Virginia M. Kline Collection: Ecological Communities of Wisconsin

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Dr. Virginia E. (March) Kline (1926-2003)
Dr. Virginia E. (March) Kline (1926-2003)

Dr. Virginia E. (March) Kline (1926-2003) was a plant ecologist with a thirst for knowledge about the natural world. She enthusiastically taught the wonders of nature and the science of ecology to students of all ages. In her role as the University of Wisconsin Arboretum Ecologist and Research Program Manager (1975-1996), she helped to develop the new field of restoration ecology. She lectured and consulted around the world in the field of restoration ecology and received many awards for scientific excellence and community service.

Virginia Kline lived in Madison for all of her adult life, graduating in 1947 from UW-Madison. While raising a family after college, she worked as lead guide at the Madison School Forest, was an early and active member of the Wisconsin Chapter of the Nature Conservancy, and taught the popular Arboretum adult education course “Reading the Landscape” from 1969 to the 1990s. She was also a longtime member of the Wisconsin Natural Areas Preservation Council, an advisory group to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources that was instrumental in establishing the first statewide system of protected natural communities.

She completed her Ph.D. (1976) in the University of Wisconsin-Madison Botany Department with a specialty in plant community ecology, and joined the staff as a lecturer while continuing to work at the Arboretum. In 1975, Dr. Kline and her major professor, Dr. Grant Cottam, developed the course “Vegetation of Wisconsin.” She team-taught this class with him for 11 years as part of her joint appointment to the UW Botany Department and UW Arboretum.

About These Resources

This collection includes a series of slides reflecting the natural history of Wisconsin, past and present. Also included are a series of audiotapes from the course “Reading the Landscape,” taught by Dr. Virginia M. Kline. The images were part of the personal slide collection of Dr. Kline. She used the slides for numerous courses and presentations. Some of the slides have become faded and scratched and the quality of many of the audiotapes is less than ideal. Nevertheless, the collection records a story of the natural history of Wisconsin and of the life and work of Dr. Kline.

The data provided about the slides: Most of the data provided about the slides are derived from abbreviated notes written on the slides and are undoubtedly incomplete and subject to errors of interpretation and extrapolation. If you have relevant information about a particular slide or slides, please contact the University of Wisconsin Digital Collections Center.

The subject terms used for plant communities located in the University of Wisconsin Arboretum: While the Arboretum includes Longenecker Horticultural Gardens, a large collection of ornamental trees and shrubs, it is primarily an outdoor laboratory for the restoration of plant and animal communities. The core of the Arboretum was an old farm acquired in 1932. Most of the plant community designations used should be understood as approximations or restorations in process of comparable native plant communities found in Wisconsin and the upper Midwest. More information is available at the Arboretum website:

State Natural Areas: Many of the slides were taken in State Natural Areas in Wisconsin. The Bureau of Endangered Resources, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources manages the State Natural Areas Program. More information is available at the State Natural Areas website:


Dr. Kline’s family generously donated these slides to be shared by others who, like Dr. Kline, have a passion for the natural world. The audiotapes are the personal property of Mr. Kenneth W. Wood, who served as a teaching assistant for Dr. Kline. Mr. Wood not only donated his tapes, but also provided much useful information on the “Reading the Landscape” part of the collection.

Much of the documentation for each slide resided on the slide itself, in Dr. Kline’s own writing. The collection required considerable time and effort to preserve the themes reflected in each series of slides and to translate the information about each slide into this database. The point person and coordinator for this project was Ms. Diane Derouen, an Instructional Lab Coordinator in the Department of Botany. Dr. Susan Will-Wolf has provided expertise in identification and interpretation, especially for the materials relating to the course “Vegetation of Wisconsin,” as she has taught that course using many of Dr. Kline’s slides. Sylvia Marek, a teaching assistant for the course “Reading the Landscape,” has provided significant help in interpreting these materials, as has Ms. Elizabeth Livermore, a personal friend of Dr. Kline, and Professor Evelyn Howell, who taught the “Reading the Landscape” course after Dr. Kline’s health declined. Dr. Bruce A. Brown, Senior Geologist with the Wisconsin Geological Survey, assisted in interpreting geological features included in Dr. Kline’s images. We also wish to acknowledge the contributions of three student assistants: Anna Keiko Kamitakahara, Sarah Korinek, and Lindsey Cunneen. The work and support of the Digital Content Group, University of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries has been central to this project.

Image Source:

Bracken fern detail.