TCNJ’s Tree Thinker
“I just want to infect students with tree thinking,” joked Dr. Clement, occasionally glancing over the many pictures of plants that hung on her wall. “Plants are so interesting!”
Dr. Wendy Clement is an assistant professor of Biology at TCNJ. She graduated from Ithaca College in 2002 with a major in Biology and a minor in Mathematics for her undergraduate studies. She later earned her Ph.D. in Plant Biology from the University of Minnesota in 2008, specializing in plant systematics.
From a very young age, Dr. Clement knew that plants were her passion, she’s always enjoyed outdoor activities and was an avid girl scouts member as a child. She was inspired to pursue a degree in biology by a high school science teacher who shared with her how exciting plant science could be. During her undergraduate career, she began researching begonias and immediately fell in love with studying a specific endemic species growing solely in the Hawaiian Archipelago.
“I study how other species of begonias were related to this specific one growing in Hawaii,” explained Dr. Clement.
After finishing her Ph.D., Dr. Clement served as a post-doctoral associate and lecturer at Yale University while continuing her research in plant evolution. There she found a passion for teaching courses such as the Diversity of Life and Plant Diversity & Evolution. Her research in the evolutionary history of major plant groups uses methods like DNA sequence data, biogeography, morphology, and field studies to draw connections between modern species of plants and their evolutionary predecessors.
Her graduate research included the morphological evolution of the mulberry tree family and the investigation of the pollination ecology of fig trees.
Dr. Clement began working in the Biology department at TCNJ in 2012. Here she teaches an introductory biology course, as well as the Ecology and Evolution of Plant-Insect Interactions and continues her research on plant evolution in figs and Viburnum with the help of seven undergraduate Biology students.
When she’s not teaching, Dr. Clement loves to travel. She has had the opportunity to visit China, Columbia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Ecuador and Tanzania with hopes to travel more in the future. “It’s great to have chosen a profession that allows me to do what I love while visiting all these cool places,” mused Dr. Clement.
When she isn’t teaching or spending time doing field research, Dr. Clement can be found taking in the sweet sound of the latest bluegrass album or hiking recreationally. “I try to spend as much time as I can outside because I love it so much,” she said.
– Sorraya “Raya” Brashear-Evans
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