Ashlee McCaskill, associate professor of biology at UNG, manages the greenhouse on the Dahlonega Campus and serves as curator of the botanical teaching collection, herbarium, and native garden. She established the woodland garden through grant funding.
I earned my BS degree in botany from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. My Ph.D. degree in Plant Molecular Biology is from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.
I teach the General Botany, Plant Physiology, Mycology, and BIOL 1107K courses. I am responsible in managing the departmental greenhouse as well as being the curator of the botanical teaching collection, herbarium, and native garden. This is my third year as an officer for the Southern Section of the American Society of Plant Biologists. I have served as the Secretary, Treasurer, and Vice-Chair and this coming academic year I will be the Chair of this professional society.
I have loved plants my entire life and I find it amazing that plants are the reason life is able to live on this planet. They are the key organisms that convert solar energy into usable forms, including oxygen, so that other life forms can exist. It is fascinating to study how DNA works and how it can be manipulated, too. And - plants are extremely beautiful!
Research allows me to share the excitement of discovery with my students. That is something that is difficult to accomplish in formal lectures and textbooks. Likewise, service opportunities give me the ability to share my enthusiasm for biology and particularly for plants. Hands-on teaching and learning truly inspire me.
The biggest highlight at UNG has been the establishment of a native woodland garden on the Dahlonega campus. I received a grant from the North Georgia Community Foundation - Chattahoochee Oconee Forest Interpretive Committee to install the garden. This project involves students from across the Dahlonega campus to clear away invasive species and trash which ultimately resulted in a beautiful and educational garden. With the grant funds, we built trails and planted some incredible plants. I hope to use this garden to work with interns and even community Master Gardeners who want to learn more about applied ecology.
The simple answer to this question is an appreciation of plants. Many students enter my botany classes with a general apathy towards plants and they are only taking the course because it is a requirement for some majors. I hope that I am able to instill a greater respect for plants which students will carry with them throughout their lives and also share their knowledge with others. Furthermore, I aim for students to gain an appreciation for all the roles plants play in their lives ranging from simple food sources to medicine and energy. I hope I lead them to discover the bigger picture of our world especially in regards to ethno-botany.
One of my goals this summer is to create a Facebook Page for the native woodland garden so that everyone can follow new projects and view what is in bloom