Meet the Speakers

Kim Pegram

Program Director, Pollinator Conservation and Research

I am responsible for direction of two conservation initiatives at the Garden: pollinator conservation and research, and rare plant conservation including the seed bank. I manage pollinator and butterfly conservation initiatives and research at the Garden. The Garden’s primary pollinator initiative, Great Milkweed Grow Out, helps conserve monarch butterflies and other pollinators in Arizona by propagating and distributing thousands of native milkweeds, outreach into the community and researching how insects interact with milkweed. My current research seeks to determine 1) which native milkweeds are best for monarch conservation, 2) how milkweeds support other beneficial insects and 3) butterfly-hostplant ecology in other species. My PhD research focused on warning coloration, understanding how iridescent blue can function to warn predators, with pipevine swallowtail butterflies as a model.

Natalie Meklonoff

Plant and Insect Ecology Program Manager

I manage the Garden’s monarch and pollinator ecology work, including the activities of our conservation initiative, Great Milkweed Grow Out. This program has three main components: native plant propagation for monarch and pollinator conservation, community outreach and habitat enhancement, and research on the interactions between plants and insects in the Southwest. I am also working on my PhD with a focus on how the ecophysiology and chemical ecology of different native milkweed species may change under shifting climate regimes, and how these changes may influence how monarch and queen butterflies use these species as larval host plants. With the Southwest predicted to get warmer and dryer in the future, the functional relationship between these plants and the insects that utilize them may be impacted, and increased understanding of those impacts will continue to help inform conservation decisions into the future.

Raul Puente

Curator of Living Collections

Research Botanist

I divide my time at Desert Botanical Garden as the Curator of Living Collections and as a Research Botanist. I am responsible for curatorial aspects such as plant acquisition, maintaining the database and mapping of the gardens’ Living Collection. My main research interest has been the systematics of the genus Opuntia (prickly pears) in northern Mexico, particularly in the states of San Luis Potosi, Coahuila and Sonora. I am also working on a taxonomic revision of the genus Nopalea, a unique group of tropical prickly pears from Mexico and Central America which are pollinated by hummingbirds. My studies are based on fieldwork as well as morphology, chromosome numbers and pollen morphology, among other techniques. As a collaborator for the Vascular Plants of Arizona project, I have written various family treatments as well as done a number of plant illustrations.

Lane Butler

Tonto National Forest Rare Plant Community Science Project Coordinator

Rare Plant Researcher

Lane Butler has worked at the DBG as Tonto National Forest Rare Plant Community Science Project Coordinator and rare plant researcher since 2019. She is responsible for grant-writing for her various projects, which include opportunities to train community scientists to survey for rare plants on the Tonto National Forest as well as opportunities to work on rare plant conservation and restoration. Since 2021, she has been involved with conservation and restoration work with Echinocereus arizonicus subsp. arizonicus, the federally listed endangered Arizona hedgehog cactus. Her education includes an interdisciplinary Bachelor of Science at ASU, which allowed her to focus on plant biology, conservation biology and ecological restoration, and a Master of Science in Plant Conservation Biology at ASU. Her research interests include plant-pollinator interactions and conservation in the Sonoran Desert and rare plant conservation on the Tonto National Forest. She has authored and co-authored several articles and papers about the rare plants she has researched. Her work at the DBG has allowed her to engage in significant field work on the Tonto National Forest and to engage with plant enthusiasts seeking to become community scientists for the sake of rare plants.

Susan Bush

Field Ecology Program Director

I am a global change ecologist whose research has largely focused on fluxes of carbon and water in both urban and natural ecosystems. My research has spanned scales from leaf-level gas exchange and xylem vascular hydraulics of individual plants to landscape-scale investigations of water and carbon exchange between the land surface and atmosphere as related to various anthropogenic factors (urbanization, land management, invasive species, and climate change).


Register for Research at DBG!

Join us for the CAZCA Speaker Series event, Research Highlights from Desert Botanical Garden! Esteemed researchers Kim Pegram, Natalie Melkonoff, Raul Puente, Lane Butler, and Susan Bush will share updates and insights on their latest research at Desert Botanical Garden!

CAZCA Sticker_Print (3)

CAZCA is an initiative of Desert Botanical Garden. Any donations made to CAZCA must be made through Desert Botanical Garden. You will now be taken to their website to complete this transaction. Thank you!