Scientists & Staff

Cynthia Huebner

Research Botanist
180 Canfield St.
Morgantown, WV, 26505
Phone: 304-285-1582

Contact Cynthia Huebner

Current Research

My research focuses on the biology and ecology of invasive plant species in forest systems, especially in
association with anthropogenic and natural disturbances. Research topics include:

  • prediction of vulnerability to invasion (from seed bank, to establishment, to spread),
  • competitive ability of common invaders (such as Ailanthus altissima and Microstegium vimineum) in comparison with associated native species and under various environmental conditions,
  • basic biology and reproductive ecology of common invaders, especially in terms of how these characteristics may explain their invasiveness or pinpoint particular weaknesses,
  • evaluation of detection methods for sampling so that establishing invaders (or rare species) are documented early and effectively, and
  • restoration of invaded forest sites.

Research Interests

My research will continue to focus on the biology and ecology of invasive plant species in forest systems, especially in association with anthropogenic and natural disturbances.

Why This Research is Important

Successful management of our forests is dependent on being able to predict the effects of invasive plant species on the maintenance of healthy forest systems as well as the effects of different management and disturbance regimes as potential deterrents or promoters of invasion.


  • Miami University, Oxford, OH, Ph.D. Botany,
  • Indiana University, Bloomington, IN., M.S. Environmental Science,
  • Indiana University, Bloomington, IN., M.A. Plant Ecology,
  • University of California, B.S. Biology,

Professional Organizations

  • Ecological Society of America (1988 - Present)
  • Phi Beta Kappa (1988 - Present)
  • American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) (1996 - Present)
  • Botanical Society of America (1997 - Present)
  • Center for Plant Conservation (1997 - Present)
  • International Association of Vegetation Scientists (1999 - Present)
  • Southern Appalachian Botanical Society (2000 - Present)
  • Mid-Atlantic Exotic Pest Plant Council (2002 - Present)
  • West Virginia Invasive Species Working Group (2002 - Present)
  • American Institute of Biological Sciences (2003 - Present)

Featured Publications & Products

Publications & Products

National Research Highlights

Image 1:  Fruiting mile a minute weed -- Leslie Merhoff
Image 2:  Weevil eating mile a minute weed flower buds -- Yong-Lak Park.

Spatially Targeted Drone Carries Biocontrol Weevil to Hard-to-Reach Patches of Mile-a-Minute Weed

Year: 2020

Inadvertently introduced in the northeastern United States in the 1930s, mile-a-minute weed is a highly aggressive invasive plant that is replacing native species in many areas of the Nation. While a biocontrol agent has been identified, finding and reaching dense patches of mile-a-minute weeds has been a problem for land managers. The solution may be drones carrying environmentally friendly pods packed with tiny weevils.

Change over time in the ratio of plots with invasive plant species by land type for clear-cut and mature forests. Note how the driest land type (300) has switched places with the moderately mesic land type in the last five years for the clear cuts, whereas this same land type is the least invaded of the mature forests.

Spread of Nonnative Invasive Plant Species in Mature and Disturbed Forests Across Landtypes

Year: 2019

Native species could help slow the spread of invasive plants in disturbed forests.

Flats containing soil samples and germinants growing within a greenhouse.  The germinants are plant species found in the collected soil within the invaded, mixed, early successional, and mature forest sites.

Soil seed banks predict future forest composition

Year: 2017

Soil seed banks help define both forest health and the likelihood of invasion. In a comparison of soil seed banks at four sites in West Virginia, researchers found that non-native invasives may be poised to succeed mature forests.

Example of regionally (Ridge and Valley) defined species Gaultheria procumbens. Cynthia D. Huebner, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.

Forests Characterized More by Regionally Defined Understory Species are Less Vulnerable to Invasion

Year: 2016

Current forest understory composition may help predict future invasion by exotic plants. Sites with species that can be found across regions and are indicators of disturbance are more prone to invasion than sites with regionally different species, though these regionally defined species may be found in both disturbed and undisturbed sites.

Excavating the roots. USDA Forest Service

Staghorn Sumac Out-competes Ailanthus Under Different Light and Density Conditions

Year: 2015

In a greenhouse and common garden study led by a Forest Service scientist, staghorn sumac out-competed ailanthus (tree-of-heaven). Thus, at least one native early successional species may be able to deter this non-native invasive tree, if the site has sumac seeds and seedlings already present. These results highlight the importance of maintaining healthy native seed and seedling banks.

Rock skullcap flower. Ronald A. Polgar, USDA Forest Service

A Globally Rare Plant's Response to Fire

Year: 2014

The resiliency of rock skullcap, a globally rare plant, was studied by a Forest Service scientist working with a National Forest System ecologist. They found that populations increased after a prescribed burn, but decreased to pre-burn levels after one more growing season. Total cover of other understory vegetation also increased after the burn and continued at higher levels for another year. Rock skullcap is resilient to fire, but frequent fire or more severe fires with greater increases in other understory vegetation could be detrimental to this species.

Last modified: Thursday, September 30, 2021