Dr. Wagner received her Ph.D. degree from the University of California, Berkeley. Most of her work has been funded by the National Science Foundation. She has been chair of the pteridological section of the Botanical Society of America and is an honorary member and a former president of the American Fern Society.
Dr. Wagner's field of research is pteridophyte systematics and evolution. A current project is the determination, description, and publication of the ferns and fern allies of Hawaii. Until recently there has been no scientific systematic study of these plants, although they constitute one-sixth of the total native vascular flora of Hawaii. Extensive field work over several years primarily on Kauai, Oahu, Maui, and Hawaii, and to a lesser extent on Molokai, has resulted in collections being studied and described in the Herbarium.
Another interest is the genus Botrychium (Ophioglossaceae), the moonworts. These little ferns, perhaps pro-gymnosperms, are difficult to find, but many new species have been discovered in the last two decades, and several are yet to be described. Research in both these projects involves herbarium and field work, and the study of chromosomes in determining species and hybrids.