Richard A. Lankau
Assistant Professor, Plant Pathology, University of Wisconsin

Ph.D. Ecology, University of California-Davis 2007

Research Projects: 

I am broadly interested in the ecology and evolution of plant and fungal communities. A major goal of my research is to understand the consequences of genetic variation and rapid evolution within species for the structure and functioning of diverse communities. I am particularly interested in the interactions between plants and soil microbial communities, especially mycorrhizal fungi, in determining competitive interactions between plants. To answer these questions, I use a combination of field, greenhouse, and molecular approaches. Most recently I have studied these processes in the context of exotic invasions, where I have found that rapid evolution in the chemical traits of a plant invader, combined with ecological and evolutionary changes in native plant and soil communities, may be acting to reduce the negative impacts of the invasion and allow the recovery of native communities. I will soon begin investigating the role of plant-fungal interactions in ecological responses to rapid climate change.

Grant Support: 

National Science Foundation. "Dimensions: Functional, genetic, and taxonomic diversity of plant-fungal interactions along climatic gradients and their role in climate change driven species migrations" 2011-2014.

National Science Foundation. “Resolution of evolutionary mismatches: the ecological and evolutionary processes of invasive species integration into native communities” 2009-2012.

Fundacion BBVA Frontiers of Knowledge Grant. “Plant invasions and herbivorousness: Genetic processes and ecological causes of the success of invasive plant success”. 2007-2010. J.M.G. Reyes (PI), C.V.B. Mahan, F.P. Álvarez , J.P.M. Camacho, R.A. Lankau, R.G.M. Contreras and S.Y. Strauss

USDA-CREES NRI Grant. Genetic variation in allelopathic activity in garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata): its role in demography and implications for management. 2007-2009. R. A. Lankau (PI) (with mentors R. Sathyamurthy and A. Davis).

Of Note: 

Mercer Award, Ecological Society of America, 2009

Recent Publications: 
  • Lankau, R.A., J.T. Bauer, M.R. Anderson, and R.C. Anderson. in press. Long-term legacies and partial recovery of mycorrhizal fungal communities after invasive plant removal. Biological Invasions
  • Lankau, R.A. and R.N. Nodurft. 2013. Evolution of mycorrhizal fungal community assembly on native plants in response to an anti-mycorrhizal invader. Molecular Ecology 22: 5472-5485.
  • Lankau, R.A. 2013. Species invasion alters local adaptation to soil communities in a native plant. Ecology          94:32-41.
  • Lankau, R.A. 2012. Coevolution between invasive and native plants driven by chemical competition. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States 109: 11240-11245. Recommended by Faculty of 1000
  • Lankau, R.A. 2012. Interpopulation variation in allelopathic traits informs restoration of invaded landscapes. Evolutionary Applications 5: 270-282.
  • Lankau, R.A. 2011. Conflicts in maintaining biodiversity at multiple scales. Molecular Ecology 20: 2035-2037.
  • Lankau, R.A. 2011. Rapid evolutionary change and the coexistence of species. Annual Reviews of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics. 42: 335-354.
  • Lankau, R., P. S. Jorgensen, D. J. Harris, and A. Sih. 2011. Incorporating evolutionary principles into environmental management and policy. Evolutionary Applications 4:315-325.
  • Lankau, R. A. and S. Y. Strauss. 2011. Newly rare or newly common: evolutionary feedbacks through changes in population density and relative species abundance, and their management implications. Evolutionary Applications 4:338-353.
  • Oduor, A.M.O., R.A. Lankau, S.Y. Strauss, and J.M. Gomez. 2011. Introduced Brassica nigra populations exhibit greater growth and herbivore resistance but less tolerance than native populations in the native range. New Phytologist. 191: 536-544.
  • Lankau, R.A. 2011. Resistance and recovery of soil microbial communities in the face of Alliaria petiolata invasions. New Phytologist 189: 536-548                 
  • Lankau, R.A., E. Wheeler, A.E. Bennett, and S.Y. Strauss. 2011. Plant-soil feedbacks link the maintenance of genetic and species diversity in a plant community. Journal of Ecology 99: 176-185
  • Lankau, R.A. 2011. Genetic variation in allelochemistry determines an invasive species' impact on soil microbial communities. Oecologia 165:453-463
  • Lankau, R.A., G. Spyreas, V. Nuzzo, and A.S. Davis. 2009. Evolutionary limits ameliorate the negative impact of an invasive plant. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States. 106:15362-15367
  • Lankau, R.A. 2009. Genetic variation promotes long-term coexistence of Brassica nigra and its competitors. American Naturalist 174: E40-E53.
  • Lankau, R.A. 2008. A chemical trait creates a genetic trade-off between intra- and interspecific competitive ability. Ecology 89: 1181-1187.
  • Lankau, R.A. and S.Y. Strauss. 2008. Community complexity drives patterns of natural selection on a chemical defense of Brassica nigra. The American Naturalist 171: 150-161.
  • Lankau, R.A. and S.Y. Strauss. 2007. Mutual feedbacks maintain both genetic and species diversity in a plant community. Science 317: 1561-1563.