Lisa A. Donovan
Department Head
Distinguished Research Professor
Plant Sciences, Rm 3514/2502
Phone Number:  706-542-1811 or 706-542-2969
(706) 542-1805
Office/Lab:  Plant Sciences, Rm 3501

Ph.D Plant Physiological Ecology, University of Utah 1992

M.S. Marine Studies, University of Delaware 1982

B.S. Biology, Salisbury State College 1980

Research Projects: 

The Donovan lab investigates plant evolutionary ecophysiology, with an emphasis on resource use and stress tolerance traits as they relate to plant performance. We study adaptations to growth limiting factors such as drought, nutrient limitations,  and salinity. Our current study system primarily consists of wild and cultivated sunflowers that encompass a of wide range of plant ecological strategies and a powerful toolkit of ecological, genetic and genomic tools. In general, we want to know how individual plant traits affect plant fitness and distribution, and how adaptive traits evolve. To address these questions, we use a combination of ecological, ecophysiological, evolutionary genetic and genomic approaches. Prospective students with an interest in functional ecology, evolution, and genomics of plant traits are encouraged to apply. 

Grant Support: 
  • National Science Foundation. “ The evolution of the Worldwide Leaf Economic Spectrum (WLES) in Helianthus” 2011-2015.

  • National Science Foundation. “Evolutionary ecophysiology of nutrient relations in a desert sunflower of hybrid origin” 2006-2012

  • National Science Foundation. “Acquisition of Growth Chambers for the University of Georgia Biological Sciences Plant Growth Facility” 2006 -2009

Of Note: 
  • 2014 Distinguished Research Professor
  • 2012 American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellow
  • 2009 Fulbright Visiting Professor, University of Radboud, Nijmegen, Netherlands
  • 2006 University of Georgia Creative Research Medal
  • Stebbins Medal award for or the best paper/book published in the area of plant evolution and systematics during 2003 (Rieseberg et al. 2003 Science paper) from the International Association Plant Taxonomists
  • Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science
Selected Publications: 
  • Donovan, L.A., C.M. Mason, A.W. Bowsher, E.W. Goolsby, C.D.A. Ishibashi. 2014. Ecological and evolutionary lability of plant traits affecting carbon and nutrient cycling. Journal of Ecology 102: 302-314.

  • Auchincloss, L., H.M. Easlon, D. Levine, L.A. Donovan, J.H. Richards. 2014. Predawn stomatal opening does not substantially enhance early morning photosynthesis in Helianthus annuus. Plant Cell and Environment, In Press (DOI:10.1111/pce.12241).

  • Brouillette, L.C., C.M. Mason, R.Y. Shirk, L.A. Donovan. 2013.  Adaptive differentiation of traits related to resource use in a desert annual along a resource gradient. New Phytologist, 183: 868-879.
  • Milton, E.F.,  E.W. Goolsby,. L.A.  Donovan. 2013. Cultivated Helianthus annuus differs from two wild relatives in germination response to simulated drought stress. Helia 36: 35-46.
  • Mason, C.M., S.E. McGaughey.  L.A. Donovan. 2013. Ontogeny strongly and differentially alters leaf economic and other key traits in three diverse Helianthus species.  Journal Experimental Botany 64: 4089-4099.
  • Sack, L, C. Scoffoni, H. Poorter, C. Mason, L.A. Donovan. 2013. How do leaf veins influence the worldwide leaf economic spectrum? Review and synthesis. Journal Experimental Botany 64: 4053-4080.
  • Gevaert, S.D., J.R. Mandel, J.M. Burke, L.A. Donovan. 2013. High genetic diversity and low population structure in Porter’s sunflower (Helianthus porteri). Journal of Heredity 104: 407-415.
  • Gormally, C.L., J.L. Hamrick, L.A. Donovan. 2013. Inter-island but not intra-island divergence among populations of sea oats, Uniola paniculata L. (Poaceae). Conservation Genetics 14:185-195.
  • Mandel, J.R., E.F. Milton, L.A. Donovan, S.J. Knapp, J.M. Burke. 2013. Genetic diversity and population structure in the rare Algodones sunflower (Helianthus niveus ssp. tephrodes). Conservation Genetics 14: 31-40.
  • Donovan, L.A, H. Maherali, C.M. Caruso, H. Huber, H. de Kroon. 2011. The evolution of the worldwide leaf economics spectrum. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 26: 88-95.
  • Brouillette, L.C., L.A. Donovan. 2011. Relative growth rate and functional traits of a hybrid species reflect adaptation to a low fertility habitat. International Journal of Plant Sciences.172: 509-520.
  • Brouillette, L.C., L.A. Donovan. 2011. Nitrogen stress response of a hybrid species: A gene expression study. Annals of Botany 107-101-108.
  • Donovan L.A., D.M. Rosenthal, M. Sanchez-Velenosi, L.H. Rieseberg, F. Ludwig. 2010. Are hybrid species more fit than ancestral parent species in the current hybrid species habitats? J Evol Biology 23: 805-816.
  • Donovan, LA, F Ludwig, DM Rosenthal, LH Rieseberg, S Dudley. 2009. Phenotypic selection on leaf ecophysiological traits in Helianthus. New Phytologist 183: 868-879.
  • Howard A.R., M.W. van Iersel, J.H. Richards, L.A. Donovan. 2009. Nighttime transpiration can decrease hydraulic redistribution. Plant Cell Environment 32:1060-1070.
  • Christman, M.A., L.A. Donovan, J.H. Richards. 2009. Magnitude of nighttime transpiration does not affect plant growth or nutrition in well-watered Arabidopsis. Physiologia Plantarum 136: 264-273.
  • Espeleta, J.F., J.B. West, L.A. Donovan. 2009. Tree species fine-root demography parallels habitat specialization across a sandhill soil resource gradient. Ecology 90:1773-1787.
  • Snyder, K.A., J.J. Jeremy, J.H. Richards, L.A. Donovan. 2008. Does hydraulic lift facilitate nitrogen capture? Plant and Soil 306:159-166.
  • Christman, M.A., J.H. Richards, J.K. McKay, E.A. Stahl, T.E. Juenger, L.A. Donovan. 2008. Variation among Arabidopsis thaliana accessions in nighttime leaf conductance and correlations with ecophysiological and environmental characters. Plant Cell Environment 31:1170-1178.
  • Caird, M.A, J.H. Richards, L.A. Donovan. 2007. Nighttime stomatal conductance and transpiration in C3 and C4 plants. Plant Physiology 143: 4-10.
  • Brouillette, L.C, D.M. Rosenthal, L.H. Rieseberg, C. Lexer, R.L. Malmberg, L.A Donovan. 2007. Genetic architecture of leaf ecophysiological traits in Helianthus. Journal of Heredity 98: 142-146.
  • Rosenthal, D.M., L.H. Rieseberg, and L.A. Donovan. 2005. Recreating ancient hybrid species’ complex multi-trait phenotypes from early-generation synthetic hybrids: Three examples using wild sunflowers. American Naturalist 166: 26-41.
  • Rosenthal, D.A., F. Ludwig, L.A. Donovan. 2005. Plant responses to an edaphic gradient across and active sand dune /desert boundary in the Great Basin Desert. International Journal of Plant Science 166: 247-255.
  • Rieseberg, L.H., O. Raymond, D.M. Rosenthal, Z. Lai, K. Livingston, T. Nakazato, J.L. Durphy, A.E. Schwarzbach, L.A. Donovan, C. Lexer. 2003. Major ecological transitions in wild sunflower facilitated by hybridization. Science 301:1211-1216.
  • West, J.B., J.F. Espeleta, and L.A. Donovan. 2003. Root longevity and phenology differences between two co-occurring savanna bunchgrasses with different leaf habitats. Functional Ecology 17:20-28.
  • Donovan, L.A., J.H. Richards, and M.J. Linton. 2003. Magnitude and mechanisms of disequilibrium between predawn and plant soil water potentials in desert shrubs. Ecology 84:463-470.