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Mary Ann Vinton, PhD

Program Director, Environmental Science



College of Arts and Sciences
HLSB - Hixson Lied Science Building - 438

Mary Ann Vinton, PhD

Program Director, Environmental Science


Dr. Mary Ann Vinton joined the Department of Biology in 1995.  She held the Clare Boothe Luce Chair for Women in Science from 1995-2000 and chaired the Biology department from 2005-2008.  Presently she is a Professor in Biology and Director of the Environmental Science (EVS) Program, an interdepartmental degree program involving 20 faculty members from eight departments and granting a BS in EVS, a minor in EVS and a minor in Environmental Policy.  Her teaching and research interests are in the area of ecology and she teaches courses ranging from introductory biology and environmental science to a senior course in ecosystem ecology.   Research projects revolve around human-caused changes in plant communities and ecosystems in prairies and forests of the Midwestern region.   Human drivers of change include fire suppression, land clearing for agriculture and urban development, altered temperature regimes, and elevated carbon dioxide and nitrogen, all of which have major implications for key attributes of ecosystem health such as biodiversity, nitrogen pollution and carbon storage.   Recent projects have explored these changes, particularly as manifested in plants that have become more common or even invasive under these changed conditions.  Since 2016, Dr. Vinton leads an interdisciplinary project at Creighton on the Nebraska Sandhills, the largest grass-stabilized sand dune system in the Western Hemisphere and the key area of ground water recharge for the High Plains Aquifer.  Using an interdiciplinary approach involving art, social science and natural science, she and a team of Creighton faculty and students examine social and biophysical factors affecting the sustainability and conservation of this region. 

Research Focus

Ecosystem ecology, role of plants in ecosystems, grassland ecology and biodiversity, nutrient cycling and decomposition, plant-soil interactions, ecology of invasive plant species, ecosystem services, use of satellite imagery in ecology and conservation, environmental science education and pedagogy, dynamics and resilience of social-ecological systems, place-based studies as exemplified in the Nebraska Sandhills






  • Great Plains Research
  • Great Plains Research
    Downing, Research Article 2021
  • Great Plains Research
    O'Keefe, Invited Essay
    29, p. 71-81 2019
  • EcoEd Digital Library
    Mary Ann Vinton, 2013
  • EcoEd Digital Library
    Vinton, M.A. and J. Kenning. 2012. What NOT to read: a lesson in reviewing and critiquing scientific literature using a junk science article on climate change. 2012
  • Great Plains Research
    Vinton, M.A. Review of: Grass: In Search of Human Habitat by Joe C. Truett. Great Plains Research.
    21 (2) 2011
  • Ecology of the Shortgrass Steppe: Perspectives from Long-term Research
    Vinton, M. A., Burke, I. C., Mosier, A. R., Hook, P. B., Milchunas, D. G., Barrett, J.E., McCulley, R. L., Kaye, J. P., Gill, R. A., Epstein, H. E., Kelly, R. H., Parton, W. J., Yorker, C. M., Lowe, P., Laurenroth, W. K. Soil Organic Matter and Nutrient Dynamics of Shortgrass Steppe Ecosystems, p. 306-341 2008
  • Great Plains Research
    Vinton, M. A. Review of The National Grassland: A Guide to America's Undiscovered Treasures by Francis Moul. (Book Review)
    17, p. 236-237 2007
  • Ecosystems
    Vinton, Mary A., Goergen, Erin M. Plant?..Soil Feedbacks Contribute to the Persistence of Bromus inermis in Tallgrass Prairie
    9, p. 967-976 2006
  • Journal of Vegetation Science
    Murphy, K. L., Burke, I. C., Vinton, M. A., Lauenroth, W. K., Aguiar, M. R., Wedin, D. A., Virginia, R. A., Lowe, P. N. Regional analysis of litter quality in the central grassland region of North America
    13, p. 395-402 2002
  • Journal of Range Management
    Vinton, M. A., Kathol, E. S., Vogel, K. P., Hopkins, A. A. Endophytic fungi in Canada wild rye in natural grasslands
    54, p. 390-395 2001


  • Grasslands: A Natural and Personal History from the Nebraska Sandhills. Environmental Studies Program; University of Nebraska-Omaha; October 27, 2014. 2014
  • Hines, Elizabeth*, Mary Ann Vinton and Colin Smalley*. 2013. The understory tree species, Ostrya virginiana (eastern hophornbeam): A "poster child" for shifting forest composition at the prairie-forest boundary in the central United States. Creighton University Ferlic Scholar Colloquium, Sept. 24, 2013 (also presented during the Alumni Weekend CCAS Open House on Sept. 21) 2013
  • M.A. Vinton, E. Hines* and C. Smalley*. 2013. The understory tree species, Ostrya virginiana (eastern hophornbeam): A "poster child" for shifting forest composition at the prairie-forest boundary in the central United States. Ecological Society of America Conference, Minneapolis, MI, NM, August 4-9, 2013. 2013
  • L. Rice and M.A. Vinton. 2011. The role of light in the success of the invasive tree, Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana). Nebraska Academy of Sciences, Lincoln, Nebraska, April 2011. 2011


  • Elizabeth Hines and M.A. Vinton. 2013. The Current State of Deciduous Forests in the Central Midwest: A Historical and Comprehensive Examination of Proposed Trends of Species Composition Change and Decline, Creighton College of Arts and Sciences Ferlic Program for Undergraduate Research; May-August, 2013; $4200 for student and faculty stipend

  • M.A. Vinton. Travel Grant to Attend Ecological Society of America Conference, Minneapolis, MN Creighton College of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Travel Award; Aug. 4-9, 2013; $1200