Steve Windhager, Ph.D.

Steve’s love for environmental science, conservation, and the outdoors helps make the Garden an exceptional place to visit.

The passion Steve Windhager, Ph.D., has for wild things began as a child exploring the outdoors. Years in the Boy Scouts sharpened this focus, and later, working at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, Texas, made it a way of life. He has studied the practice of restoring damaged ecosystems from both a philosophical as well as an applied angle and has come to celebrate the regional vernacular of gardening with the plants native to wherever he lives. Steve ran the research program at the Wildflower Center from 1999 to 2010, and then he came to California to be executive director at Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, the nation’s oldest botanic garden dedicated exclusively to native plants.  

A national leader in sustainable development and ecological restoration, Steve helped develop and was the first director of the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES), a joint project of the Wildflower Center, the United States Botanic Garden, and the American Society of Landscape Architects. SITES provides sustainable design guidelines and ratings for assessing the sustainability of landscapes and has been integrated with the U.S. Green Building Council’s rating system.   

Steve began his career from a theoretical bent, obtaining a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Texas A&M University. He then proceeded to the University of North Texas, completing his master’s degree focused on environmental ethics. Steve’s master’s thesis encompassed the philosophical aspects of the practice of ecological restoration. In the process of completing this work, he became so interested in restoration that he not only wanted to study it, he chose to do it, and completed his doctorate at University of North Texas in environmental science focusing on restoration ecology of prairie systems. 



Journal Articles

Simmons, M., M. Bertelsen, S. Windhager, & H. Zafian. 2011. The performance of native and non-native turfgrass monocultures and native turfgrass polycultures: An ecological approach to sustainable lawns. Ecological Engineering 37:1095-1103.

Technical Reports & Non-peer Reviewed Articles

Gallo, T. & S. Windhager. 2011. Accepting ‘The New Normal’? Not so fast… Conservation Magazine, Spring 2011.


Journal Articles

Windhager, S., F. Steiner, M. Simmons, & D. Heymann. 2010. Towards ecosystem services as a basis for design. Landscape Journal 29:107-123.


Technical Reports & Non-peer Reviewed Articles

Sustainable Sites Initiative. 2009.  Sustainable Sites Initiative: Guidelines and Performance Benchmarks 2009.

Sustainable Sites Initiative. 2009.  Sustainable Sites Initiative: Making the Case for Sustainable Landscapes.


Journal Articles

Simmons, M.T., B. Gardiner, S. Windhager, and M.J. Tinsley. 2008.  Green roofs are not created equal: the hydrologic and thermal performance of six different extensive green roofs and reflective and non-reflective roofs in a sub tropical climate. Urban Ecosystems 11(4): 339-348.

Johnson, S.D., K.C. Horn, A.M. Savage, S. Windhager, M.T. Simmons, and J.A. Rudgers. 2008.  Timing of prescribed burns affects abundance and composition of arthropods in the Texas Hill Country.  Southwestern Naturalist 53(2):137-145.

Book Sections

Windhager, S. 2008. Fire. Encyclopedia of Environmental Ethics and Philosophy, edited by J. Baird Callicott and Robert Frodeman, Gale Press, London, U.K.


Journal Articles

Simmons, M.T., S. Windhager, P. Power, J. Lott, R. Lyons, and C. Schwope. 2007. Selective and non-selective control of invasive plants: The effects of growing-season prescribed fire, herbicide, and mowing in two invaded Texas prairies. Restoration Ecology 15(4): 662-669.

Simmons, M.T., H.L. Venhaus, and S. Windhager. 2007. Exploiting regional ecology for urban landscape design: Applying restoration principles to urban ecological engineering. Ecological Engineering 30: 201-205.

Technical Reports & Non-peer Reviewed Articles

Windhager, S., M.T. Simmons, and H.L. Venhaus (2007). Ecological Edge: Expand your native plant palette to achieve design goals and avoid environmental risks. Ornamental Outlook.


Journal Articles

Tinsley, J., M.T. Simmons, & S. Windhager. 2006.  The establishment success of native versus non-native seed mixes on a revegetated roadside in Central Texas. Ecological Engineering 26(3).


Journal Article

Ewing, K., S. Windhager, & M. McCaw. 2005.  Effects of Summer Burning and Mowing on Central Texas Juniper-Oak Savanna Plant Communities During Drought Conditions. Ecological Restoration 23(4).

Simmons, M.T., S. Windhager, P. Power, J. Lott, R. K Lyons, and C. Schwope. 2005. The response of Old World bluestem (Bothriochloa ischaemum (L). Keng var. songarica) to mid and late summer fire, in two grassland ecoregions in Central Texas. Proceedings of the 23rd Tall Timbers Fire Ecology Conference.

Executive Director