Jean H. Burns Lab: About Us

Burns lab: plant ecology with an evolutionary perspective

Interested in graduate school? The lab is recruiting. Contact Jean at jbm122 <@>

Plant communities provide numerous benefits to humans, filtering our air and water and sequestering carbon. Understanding the mechanisms that structure plant communities is thus increasingly important as humans change landscapes and climate.

Plants are highly diverse, and have evolved many strategies for attracting pollinators, influencing soil microbes, and otherwise "behaving" in ways that structure their environment. Evolution has shaped this diversity. Incorporating information about evolutionary history (phylogeny) into our ecological studies will thus help us answer exciting new questions, such as:

(1) What makes some introduced species invasive, spreading rapidly in the introduced range and causing harm, while closely related species might fail to invade (e.g. Burns 2006, Burns et al. 2011, Burns et al. 2013, Murphy et al. 2016, Burns et al. 2019)?

(2) How might relatedness shape plant-soil interactions (e.g. Burns and Strauss 2011, Burns et al. 2015, Sweet and Burns 2017)? How might plant-soil interactions, and the soil heterogeneity they create, influence coexistence (e.g. Brandt et al. 2013, Burns and Brandt 2014, Brandt et al. 2015, del Pino et al. 2015, Burns et al. 2017) and restoration success (Lance et al. 2019, Lance et al. 2020)?

(3) How does evolution shape plant trait integration in Rhododendron (Medeiros et al. 2017, Medeiros et al. 2019, Medeiros et al. 2020)?

Jean has joined the steering committee of the Rhododendron Research Network, an international collaborative research network.


August 2020

Congratulations to Yu Liu for his "Highlighted Student Research" paper in Oecologia.

July 2020

A new paper on pollen limitation from our iDiv working group has been accepted in Nature Communications. See a blog post here!

May 2020

Congratulations to Evan Fritzke, CWRU Department of Biology, Ralph Spengler Award winner!

March 2020

Dr. Andy Lance has successfully defended his dissertation. Congratulations to Andy!

January 2020

Andy Lance has accepted a position as a Restoration Project Manager with Western New York Land Conservancy. Congratulations to Andy!

July 2019

Congratulations to Yu Liu for his funded research proposal by the Azalea Society of America.

May 2019

Please see Andy Lance's recent research in Restoration Ecology.

May 2019

Congratulations to Jennifer Murphy and Anna Osvaldsson for successfully defending their dissertations.

May 2019

Check out our feature on Colin Cope's research in the Daily!

April 2019

Congratulations to Alexis Balog for the Ralph A. Spengler, Jr. Award for excellence in plant science!

January 2019

Please see Colin Cope's research on invasive earthworms in Forest Ecology and Management.

July 2018

Please see visiting scholar Yu-Long Zheng's work on biotic resistance in Zheng et al. (2018, Ecology Letters).