About Us (who are these people anyway?)


Laura Smith (owner)

BS. University of Nevada-Reno, 1981 – Crop & Soil Science
MS. University of Nevada-Reno, 1985 – Integrated Pest Management

Laura is the president, head grower, and general operations manager at Westcape. She
has spent her entire professional career working with plants in the western U.S.  Laura has
longstanding interest in native plant production and use which formed the basis of
Westscape. Prior to starting to Westscape, she worked for 15 years in academic plant
research including stints at the USDA-ARS, the University of Arizona, and came to Montana
State University as a researcher in 1988. Laura has an extensive background in plant
propagation, physiology, pest management, taxonomy, and botany.  She worked as a plant
breeder and molecular biologist on the genetics of alfalfa and spring wheat and developed
some of the first tissue culture protocols for hybridizing alfalfa and its wild relatives. Laura
has co-authored scientific journal articles covering these subjects.  Westscape has
maintained an ongoing research program focused on the development of halophytes
(highly salt tolerant plants) for the reclamation of degraded native habitats including the
endangered sagebrush-steppe.  Westscape has received two USDA-SBIR grants to work
on these species of which Laura is the principal investigator. Laura founded Westscape
with her husband, Robert in 1997.

Robert Dunn (owner)

BS. New Mexico State University, 1984 - Agronomy
MS. New Mexico State University, 1986 – Plant Breeding & Genetics

Robert has 30 years of plant production and related agricultural and horticultural
experience in the western U.S.  Like Laura, he has a passion for native plant use both in
the urban and reclamation setting.  Prior to starting Westscape, he worked as an alfalfa
breeder in New Mexico helping to develop pest, drought, and saline tolerant alfalfa
varieties. Robert came to Montana State University in 1987 where he directed operations
for the Forage Breeding Program. There he worked on the selection and improvement of
numerous grass and legume species for use in Montana with a focus marginal arid land
conditions.  He is a co-developer of three alfalfa varieties for use in Montana dryland
environments. At Westscape, Robert is in charge of greenhouse operations and
maintenance, nursery shrub production, and is the principal collector of native shrub
species for the nursery.  Robert also works with contract sales and consults with nursery
clientele on appropriate species selection, plant health, insect, disease, weed
management, and other issues that impact the long-term and sustainable success of client
projects.  Robert founded Westscape with his wife, Laura in 1997.


Mary Ellen “Mem” Schultz

BS.  University of Connecticut, 1975 – Horticulture

Mem has worked at Westscape since “the early days”.  She works with perennial and grass
species production at Westcape and brings a wealth of horticultural expertise to the
nursery, having worked in the plant industry for some 30 years. Mem has an unparalleled
knowledge of native plants, seed, and plant propagation and has developed protocols for
numerous hard to propagate species.  She is frequent collector of hard-to-find native seed
which make their way into the nursery’s perennial offerings. When not at Westscape, Mem
is an avid hiker, backpacker, and skier and has spent many years roaming Montana’s open
spaces with her husband, Bob.


Amber Kirkpatrick  

BS. Montana State University, 1988 – Earth Sciences, Physical Geography & Soils
MS. Montana State University, 2005 – Land Resources & Environmental Sciences

Master’s Thesis – Assessing Constructed Wetlands for the Beneficial Use of Saline-Sodic
Product Water

Amber has worked at Westscape since 2009 overseeing the nursery’s native shrub
production and working on various aspects of the Upper Clark Fork River Restoration
Project.  Amber has an extensive background in soil and water quality and provides
technical field, greenhouse, and computer assistance to Westscape’s USDA-SBIR research
projects which focus on the development of halophytes (highly salt tolerant plants) for
reclamation of saline-impacted lands. She also provides expert mapping, soil, plant, and
data analysis for Westscape’s reclamation project at Hailstone National Wildlife Refuge
near Rapelje, MT.  Amber serves as an adjunct professor at Montana State University and
teaches the online course, “Streamside Science” each summer.  When she is not at
Westscape, Amber can be found “riding” the slopes at Bridger Bowl and was once known to
“wander” with the Grateful Dead in a former lifetime.

Carmen Backes

B.S. Montana State University, 2009
2012 ISA Certified Aborist

Carmen worked as an intern at Westscape in 2008 during her undergraduate time at MSU
and still wanted to return when the opportunity arose.  She is at home working with plants in
both the city and the backwoods; after graduation she worked as an urban horticulturist in
Seattle and as a field botanist technician in Alaska’s Denali National Park. Carmen is an
ISA certified arborist among her many other plant and nursery skills and works with
perennial production and nursery sales at Westscape.  In her spare time she can be found
enjoying the endless outdoor recreational opportunities that Montana provides. In 2009,
Carmen hiked the entire length of the Pacific Rim Trail …. no small feat.

Wayne Mortimer

Graduate of Box Hill College, Melbourne, Australia, 1982 – Architectural Drafting

Wayne is truly a “Renaissance Man” having lived, worked, and played all over the world for
many years. Wayne grew up in Australia and eventually immigrated to the U.S., settling in
Bozeman where is could easily be the town’s mayor.  He has a broad and innovative
knowledge of building, construction, and equipment which comes in handy at the nursery.  
At Westscape, Wayne handles much of the transplanting of bareroot and other potted
shrub material – doing “the heavy lifting”.  In his other life, Wayne is a certified professional
counselor who works with at-risk children around Montana and is a general all-around
great hand and a great guy.

Sam Rogers

Doctor of Veterinary Medicine – UC Davis
PhD – Berkley – Chemistry
Professor Emeritus, Montana State University – Department of Biochemistry

Sam is a long-time friend and highly underpaid employee at Westscape. Sam works as a
seeder/planter at Westscape and helps in the field with wildland collections. He has also
worked on the production of several endangered species at the nursery.  Sam is a walking
wealth of both scientific and general knowledge and we continue to “pick his brain” on a
regular basis.  Who needs Google when you have Sam?