MAFES researcher spotlight – May 2024 – Dr. Stephanie Burnett

Stephanie Burnett, Associate Professor of Horticulture

Dr. Burnett at the Roger Clapp Greenhouses with some of her specimens.

School of Food and Agriculture


How I got to UMaine/MAFES:

I am originally from the Panhandle of Florida, and I was raised by an engineer and nurse. Our extended family has strong roots in farming and horticulture; my great grandparents owned a citrus orchard in central Florida, and most of my family are avid gardeners. I am fortunate to have spent much of my childhood learning about plants and the natural world in a beautiful coastal beach town.

I graduated from Auburn University with a BS in Zoology in 1997 and a MS in Horticulture in 2000. From there, I studied with Marc van Iersel and Paul Thomas at the University of Georgia and completed my PhD in horticulture in 2004. I’ve been at the University of Maine since 2005.

My Current Role within MAFES:

My research and instruction focus on plant production in controlled environments, such as greenhouses. Controlled environments are valuable tools for season extension or year-round food and flower production in cold climates.

I teach three courses: greenhouse management, introduction to horticulture, and herbaceous plant identification to undergraduate students. For outreach, I serve as the representative for Maine to the Northeast Greenhouse Conference planning committee, and I am on the selection committee for the American Floral Endowment’s Vic and Margaret Ball Intern Scholarship.

Research Focus/Goals:

Our lab broadly focuses on finding sustainable and practical solutions for greenhouse growers and cut flower growers. The longest running project in our lab focuses on using soil moisture sensors to automate irrigation, which reduces overwatering and many subsequent production and pathogen problems. Our lab is also researching production techniques and cultivar selection for important field grown cut flower species, such as dahlias, lisianthus, and stock. Over the past two years, we have grown about 40 cultivars of grower-recommended dahlias to evaluate flower quality, earliness, yield, and vase life. The goal of this project is to support the growing local cut flower industry in Maine and throughout the Northeast.