Owners & Staff

Laura Smith (owner) – B.S. Crop & Soil Science, University of Nevada-Reno, 1981. M.S. Integrated Pest Management (IPM), University of Nevada-Reno, 1985.

Laura is the president and general operations manager at Westscape. 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 in Nevada, 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, horticulture, 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 numerous 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 2001.

Robert Dunn (owner) - BS. New Mexico State University, 1984, Agronomy. M.S. New Mexico State University, 1986, Plant Breeding and Genetics. Ph.D. program Montana State University, Plant Genetics, 1987-1993.

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 and 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, 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 2001.

Carmen Backes - B.S. Montana State University, 2009, Horticulture.

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Carmen is the nursery manager at Westscape, organizing and supervising all aspects of nursery function. 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 then as a field botanist collecting native plant seed in Alaska’s Denali National Park. Carmen is an ISA certified arborist among her many other plant and nursery skills. In her spare time she can be found enjoying the endless outdoor recreational opportunities that Montana provides especially, biking, and back country snow-mobiling and skiing.  In 2015, she took up the sport of Enduro bike racing and immediately became one of the top riders in the region (and has the scars to prove it). In 2009, Carmen hiked the entire length of the Pacific Rim Trail; no small feat.

Mary Ellen “Mem” Schultz  - B.S. Horticulture, University of Connecticut, 1975.  Mem has worked at Westscape since the early days.  She works with perennial and grass species production at Westscape 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 as perennial offerings. When not at Westscape, Mem is an avid hiker, backpacker, and skier and has spent many years roaming Montana its open spaces with her husband, Bob.

Cally Driessen – B.S. Land Rehabilitation and Soil Science, Montana State University, 2008. M.S. Soil Science, University of Wyoming-Laramie, 2012.

Cally is the resident soil scientist and statistical “guru” at Westscape.  She has an extensive background in managing large-scale vegetation monitoring projects; designing field collection methods; and data analysis, management, and reporting. Other project experience includes wetland delineation, stormwater inspections and best management practice (BMP) installation, chemical and mechanical weed management, and soil sampling. Cally currently serves as the Early Career Representative to the National Executive Committee of the American Society of Mining Reclamation.  She recently completed the exam to become a Certified Professional Soil Scientist and holds OSHA 10 and Safe Land USA safety training. Like the rest of the staff at Westscape Cally is also an avid skier and outdoor enthusiast.

Sam Rogers Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis. Ph.D. Chemistry, University of California, Berkley; Professor of Chemistry-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?