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Alex Eilts

Research Associate

Plants are awesome! Don't believe me? Come down to The Conservatory, and I'll show you what makes them so great. With my background in plant ecophysiology, I don't just see plants as pretty flowers, nice foliage, or food. Nope, plants are organisms that have adapted to a wide set of conditions despite common limitations. I particularly like examples of convergent evolution, when species have evolved similar adaptations despite not being closely related. Most people may see the diversity of plants as a green backdrop to our world, but I love the diversity of forms, shapes, and adaptations they display. Plants are every bit as diverse as animals, you just have to stop and look a little closer.

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Research Interests

Community Ecology


I have a broad set of research interests which center around the interface of plant physiological ecology and community ecology. I am particularly driven by questions pertaining to the physiology of resource acquisition and allocation in plants. The physiological mechanisms by which plants obtain and utilize resources relate to their competitive abilities as well as their responses to environmental change. I am also interested in how evolutionary processes have both constrained and diversified these physiological mechanisms.

My research program currently has two foci:

  1. The maintenance and limits of variation in clonal resource sharing between individuals and across populations
    • Clonal plants, particularly those that maintain live connections, have the capacity to share resources over an extended area; an attribute that can influence the response of plant communities to resource availability. Despite the implications for community dynamics, the physiological controls over the extent to which resources are shared within clones is not well known.
  2. Plants and microbial competition for mineral resources in the soil
    • Both plants and soil microbes are frequently nitrogen limited. Microbes typically compete more effectively for soil nitrogen than plants. Soil microbial densities are often greatest in the rhizosphere and yet plants readily acquire nitrogen from the soil. I am interested in how plants can influence the outcome of their competition with soil microbes.
Selected Publication

Eilts, J.A., G.G. Mittelbach, H.L. Reynolds and K.L. Gross. 2011. Resource heterogeneity, soil fertility and species diversity: impacts of clonal species on plant communities. The American Naturalist (in press).

Eilts, J.A. and T.E. Huxman.  Exotic grass invasion alters responses of a native woody species in an arid system. (in review)

Potts D.L., T.E. Huxman, J.M. Cable, N.B. English, D.D. Ignace, J.A. Eilts, M.J. Mason, J.F. Weltzin, D.G. Williams. 2006. Antecedent moisture and seasonal precipitation influence the response of canopy-scale carbon and water exchange to rainfall pulses in a semi-arid grassland. New Phytologist 170 (4): 849-860.

Huxman T.E., J.M. Cable, D.D. Ignace, J.A. Eilts, N.B. English, J. Weltzin, D.G. Williams 2004. Response of net ecosystem gas exchange to a simulated precipitation pulse in a semi-arid grassland: the role of native versus non-native grasses and soil texture. Oecologia 141 (2): 295-305.