Jean H. Burns Lab: About Us

Burns lab

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)?

(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)?

(3) How does evolution shape plant trait integration in Rhododendron (Mederios et al. 2017)?


April 2018
Congratulations, Jennifer Murphy, for being awarded the Graduate Dean’s Instructional Excellence Award for 2018!

September 2017

A tree restoration experiment by graduate student Andy Lance was funded by The Native Plant Society of Northeastern Ohio. Congratulations to Andy!

September 2017

Graduate student Anna Osvaldsson was invited to attend an NERC-funded workshop on stage-based demographic models, in Sheffield, UK.

August 2017

Congratulations to Colin Cope for his Honorable Mention for the Joanne Westin Distinguished Graduate Student Teaching Award, Department of Biology, CWRU!

August 2017

Former student in the lab, Angela Kaczowka, starts an Assistant Professor of Practice position at Agricultural Education Department, University of Arizona. Congratulations to Angela!

June 2017

Juliana Medeiros' paper on trait integration in the Rhododendrons was named 'Editor's Choice' in American Journal of Botany.

December 2016

Jennifer Murphy's paper on traits of invasive roses was named 'Editor's Choice' in American Journal of Botany.

May 2014

Our work on mutual invasibility was featured on NPR's Living on Earth.