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Noted plant scientist and conservation leader Dr. Nicole Cavender joined The Morton Arboretum as the vice president of science and conservation.

Cavender joins Morton Arboretum as VP of science and conservation

Noted plant scientist and conservation leader Dr. Nicole Cavender joined The Morton Arboretum as the vice president of science and conservation. In this newly established role, she will be responsible for advancing the Arboretum’s strategies and leadership to plant and save trees for a greener, healthier, more beautiful world.


Cavender comes to the Arboretum from The Wilds, a 10,000-acre wildlife conservation center in southeastern Ohio, where she was chief programmatic officer and previously director of restoration ecology. There, she focused on conservation research, habitat restoration, and land management, along with forest restoration and planting.


In her new position at the Arboretum, Cavender will oversee the research program, which conducts scientific studies to develop and grow healthier trees for a better environment; the Regional Trees Initiative and related Community Trees Program, addressing the health and improvement of the urban forest in Chicago and the surrounding area; and the ArbNet interactive community of tree-focused public gardens worldwide. She also will direct the Arboretum’s strategy on climate change, its tree and woodland conservation agenda linked to the Global Trees Campaign, and collaboration opportunities with other institutions to support innovative science and conservation projects.


According to Gerard T. Donnelly, PhD, President and CEO of the Arboretum, “Dr. Cavender represents the next generation of leadership in the plant sciences. Her new role is key to moving the Arboretum toward being the leading center of tree expertise, and furthering our actions to advance the planting and conservation of trees.”


“My goal is to bring innovation, increased awareness, and active participation to the Arboretum’s tree conservation efforts,” said Cavender. “Through our professional scientific work and practical applications, we can influence knowledge about trees, how people and communities care for them, and the future of trees themselves.”


Cavender has a Ph.D. in horticulture and crop science from The Ohio State University and a B.S. in environmental and plant biology from Ohio University, where she has been an adjunct professor in environmental and plant biology.

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