Molly McNicoll

Molly McNicoll portrait
Professor of Biology

Office: Sampson Hoffland Laboratories 190C

Phone: 563-387-1257



Education: Ph.D., Plant Biology, University of Illinois, M.S., Plant Biology, University of Illinois, B.S. Botany, Biological Aspects of Conservation, University of Wisconsin at Madison

I regularly teach in our introductory biology course (Biodiversity, Ecology, and Evolution), Restoration and Conservation Biology (an introduction to the ecology and decision-making required to promote healthy native ecosystems), and Ecology of Ecuador (a study-away course to montane rainforest, lowland rainforest in the Amazon basin, and the Galapagos Islands). For up-and-coming biologists, I emphasize discussion and analysis of scientific literature, scientific writing, and student engagement in projects that apply their knowledge to the real world.

Land Stewardship

Although my background is in traditional ecological study, I am interested in how we can apply our ecological knowledge to maintain and restore native habitats. As Luther’s Natural Areas Land Manager, I have the incredibly satisfying job of working with students, faculty, and staff to care for our woodlands, prairies, and other habitats. The process of land stewardship provides a natural opportunity for student learning and experimental research – as student interns have been involved in planning, research, and implementation. Please contact me if you are interested in school year or summer internships. Want to get to know Luther’s natural areas?

My research typically focuses on plant community ecology, such as what promotes (or inhibits) coexistence of plants species in a community, plants with herbivores, and with processes such as fire and other disturbances. In the past, my research has focused on prairies, but am currently expanding this to Midwestern forests, woodlands, and savannas. I am happy to pursue research opportunities with students during the summer. Past research with Luther students includes examining the effect of fire frequency on oak woodland restoration and the effect of management on wild parsnip (Pastinaca sativa) – parsnip is particularly interesting as it is a non-native, invasive species that has toxic effects on skin when its secondary compounds come into contact with skin and sunlight. An added benefit to research is that I get to ‘geek out’ identifying new plants and playing with statistics.