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Rhododendron Research Network

Name:   Erik T. Nilsen

Title:  Professor

Affiliation:  Virginia Tech University

Email Address:  enilsen@vt.edu

Web Site Address:  www.biol.vt.edu/faculty/nilsen/

Research Areas of Interest:  conservation biology, ecology, plant physiology, population biology

Research Bio:

Erik Nilsen received his B.S. at the U. of Miami in Florida where he did undergraduate research on invasive trees with Taylor Alexander and Ron Hofstetter. Following a master’s degree at the U. of California Santa Barbara, on the comparative invasion pressure by two Schinus species, he completed his Ph.D. with Walter Muller at UCSB on the developmental regulation of summer deciduousness in Lotus scoparius including studies on water relations, photosynthesis and nitrogen cycling in response to early succession nitrogen fluxes in post fire chaparral. Erik moved to a post doctoral fellowship at the U. of California Irvine with Phillip Rundel where he studied the water relations, productivity, and nitrogen cycling of Prosopis glandulosa woodlands in the Sonoran desert. After three years as postdoctoral fellow, Erik moved east to Virginia Tech where he is currently professor of Biology and is focusing his career work on understanding the ecology and Physiology of Rhododendron species. Some of Erik’s activities while at Virginia Tech have been research associate at UCLA, sabbatical at Stanford, two terms as EEP program officer at the NSF and Wilder Chair for distinguished botanist at the University of Hawaii. Erik’s projects with Rhododendron have spanned physiology to ecosystem science. Some of the research topics have been the functional significance of thermonastic leaf movements, adaptation to freeze thaw at the vascular level, functional significance of leaf anatomical traits, effects of shrubs on canopy tree regeneration, and effects of Rhododendron thickets on mycorrhizal communities. His work has resulted in more than 40 articles in journals and book chapters on Rhododendron ecology and physiology. One recent article is:


Tulyananda, T. and Nilsen E.T. 2017. The role of idioblasts in leaf water relations of tropical Rhododendron. American Journal of Botany. 104(6):828-39.

List of Research Network Participants

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