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: 
  • 2014-2015 UGA Graduate School Outstanding Mentoring Award in Life and Physical Sciences

  • 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
Recent Publications: 

Mason, C.M., L.A. Donovan. 2014. Does investment in leaf defenses drive changes in leaf economic strategy? A focus on whole-plant ontogeny. Oecologia doi:10.1007/s00442-014-3177-

Sack, L., C. Scoffoni, G.P. John, H. Poorter, C.M. Mason, R. Mendez-Alonzo, L.A. Donovan. 2014. Leaf mass per area (LMA) is independent of vein length per area:   avoiding pitfalls when modeling phenotypic integration (reply to Blonder et al. 2014). Journal of Experimental Botany 65: 5515-5123.

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, 37: 1364-1370.

Brouillette, L.C., C.M. Mason, R.Y. Shirk, L.A. Donovan. 2014.  Adaptive differentiation of traits related to resource use in a desert annual along a resource gradient. New Phytologist, 201:1316-1327.

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.