchange, xylem water potential, water-use-efficiency and vulnerability to xylem cavitation in blue and interior live oak.
M.S. Ecology                 University of California, Davis, CA                  1994
Master’s thesis: The effect of soil water stress on nitrogen and phosphorus uptake capacity in sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata Nutt.).
B.A. Biology                  Augustana University, Sioux Falls, SD               1990
Undergraduate research: Dietary reconstruction based on stable isotopes (13C, 15N, 34S) of Chilean cultural groups and of the Guanche, a pre-Hispanic Canary Islands people.


Professor, Augustana University, Sioux Falls, SD, 2012 to Present
Chair, Biology Department, Augustana College, 2007-2010, 2011-2012
Associate Professor, Augustana College, Sioux Falls, SD, 2006 to 2012
Assistant Professor, Augustana College, Sioux Falls, SD, 1999 to 2006
Postdoctoral Researcher, Boyce Thompson Inst. for Plant Res., Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, 1997-1999

Buchanan, Cummiskey, and Dr. Matzner in Greenhouse

Jackson Buchanan ('15), Tara Cummiskey ('13) and Dr. Steve Matzner at Augustana University in 2013

Undergraduate Research Opportunities with Dr. Matzner

Project 1:  During the summer of 2013, Tara Cummiskey (class of 2013) and Jackson Buchanan (class of 2015) worked with Dr. Matzner on two different projects. Both students worked on the effect of stem flexing (physically manipulating plant stems) on xylem cell characteristics. Xylem are the water-conducting cells in plants. Stem flexing can affect both xylem vessel size and xylem cell wall reinforcement, both of which can affect water transport properties and plant drought tolerance.

Project 2: Jackson, Tara and Dr. Matzner also worked with Dr. Joe von Fischer at the Colorado State University on a project involving methane uptake by grassland soils. 

Project 3:  Lauren Cole (class of 2015) from Tufts University worked with Dr. Seasson Vitiello and Dr. Matzner at Augustana College investigating the role of epigenetic regulation in drought stress in tomato plants. 

In addition to the opportunities listed above, Bethany Ahlers (class of 2014) spent the summer in Ithaca, New York working in the lab of Dr. Eric Richards at the Boyce Thompson Inst. for Plant Research on Cornell University campus.


Dr. Matzner teaches plant biology, ecology, evolution, and environmental science. A primary goal of Dr. Matzner's is to instill in students a greater appreciation for the natural world that surrounds them. Dr. Matzner's courses emphasize applying classroom learning to practical "real" life situations. A goal for all his classes is to stress "active" learning and student discussion of topics rather than lectures. Most of Dr. Matzner's classes incorporate some level of independent research to encourage initiative, imagination, and independence. He also requires that students present their findings to re-enforce communication skills. For Dr.Matzner, one unique feature about teaching at Augustana College is the ability to discuss issues such as evolution, cloning, and environmental problems both from a scientific viewpoint as well as from a religious/ethical view.

Dr. Matzner participates in the following courses:

  • Biological Principles I, Biological Principles II
  • Terrestrial Plant Ecology
  • Ethics of Food
  • Capstone Class-Is Globalization Sustainable.
  • Climate Change

 Bethany Ahlers

  Bethany Ahlers ('14) BRIN poster session 2013

Research Interests

Epigenetic regulation of water-related genes.
Hydraulic acclimation of water-related traits in response to various environmental changes.
Cavitation resistance and water-use-efficiency in plants.

Grants Supporting Undergraduate Research with Dr. Matzner (Total=$428,411)

Matzner, Steven L., Joe von Fischer. Title: ROA Supplement request for Methane uptake by grassland soils: Biogeochemistry, microbial ecology and integrative modeling. 2013-2014. NSF-DEB 1054956. $58,832.00

Matzner, Steven L., Eric Richards and Jed Sparks. Title: Epigenetic Regulation Of Water-Use-Efficiency Related Genes In Tomato. 2011-2012. USDA-NRI (2010-04206). $16,592.00

Matzner, Steven L. Title: Long-Term Hydraulic Acclimation: Importance and Patterns. 2006-2009. USDA NRI Competitive Grants Program (SDR-2006-02095). $177,000.00.

Matzner, Steven L. Title: Effects of Soil Moisture and Texture Differences on Transpiration Rates in Silver Maple and in Two Contrasting Bean Cultivars. 2006. Augustana Research and Artist Fund. $4500.00.

Vieling, Lee, William Capehart, Steven Matzner, Dan Swets, Patrick Zimmermann. Title: Leaf Area Index for Fire Chronosequences of the Black Hills and Southern Siberia : A Comparative Study. 2001-2006. NASA EPSCoR. $8020.00 per year.

Matzner, Steven L. Title: Effects of Grazing Intensity on Soil Organic Carbon and Soil Carbon Isotope Discrimination at the SDSU Range and Livestock Research Station at Cottonwood, SD. 2004. SD Center for Biocomplexity Studies Small Grants for Exploratory Research. $14,922.00.

Matzner, Steven L. Title: Measurement of Root and Stem Hydraulic Conductivity in Maize and Common Bean. 2004. SD EPSCoR Research Experiences for South Dakota College Faculty. $17,800.00.

Matzner, Steven L. Title: Effects of Fire Suppression and Fire on Soil Organic Carbon in Newton Hills State Park and in the Black Hills. 2003. NASA EPSCoR Program Initiation Grant. $10,793.00.

Matzner, Steven L. Title: Environmental Effects on Xylem Structural Characteristics in Populus. 2003. Augustana Research and Artist Fund Grant. $4852.00. 

Matzner, Steven L. Title: Environmental Effects on Xylem Structural Characteristics. 2000-2002. USDA Seed Grant (CSREES #00-35106-9403). $75,000.00.

 Jackson Buchanan , and Tara Cummiskey

Jackson Buchanan ('15) and Tara Cummiskey ('13) working during the Summer of 2013

Selected Publications (*Asterisk denotes Augustana undergraduate)

Siemens DH, Haugen R, Matzner S, Vanasma N. 2009. Plant Chemical Defense Allocation Constrains Evolution of Local Range. Molecular Ecology. 18, 4974–. 

Haugan R., Steffes L, Wolf J, Brown P, Matzner S, Siemens DH. 2008. Evolution of Drought Tolerance and Defense: Dependence of Tradeoffs on Mechanism, Environment and Defense Switching. Oikos. 117 (2): 231-244.

Spencer CN, Matzner SL, Smalley J*, Bukrey M*, Onberg J*, Chapman M, Steck M. 2009. Forest Expansion and Soil Carbon Changes in the Loess Hills of Eastern South Dakota. American Midland Naturalist. 161, 273-285.

Holste EK*, Jerke MJ*, Matzner SL. 2006. Long-Term Acclimatization of Hydraulic Properties, Xylem Conduit Size, Conduit Wall Strength and Cavitation Resistance in Phaseolus vulgaris in Response to Different Environmental Effects. Plant, Cell & Environment. 29, 836-843. 

Derr KD*, Vierling LA, Matzner SL. 2005. Effects of Different Fire Intensities on Understory Vegetation Diversity in the Jasper Burn Area of the Black Hills. Proceedings of the South Dakota Academy of Science. 83,189-195. 

Matzner SL, Gooch LC*. 2005. Environmental Effects on Xylem Cavitation in Seedless Cottonwood. Proceedings of the South Dakota Academy of Science. 83,183-189. 

Selected Published Abstracts (*Asterisk denotes Augustana undergraduate)

Matzner SL, Richards E, Sparks J. 2011. Investigating Epigenetic Regulation of Water-Use Related Genes in Tomato. Abstract. Ecological Society of America Meeting. Austin, Texas.

Matzner SL, Hawkinson JP*, Ronning NR*. 2010. Effect of Stem Flexing on Cavitation Resistance in Two Cultivars of Phaseolus vulgaris. Abstract. Ecological Society of America Meeting. Pittsburg, PA. 

Siemens DH, Duvall-Jisha J, Jacobs J, Manthey J, Matzner S. 2010. Tests of the Defense Constraint Hypothesis for the Evolution of Local Range. Abstract. Evolution Meeting. Portland State Universtity.

Matzner SL, Rettedal DD*, Harmon DA*,  Beukelman MR*, Hawkinson JP*, Ronning NR*. 2009. Hydraulic Acclimation and Contrasting Water Use Strategies in Two Cultivars of Phaseolus vulgaris. Abstract. Ecological Society of America Meeting.  Albuquerque, NM.