Richard A. Lankau
Assistant Professor
Plant Sciences, Rm 4510
Phone Number:  706-542-1870

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

Selected Publications: 

Lankau, R.A. 2010. Resistance and recovery of soil microbial communities in the face of Alliaria petiolata invasions. New Phytologist. DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-8137.2010.03481.x

Lankau, R.A., E. Wheeler, A.E. Bennett, and S.Y. Strauss. 2010. Plant-soil feedbacks link the maintenance of genetic and species diversity in a plant community. Journal of Ecology. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2745.2010.01736.x

Lankau, R.A. 2010. Genetic variation in allelochemistry determines an invasive species' impact on soil microbial communities. Oecologia DOI 10.1007/s00442-010-1736-8

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.