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.

Sampling Rhodys at Holden Arboretum

iDiv working group sAPROPOS (Analysis of PROjections of POpulationS)


January 2022

Congratulations to Yu Liu for his Plant Ppopulation Ecology Member highlight at the Ecological Society of America.

May 2021

Congratulations to Lydia Jahn, winner of the 2021 Ralph A. Spengler, Jr. Award for plant sciences.

Feb 2021

Congratulations to"Grant" Yu Liu for his award for the Best Graduate Research Paper, for Liu et al. 2021, Oecologia.

Feb 2021

Congratulations to Aldo Compagnoni and the iDiv working group sAPROPOS (Analysis of PROjections of POpulationS) for our paper in Nature Communications (Compagnoni et al. in press).


Dec 2020

Congratulations to Colin Cope for his recent publication on invader interactions in AoB PLANTS (Cope et al. 2021).

August 2020

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