Since graduating with a PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Tennessee, Dwayne Estes has spent the past 11 years serving as professor of biology at Austin Peay State University's Center of Excellence for Field Biology and Director of the APSU Herbarium, a plant museum with 130,000 specimens. His expertise includes the flora, natural communities, and biogeography of the eastern U.S. He has been studying the genus Clematis, the leatherflowers, for more than a decade and is now completing a comprehensive taxonomic study of this group.
In the past two years, Dwayne has launched a new conservation organization, the Southeastern Grasslands Initiative, also based out of APSU. This new organization is leading efforts to restore, research, rebuild and raise awareness for grassland habitats (prairies, savannas, barrens, glades, meadows, etc.) of a 23-state area of the eastern U.S., spanning from New Jersey and Missouri south to Florida and Texas. He and his team are building a strong network of collaborators that includes citizen scientists, private landowners, academic researchers, government agencies and NGOs, corporations and philanthropic foundations. For his leadership in conserving grasslands, Dwayne was named Tennessee Conservationist of the Year in 2018 by the Tennessee Wildlife Federation. Many of the eastern species of Clematis are associated with grassland ecosystems.