Distinguished Research Professor 2014
Lisa Donovan, professor of plant biology, has a clear record of outstanding and creative research that harnesses a unique fusion of ecology and evolution with genomics. Much of her early work focused on the evolution of water use efficiency in desert plants. In a series of carefully-crafted field experiments, she showed that, contrary to expectations, increased water use efficiency is associated with larger plant size in desert shrubs. These studies have provided a guide for many ongoing studies of adaptation in desert plants, as well as for general hypotheses about how plants adapt to harsh conditions. Over the last decade, Donovan’s research focus has shifted to the adaptive differentiation of many wild species in the sunflower genus Helianthus. For example, one desert adapted hybrid species has more extreme traits than either of its ancestral parent species, allowing it to survive where it predecessors cannot. Donovan is currently leveraging her ecological and evolutionary genomics perspective to address the potential for breeding crops for greater stress tolerance.
Creative Research Medal 2006