Turner lab @ ISU

Ecological Genomics & Invasion Biology

Bleeding hand holds vine constricting the world.

Invasive plants, spread by human hands, swallow the world. Mayan-stylized glyph art by Monarobot.


The Turner Lab at ISU focuses on the ecological interactions and evolutionary feedback between humans and plants, which affects humanity at individual and global scales. We wish to contribute (and to develop the skills of future scientists to contribute) to our understanding of range expansion and rapid adaptation to novel environments (both abiotic and biotic) in anthropogenic contexts.

Our research focuses on evolutionary ecology and invasion biology. We combine experimental, genomic, ancient DNA, and geo-referenced distribution data to investigate plant ecological genetics, particularly rapid adaptation to novel environments and the evolution of ecologically important traits. We are particularly interested in testing ecological-evolutionary theories that attempt to explain successful range expansion.

Undergrad interested in research?

In 2020-2021 I am starting an Vertically Integrated Project research experience course related to the GEM3 research program (BIOL 2280/4480/5580). The class, composed of a small group of undergrads at different levels, along with graduate students and the professor, works as a research team to address a question in biology. This may include field work, lab work, reading scientific journal articles and becoming familiar with protocols and practices of scientific research. Undergraduates can take it several times and continue gaining skills in research and mentorship, and continue to work on a long term research program. The particular project we are working on in Fall 2020 was started by Dr. Keith Reinhardt and the first cohort of ISU undergrads, and involves the ecology, physiology, and evolution of big sagebrush.

Other opportunities for undergraduate research in the Turner lab are described below.

Sagebrush steppe landscape.

Site of future science! ISU Barton Road Ecological Research Area. Image by Kathryn Turner.

Prospective Lab members

If you are interested in the ecological and evolutionary impacts of human disturbance on plant systems, such as through biological invasion or land use change, then is this the lab for you! We will work in natural, disturbed, and agricultural systems. Particularly, there may be funding available for students and postdocs who want to work in beautiful *big sagebrush steppe systems* through the GEM3 research program.

Specific positions will be advertised below and on Twitter (@KTInvasion). Please contact me at turnkat2[at]isu.edu for more information, even if no specific positions are currently available, or if the positions below do not perfectly fit your interests! Additionally, candidates who would be interested in submitting applications for independent fellowship funding, such as the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Biology, Smith Postdoctoral Fellowship in Conservation Research, or USDA NIFA AFRI fellowships on topics overlapping or adjacent to my research interests are welcome to reach out to discuss the possibility.

Open Positions in the Turner Lab

Postdoctoral fellows

The GEM3 Project is hiring a postdoc at ISU to work on the ecological genomics of big sagebrush, trout, or both! Potentially this person would collaborate with the Turner Lab extensively. Check out the full job ad.

Graduate students

Check back in the future!


Applications from interested undergraduate students are accepted at any time. Undergraduates are essential contributors to research in the Turner lab. It is therefore the policy of the Turner lab to compensate undergraduate lab members through credit hours, the ISU Career Path Internship Program, or other grant funds. Research experience can be an important part of your undergraduate experience, particularly for those that wish to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, or medicine (STEM). Undergraduates in the Turner lab are encouraged to ultimately lead their own research project after a training period; doing so requires a major commitment and independent drive, but can result in an exceptional experience. Many projects may require you to develop field, wet lab, herbarium, or computer science and bioinformatics skills. We also sometimes have specific opportunities for students to work directly with a graduate student or postdoc on an experimental portion of their project. See our People page for descriptions of the research projects of current lab members. If you are interested in joining our lab as an undergraduate researcher, please carefully read this description and complete this online form describing your background and interests.

Other opportunities

The GEM3 Project is hiring a data manager. Check out the full job ad.

Header image: Winter wheat field infested with invasive Chorispora tenella, Wyoming. Image by Andrew Kniss.