Richard Lankau

Assistant Professor

Phone: 608-262-3084

391B Russell Labs
1630 Linden Dr
Madison, WI 53706



Ph.D. (2007), Ecology, University of California, Davis
Advisors: Drs. Sharon Strauss and Richard Karban
Thesis Title: Mutual Feedbacks in the Maintenance of Genetic and Species Diversity: A Case Study of Brassica nigra, Glucosinolates, and Competitors
B.A. (2002), Biology, Biochemistry, and Environmental Science, Rice University

Research Interests

No organism is an island; rather, every multicellular organism harbors a distinct community of associated microbes. Scientists are increasingly discovering that many aspects of plant health and performance long thought to be due to the traits of the plants themselves are rather the result of complex interactions between plant hosts, associated microbial communities, and environments. Our lab seeks to understand how plant-associated microbial communities mediate individual plant health, abiotic stress tolerance, and susceptibility to disease in both natural and agricultural settings. In particular, we have investigated how alterations of microbial communities by exotic plant species allow the integration of new species into communities, how root-associated fungi change across the geographic range of forest trees and may mediate distributional responses to climate change, and how microbial communities in agricultural soils respond to farm management and in turn contribute to yield, quality, and disease suppression. Our hope is that understanding these interactions at the smallest scale will help solve challenges at the global scale, including adaptation to changing climates, conservation of biodiversity, and maintaining food security for a growing population.


See ResearcherID page for up-to-date list:
Lankau, R.A., Zhu, K, and A. Ordonez. 2015. Mycorrhizal strategies determine stability of tree species’ trailing edges during past and contemporary climate change. Ecology 96: 1451-1458
Lankau, E. W. and R.A. Lankau. 2014. Plant species capacity to drive soil fungal communities contributes to differential impacts of plant-soil legacies. Ecology 95: 3221-3228
Lankau, R.A. and R.N. Nodurft. 2013. An exotic invader drives the evolution of plant traits that determine mycorrhizal fungal diversity in a native competitor. Molecular Ecology 22: 5472-5485.
Lankau, R.A. 2012. Coevolution between invasive and native plants driven by chemical competition. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States 109: 11240-11245.
Lankau, R.A. 2011. Rapid evolutionary change and the coexistence of species. Annual Reviews of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics. 42: 335-354.
Lankau, R.A. 2011. Resistance and recovery of soil microbial communities in the face of Alliaria petiolata invasions. New Phytologist 189: 536-548
Lankau, R.A., E. Wheeler, A.E. Bennett, and S.Y. Strauss. 2011. Plant-soil feedbacks link the maintenance of genetic and species diversity in a plant community. Journal of Ecology 99: 176-185

Lankau, R.A., G. Spyreas, V. Nuzzo, and A.S. Davis. 2009. Evolutionary limits ameliorate the negative impact of an invasive plant. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States. 106:15362-15367
Lankau, R.A. and S.Y. Strauss. 2008. Community complexity drives patterns of natural selection on a chemical defense of Brassica nigra. The American Naturalist 171: 150-161. Featured in Science News
Lankau, R.A. and S.Y. Strauss. 2007. Mutual feedbacks maintain both genetic and species diversity in a plant community. Science 317: 1561-1563.