New faculty profile: Richard Lankau studies rhizosphere microbial communities

21285553681_c10eff7f42_kRichard Lankau joined the faculty in the Department of Plant Pathology as an assistant professor in July.

Briefly describe your career path—up to this point.
I received my BA in biology from Rice University in Houston in 2002, and then my PhD in ecology from the University of California, Davis in 2007. After graduating, I was a post-doctoral fellow and then research plant ecologist with the Illinois Natural History Survey (now part of the Prairie Institute at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign). In 2011 I moved to the Department of Plant Biology at the University of Georgia as the Haines Family Professor of Belowground Ecology, where I stayed until moving to the Department of Plant Pathology at UW-Madison this summer.

What is the main focus of your research program?
I am fascinated by the role the complex microbial communities present in and around plant roots play in the overall ecology of plant communities, including the invasion of exotic plant species, forest responses to climate change and the maintenance of plant species diversity. At UW-Madison I will also be expanding my interest in agroecology, investigating how understanding and manipulating rhizosphere microbial communities may help us maintain agricultural yields in the face of changing climates and with reduced environmental impacts.

What drew you to UW-Madison?
For me, UW-Madison offered a world class university with top-notch colleagues and facilities combined with a great city for my family. I am particularly excited by the seamless intersection of basic and applied research and extension present in CALS, and hope to contribute to the CALS mission all along that gradient.

What do you like to do outside of work?
We have a two year old son, so most of my free time is spent at playgrounds, reading picture books or watching the trucks at the many construction sites around Madison.